AUGUSTA — Serge Nyirikamba sliced through the paint with relative ease and finished most of his shots with a soft touch and hard determination.
The Waynflete senior was dangerous facing the basket and more so with his back to it.
“He’s tough to defend,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “He’s got great pivot moves and he’s so long. We knew he’d be tough to defend.”
Nyirikamba scored a game-high 26 points to go along with 16 rebounds and four blocked shots as No. 3 Waynflete beat No. 6 Monmouth 66-51 in a Western C quarterfinal game at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I was hitting my shots today,” he said. “We moved the ball around and were pretty patient.”
Added Waynflete coach Rich Henry: “He’s more comfortable in the inside now. As a sophomore, he took a lot of threes. He still has that in his arsenal but he’s much more comfortable in the paint now. The reverse pivot is a nice move for him.”
Milo Belleau scored 11 points and Harry Baker-Connick added nine for the Flyers (16-2), who will next play No. 10 Hall-Dale (11-9) in a regional semifinal game Thursday.
Marcques Houston, who had the tough assignment to defend Nyirikamba, scored a team-high 17 points for the Mustangs (12-8). He also had eight rebounds and a steal. Brett Wilson finished with 12 points — all on 3-pointers — for Monmouth.
“We ended up with 12 wins,” Turner said. “For these seniors three out of the four years we were at the Civic Center. It was a good season.”
The game was a rematch of a regional quarterfinal game last season as well.
Nyirikamba had his way with the Mustangs then, and he had his way Monday.
After scoring five points in the first quarter, the 6-foot-3 Nyirikamba went for 10 in the second as the Flyers slowly built an eight-point lead, 31-23.
However, Monmouth kept it interesting, and Houston scored two inside baskets in the final minute and a half of the second quarter to make it a 31-27 game.
In the second half, Turner decided to double-team Nyirikamba.
“The first half we decided to play straight up man-to-man defense,” Turner said. “We switched to doubling him with the weak-side guard. It worked (because) he only had (11) in second half.”
But the Flyers responded with an 11-6 run to open the second half, highlighted by a pair of Abel Alemayo baskets in transition.
“We came out in the third quarter and wanted to keep pushing it,” Nyirikamba said. “We wanted to push through but Monmouth didn’t go away.”
Added Henry: “We asked (Nyirikamba) to be ready to see the double team we expected that. Monmouth was a little slow doubling him and he was able to get to the rim. We’ll take that matchup.”
Waynflete led 50-43 at the end of three quarters but used a 14-4 run in the fourth to pull away for good.