AUGUSTA — Hall-Dale got off to a slow start in Thursday night’s Western Maine Class C semifinal and just when it looked as if the Bulldogs had recovered, Waynflete’s Serge Nyirikamba took over the game.
The 6-foot-3 senior showcased his variety of spinning, inside moves as he scored 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in leading the Flyers to a 55-35 win. Third-seeded Waynflete (17-2) will play Maranacook or Dirigo for the regional championship Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center. Tenth-seeded Hall-Dale finishes its season at 11-10.
Last season, the Flyers lost to Boothbay in the regional final.
“After last year’s loss, I told myself I was never going to let that happen again,” Nyirikamba said. “It was the worst feeling in the world. We came so close.”
The Bulldogs held Nyirikamba to a single basket in the first quarter, but trailed 11-5 after shooting 2 of 13 from the floor.
“He really likes to score the ball with his right hand and he likes to get as close to the basket as he can,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “What we tried to do was make him do something else.”
Hall-Dale cut the lead to 18-14 in the second quarter on four free throws and a 3-pointer from Ryan Sinclair, but Nyirikamba closed the period with eight straight points, all in the paint, to push the halftime lead to 26-15.
“Serge is everything you could ask for in a player, a person and young man,” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said. “He means everything to the team and he’s a tough kid to guard.”
The Flyers got periodic lifts from sophomore Milo Belleau (14 points) and junior Harry Baker-Connick (nine points) and everyone contributed to a tough 2-3 zone defense that caused the Bulldogs to shoot 12 of 48 from the floor.
“Last year we had a lot more talent individually,” Baker-Connick said. “This year we knew we had to be able to work together as a team, pass well and get the other person a good shot. And we’ve got Serge and he can obviously do it. But this year we have a lot better chemistry and we know what we need to do and we execute.”
Baker-Connick scored seven points in the third quarter and Nyirikamba took care of the rest with 10, displaying his soft touch around the basket. The Flyers led 43-22 after three quarters and coasted to the win. Sophomore guard Quinn Stebbins hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter to make it 47-33 but that was as close as they wold get.