AUGUSTA — A fourth-quarter comeback was enough for Winthrop to send the Class C South boys basketball final to overtime, but not enough to get the Ramblers through overtime.

The Ramblers rallied from eight down in the fourth but ran out of steam in the extra session, when Will Nelligan’s 3-pointer with 1:23 left turned the game in Waynflete’s favor en route to a 43-41 win.

Nelligan, Milo Belleau and Yai Deng (12 rebounds) scored 11 points apiece to lead the fourth-seeded Flyers to their second regional title in three years.

“Being the fourth seed, that made us play with a chip on our shoulder,” Nelligan said. “We thought we deserved maybe a higher seed, so we played with even more passion.”

Jacob Hickey led all scorers with 18 points for second-seeded Winthrop (17-4), including 15 in the second half and overtime. His two free throws with 3.5 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 35-35 and ultimately sent the game into overtime. Hickey earned the C. Harry Edwards Award as the tournament’s top player.

“(The comeback) says a heck of a lot about the guys in that (Winthrop) locker room. I thought we were dead in the water,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “They did what this team’s been doing all year. They dug deep and they showed their resilience and they fought back and had a chance.”

Winthrop carried the momentum over from regulation to take a 39-36 lead early in overtime on a Bennett Brooks hoop off a Spencer Steele steal. Abel Alemayo scored to pull Waynflete within one, then Nelligan drilled his 3 from the top of the key to put the Flyers in front to stay, 41-39, with 1:23 to go.

“I don’t even remember it. It’s all a blur,” Nelligan said. “But I mean, every day shooting around after practice it all leads up to that, all of that preparation.”

Two free throws by Belleau with 1:05 remaining made it a four-point lead. Garrett Tsouprake scored to pull the Ramblers back within two, and a five second call on the Flyers gave them the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead with 30 seconds left.

Winthrop came out of a time out with a play set up for Hickey, and the junior got a clean look at a 3, but it was short. A putback try was blocked and the buzzer sounded.

With much of Waynflete’s defensive energy focused on Hickey, Winthrop wanted to establish its offense inside quickly. It did so with two hoops in the paint by Owens and one by Tsouprake on its first three possessions.

“I think we got away from, hey, we still can’t give up layups and post moves inside,” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said. “We talked to the kids and they started to respond to that.”

Owens went to the bench with his second foul with two minutes left in the quarter. With Nelligan doing a good job defending Hickey, the Ramblers didn’t score again until the end of the quarter and Waynflete took the lead on a strong baseline move leading to a three-point play by Deng.

“I’d say Hickey’s probably the best shooter in Maine, if I had to choose,” Nelligan said. “He’s a great player and his teammates know how to get him open. My teammates did a great job helping me through a lot of the screens. Communication is the key. He has a quick trigger, so I had a hand in his face, maybe get him to put it on the floor. I thought I had the quickness advantage.”

“Nelly is one of those kids that, he shows up every day in practice. You never have to say anything to him. He’s just ready to go,” Henry said. “You give him his assignment and he carries it out. You don’t have to worry about him making a mistake.”

Hickey evened things up at 9-9 with a buzzer-beater from a little past halfcourt, but the Flyers reclaimed the lead with five straight points on a 3-pointer from Nelligan and a Deng hoop. Bennett Brooks cut the margin to three for Winthrop before the Flyers scored eight of the last 10 points of the half to take a 22-13 lead into halftime.

Winthrop shot 7-for-24 in the first half, Waynflete 8-for-15.

A Nelligan floater put the Flyers’ lead into double digits early in the third quarter. They led by as much as 12 and settled for a 30-22 advantage heading into the fourth. But Winthrop’s defense, which forced 21 turnovers, limited the Flyers to 1-for-5 shooting in the fourth. That translated in the Ramblers attempting 16 more field goals (42 to 26) than the Flyers in regulation.

“We play a lot of tough competition, and we do a pretty good job of turning teams over. That’s what we do,” MacArthur said. “We create gaps that look like their open and all of a sudden they’re closed. We rotate incredibly well. People can say whatever they want, we really rely on five guys defensively.”

Waynflete went the final five minutes of regulation without a field goal and missed the back end of three one-and-ones.

Hickey sparked Winthrop’s 11-3 run to close the fourth with two free throws and a layup off a Steele steal with 1:30 left.

The Ramblers still trailed by five with 17 seconds to go when Hickey hit a 3-pointer. They quickly fouled Belleau who, now in the double bonus, missed both free throws with 14.6 seconds remaining. Hickey went hard to the hoop at the other end and went to the line for the tying free throws when Alemayo, after a lengthy conference between officials, was called for a blocking foul.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.