NEWPORT — In front of a packed gymnasium at Nokomis High School on Thursday night, Cooper Flagg put on a show.

The freshman standout scored 34 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had four blocks to lead the Warriors to a 56-40 win over Skowhegan in a Class A North showdown. Aside from his crowd-pleasing dunks (he had four), Flagg showed an ability to drive strong to the basket, while also showcasing his mid-range jump shot.

Flagg said he’s feeling more comfortable and confident on the floor and with his role on the team.

“I feel like I’ve played with these guys my whole life, and I pretty much have,” Flagg said. “Rec (league), travel (league), we’ve always been together. It’s nothing different. We know who we are, we know what our roles are. We just go out and get it done.”

Ace Flagg and Connor Sides each added six points for Nokomis (7-1).

Up 36-30 entering the fourth quarter, Nokomis went on a 9-0 run and outscored the River Hawks (5-3) by a 20-10 margin to seal the win. Of his 34 points, Flagg scored 11 in the final period.

“He’s a special player,” Nokomis head coach Earl Anderson said. “The thing about him is, he’s so coachable. He took two shots in the second quarter that I didn’t like, we had no ball movement, they weren’t off the dribble, jump shots from the perimeter. Before I could even say anything to him, he goes, ‘My bad, Coach,’ down the floor. With a player like that, I’ll live with (a mistake).”

Nokomis started strong from the start, with Flagg scoring 13 points in the first quarter alone, giving the Warriors a 20-10 lead. With size that matched up well to Nokomis, the River Hawks managed to battle with the Warriors on both ends of the floor and kept them at bay, outscoring Nokomis 9-6 in the second quarter and 11-10 in the third quarter.

Skowhegan’s Quintcey McCray, front, battles for the loose ball with Nokomis’ Hunter Flagg during a boys basketball game Thursday in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

But Flagg took the game over once again in the fourth quarter, tallying his final 11 points.

“Coach just told us, we knew what we needed to do, but he just told us to go out there and play and it will work itself out,” Flagg said.

Skowhegan suffered from foul trouble, with forwards Kyle LePage and Adam Savage fouling out late in the fourth. Savage and Levi Obert each finished with 12 points for the River Hawks, with LePage adding seven.

Nokomis continues a six-game winning streak, its only loss coming to Brewer in a 57-46 contest on Dec. 17. During that stretch, the Warriors have only allowed one opponent to score more than 45 points, when Mt. Blue tallied 52 points in an 86-52 game on Dec. 23.

“Just in practice, we’ve been working so hard, that’s one of our biggest focuses,” said Nokomis guard Alex Grant, who scored four points. “Hands out, we’re trying not to get into foul trouble. When kids do get in foul trouble, we have guys who come in and can fill that defensive hole.”

“(The defense) is getting better and better,” Anderson said. “We’re starting to be connected defensively. We’re starting to get the kind of pressure on the ball that really makes your off-the-ball defense so much tougher… We (work on defense) every day at practice and they respond well. They are starting to believe and trust each other and it’s starting to show.”

It’s the second win of the season for Warriors over the River Hawks, picking up a 59-41 victory in Skowhegan on Dec. 20.

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