The fans were just sitting back down in their seats following a standing ovation welcoming Cooper and Ace Flagg back to Maine during player introductions before Montverde Academy’s game at the Cross Insurance Arena Friday night.

Three seconds later, the country’s top high school basketball player brought them back to their feet.

Montverde won the tip, and Cooper Flagg took off in a sprint to the basket. Liam McNeeley passed him the ball and Flagg threw down a dunk, igniting a roar from the 6,720 fans in attendance.

There was more to come, as after nearly two years, the Flagg Show was back in Maine. Cooper Flagg scored 23 points and was one block shy of a triple-double, and twin brother Ace added six points as Montverde, the Florida prep school powerhouse, beat Gonzaga College High School of Washington, D.C., 93-51.

The fans, eager for fireworks from the Newport natives, got what they were looking for. So did the Flaggs themselves.

“I think it exceeded all expectations,” Cooper Flagg said. “It was just an incredible environment, and a lot of fun. … It’s kind of something you can’t imagine.”


Ace Flagg said he was “thankful” for the welcoming he and his brother received.

“Being around Maine, everyone’s got full support of you,” he said. “When you’re playing here, you know no matter what happens, everyone’s going to be behind you the full way.”

Cooper Flagg said there were some nerves before the game began. When it was time to play, however, he was ready.

“I think there might have been a little bit of extra pressure,” he said. “When the ball got tossed up at the start of the game, it all kind of washes away. For me, at the start of every game, everything kind of goes away.”

That was evident on the first play, as Cooper got the show started in fitting fashion.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Cooper said, “to have all these people behind you, all these people that are supporting you.”


It was just the start. The Flagg brothers wasted no time providing highlights, with Cooper showing off the versatility that has made him the most prized basketball prospect in the nation.

In just the first quarter, he had a second rousing dunk, raced in to rebound a missed 3-pointer and quickly dish to Derik Queen for a dunk, then swished a 3-pointer to make it 17-3 late in the quarter. Early in the second, an emphatic block drew a loud cheer, a mix of joy and awe from the fans who came out in droves to see him.

He finished with 10 rebounds, nine blocked shots and five assists. The fans who came to see him cheered early, applauding when he threw down seven dunks during warm-ups, and were loud even with the game out of hand, booing loudly when he was called for a double-dribble and then a charge in the fourth quarter, and erupting again when he rose high for a final dunk with just under four minutes to go.

“We love you, Cooper!” a fan shouted in the closing minute of the first half.

Ace Flagg, who received his own raucous ovation before the game, provided his own highlights. He hit a smooth turnaround jumper for Montverde’s third basket of the game, and twice in the second quarter showed off his patience by waiting out chase-down block attempts before finishing in transition.

In addition to his six points, Ace grabbed five rebounds.


“It’s definitely an honor to be able to represent this state,” he said. “If I could pick anywhere to live, I would live here. … There’s no better place, I think.”

The game began at 7:30 p.m., but fans began lining up in the Cross Insurance Arena lobby just after 3:30. Many were dressed for the occasion, wearing either blue Duke hats and shirts, in recognition of Cooper’s college choice, or even Montverde purple.

Among the fans who showed up early was Anthony Salvaggio, 42, of Gorham, who snagged seats for himself and his sons, Anthony, Joseph and Vincent, a few rows up from the floor level.

“They’re pretty jacked to see a kid from Maine be this awesome at a sport,” Salvaggio said. “They’ve watched every single YouTube video on him. … When you have somebody from our state that’s getting that publicity, that’s that athletic, that’s going D-I, everyone’s coming to see him.”

Joseph Salvaggio, 12, wore a Milwaukee Bucks jersey and a wide smile as he talked about having the chance to see Flagg up close.

“This is amazing. I never knew we were coming, it was a surprise until today. I was so happy,” he said. “(Other kids) can learn from him. It’s just awesome to see a player like him, with all the things he’s learned.”

Cooper said he enjoys being that role model.

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” he said. “We want to set the right example and do everything professional and in the right way.”

In the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, Cony defeated Nokomis, 57-54, prevailing in a game that saw four fourth-quarter lead changes. Parker Sergent led Cony with 25 points, while Parker Morin added 13. Alex Grant scored 18 points for Nokomis, while Connor Sides had 13.

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