AUGUSTA — The Cony boys basketball team had lost in the Class A North semifinals the last three years. And yeah, senior guard Simon McCormick said, the Rams thought about it.

“I think it was always in the back of our minds,” McCormick said. “But I think we don’t want to live in the past. Coming in, we just had to play our game.”

On Wednesday night, at a packed Augusta Civic Center, Cony did just that. The top-seeded Rams got 29 points from McCormick, 20 from Luke Briggs and ran away from No. 3 Medomak Valley, earning a 77-52 victory and advancing to their first regional final since 2002.

“We knew coming into this game that losing in the semifinal was not an option at all,” Briggs said. “Three years in a row is not what we wanted, we finally got the job done and it feels great.”

Dakota Dearborn added 15 points for Cony (16-4), which will play in its first regional final since 2002 and face Hampden, which edged Brewer 54-52 in the semifinal nightcap. The A North final is Friday at 7:45 p.m., also at the Civic Center.

Trevor Brown led Medomak Valley (16-4) with 16 points, while Jacob Bickmore had 15 and Patrick McKenney had nine.

“We expected to come in and play well,” coach T.J. Maines said. “We didn’t play well Saturday, we’ve had a couple great days of practice. I thought our defensive abilities were going to be better today because that’s been our focus the last two days, and sure enough, that was some of the best defense we’ve played at Cony since I’ve been here.”

Cony entered the semifinal contest trying to overwrite a dreary stretch in the round. The Rams went down against Oceanside in 2017, lost to Hampden in 2018, and, most painfully, lost to Lawrence as the No. 1 seed last season.

This year, however, any suspense as to whether Cony was in for another disappointing exit was shredded early. The teams were close through a first quarter that ended with Cony leading 14-12, but after Bickmore hit a three to put Medomak up 15-14 at the start of the second, the Rams went on a run to take command.

Dearborn had a pair of free throws, McCormick had a steal and score and Kyle Douin had a putback jumper to put the Rams ahead by five. Bickmore countered with a 3-pointer, but McCormick answered with another, and Dearborn had first a free throw and then a 3-pointer after some rapid-fire ball movement that made it 27-18.

At that point, Maines had a feeling his team was about to break out.

“That’s something we’ve been working on all year,” Maines said. “Offensively, that’s what we’re trying to be, that team that moves the ball quickly and makes decisions quickly. To see it kind of come to fruition at a big moment like that and have Dakota stick it, that was great.”

Maines’s hunch proved correct. The end result was a 19-3 run that had Cony in front 33-18 after a Briggs drive, and the Rams choked out any hope of a Medomak Valley rally with a 19-4 run to start the second half that made it 59-31 Cony.

Asked what made the difference for the Rams, McCormick, who had 18 points over the second and third quarters as the Rams pulled away, had a simple answer.

“Energy,” he said. “Our defense and defensive energy really brought us the whole way. … Rotations were a lot better, our hands were a lot better, and talking was a lot better.”

The Panthers turned the ball over 17 times in the middle quarters, and with the victory nearly in hand, Cony’s high-scoring trio delivered it. Briggs, Dearborn and McCormick combined to score all but three of the Rams’ 37 second-half points.

“They know they’re pretty good,” Maines said of his team. “I don’t care if we won by five or we won by 35. It’s the fact that we get a chance to play again, it’s the fact that we get to have practice tomorrow at 10:30. That group gets to create some more memories together.”

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