AUGUSTA — Each season, when the Class C South boys basketball tournament hits the Augusta Civic Center, the mystery team is Waynflete. Everybody knows the Flyers are going to be good. That’s about it.

Rich Henry, Waynflete’s head coach, would rather be a known commodity when his team takes the court.

“People say that all the time when we come up here, that no one knows about us. We would like not to be a mystery,” Henry said after his team cruised to a 67-32 win over Old Orchard Beach in a quarterfinal game Monday afternoon. “We’d love for the Mountain Valley Conference to open up. I don’t really understand why it hasn’t happened.”

Waynflete’s Askar Houssein attracts the attention of several Old Orchard Beach payers as he goes up for a shot during a Class C South quarterfinal game Monday at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Waynflete will face Hall-Dale, one of the juggernauts of the Mountain Valley Conference, in the regional semifinals Thursday night. It will be the first and only game between the Flyers and Bulldogs this season. On paper, this game has the potential to be one of the best games of the tournament, regardless of class. Hall-Dale (18-1) is the defending regional champion and can name its score on most nights. Waynflete (17-2) is the team that ran roughshod over a schedule chock full of tough Class B competition in the Western Maine Conference.

“They’ve got a great regular season schedule. They face great opponents. I think the quality of basketball they play speaks for itself,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said after his team beat Monmouth, 83-57. As Ranslow spoke, Waynflete was going through pregame warmups to face OOB, but he knew if the Seagulls won, it would be the upset of the tournament. Ranslow rattled off Waynflete’s strengths. “They’re deep. They’re big. They’re fast. They can shoot it. They can press. They can pound it inside. They seem to have all the pieces they need to be a championship contender.”

So, why doesn’t Waynflete get to test itself in the regular season against Hall-Dale, or Winthrop, or Boothbay, or any of the top contenders from the MVC? It’s not for a lack of trying, Henry said. He hasn’t been given an official reason as to why the answer is always no.

“Not officially, and we ask all the time. It’s not just Waynflete. I view our conferences as mirror images of each other. We play a lot of B’s because we have to. Mountain Valley (a Class B school in the MVC playing almost all Class C schools in the regular season) is the exact opposite. I think it would behoove everyone to open up that conference,” Henry said.

Waynflete played Winthrop, the region’s top seed, in a preseason tournament around Thanksgiving. The Flyers played Hall-Dale in summer ball. But summer ball is, well, summer ball. It’s more relaxed, and it’s rare for a team to play with its anticipated regular season roster.

“We played them in the summer, and I saw them play just a couple days ago. Unfortunately, it was a walkover against NYA (North Yarmouth Academy). The first time we may see them in a couple possessions game may be when we play them,” Ranslow said.

Waynflete senior Finn Scott, who scored a team-high 17 points in Monday’s win over OOB, likes being the tournament’s enigma, but pointed out that it works both ways. Many potential opponents don’t see Waynflete (OOB was an exception, but both regular season games against Waynflete were lopsided like Monday’s game). But Waynflete doesn’t get to see them, either.

“We don’t really see a lot of teams we play in the tournament. It’s a little bit of a mystery with just about every team we play in the tournament,” Scott said. “We got to play against a lot of really athletic and talented players this year. Playing against those B schools got our confidence up.”

Even with so much success against a grind of a schedule, Henry thinks Hall-Dale will be a challenge unlike any the Flyers have faced this season.

“Let’s talk about Hall-Dale. Offensively, man what a showing. Two, 1,000-point scorers on one team (Ashtyn Abbott and Alec Byron). That’s very rare. That whole team knows how to play,” Henry said. “I don’t know if we’re as good as they are. They can get out and go.”

“We’re going to have to run the floor. Hopefully we’ll be able to use our height advantage on the boards,” Scott said.

Thursday’s semifinal will feel like a regional final, or even a state championship. That’s a testament to the strength in Class C South. Maybe in the future, the MVC will be open to playing non-conference games in the regular season, and Waynflete won’t arrive in Augusta as a talented, albeit unknown, team.

With Monday’s win, the Flyers advanced to the regional semifinals for the eighth time in nine seasons. Waynflete won regional titles in 2016 and 2014. If the Flyers advance to the Class C state game again this season, they’ll do it by going through at least one of the best teams in the MVC.

“I really tip my cap to coaches like Todd MacArthur at Winthrop, who’s been inviting us up to play in his Thanksgiving tournament. But for some odd reason that conference doesn’t seem interested in opening up to us,” Henry said.

How cool would it be if Thursday’s game wasn’t a debut, but a sequel?

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM








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.