AUGUSTA — The Nokomis boys basketball team was trailing at halftime, but the Warriors liked their situation. They had the momentum, they had a more manageable deficit on their hands.

And they had Cooper Flagg.

Flagg, Nokomis’s freshman phenom, scored 20 points in the third quarter en route to 32 for the game, and Nokomis turned a double-digit hole into a runaway 80-53 victory over Cony in a matchup of two of Class A North’s top three teams Saturday afternoon.

Twin brother Ace Flagg had a starring role as well in the victory with 19 points, while Alex Grant and Madden White added nine each for the Warriors (8-1).

“It feels better than coming out and winning by 40 at the start and crushing them from the beginning,” said Cooper Flagg, who also grabbed 13 rebounds. “We had so much more to work for. … Coming out and battling back like that, it always feels better.”

Kam Douin scored 19 points, Luke Briggs had 11 and Parker Sergent added 10 for the Rams (7-2), who in the first half looked like they were on their way to a statement victory after a hot start and their trademark defensive pressure allowed them to jump out to a 30-15 lead. But their shooting touch wore off by the end of the second quarter, and in the third quarter, the wheels came off.

“We were plus-15 with three minutes to go in the second quarter. Great energy, defensive energy, and the air kind of went out of stuff,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “We took advantage of some stuff, made shots, they missed a couple of bunnies. But from that three-minute mark on, it was a whole different story. … That’s coaching, that’s us not getting guys mentally ready to play and guys not being mentally ready to go.”

Cony led 34-29 at halftime when Cooper Flagg caught fire. He had a putback and then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, and after Cony went back ahead by a point, his three-point play gave the Warriors a 38-35 lead. An artful layup by Douin tied the game again, but Cooper had a pretty driving layup, Ace had a putback, and Cooper tipped in a pass from Ace to push the lead to six.

Cooper wasn’t done, scoring eight of the team’s next 13 points as the Warriors rapidly pulled away. Nokomis outscored Cony 32-3 in the quarter.

Nokomis freshman Cooper Flagg throws down a dunk against Cony during a boys basketball game Saturday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“He’s a big-time player,” Nokomis coach Earl Anderson said. “He did take over. That’s a pretty nice safety net to have.”

Disappointed as he was by his team’s second-half performance, Maines acknowledged what it was going up against.

“He (Cooper Flagg) makes stuff happen when he gets the ball in the middle of the floor,” he said. “He impacted us just as much on dump-down layup passes to his brother or others. He’s a handful, and it takes a tremendous amount of concentration and mental toughness to be able to deal with him for 32 minutes, or deal with their team. They’re good.”

Told of his 20-point quarter, Cooper’s eyes went wide above the mask he was wearing.

“As a team, we just buckled down on defense,” he said. “Every time they had it, we were smothering them. We were just playing our game, and it led to fast-break opportunities. Everyone was getting out.”

It was a drastic change from the first half, which saw Cony both shoot the ball well — Douin had 14 points and Sergent had eight by the five-minute mark of the second quarter — and stifle Nokomis with its on-ball defense and aggressive play in the passing lanes.

“Cony played great,” Anderson said. “They were making everything, they got us playing fast in our minds. We can play fast physically. They got us playing fast in our heads.”

Nokomis’ rally began in the final minutes of the half, as the Warriors went on a 10-0 run to close it out on baskets by Ace Flagg, White and Grant and free throws by Connor Sides.

Cony’s Sam Flannery, left, tries to keep the ball away from Nokomis’ Connor Sides during a boys basketball game Saturday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We went in at halftime feeling good,” Anderson said. “We were happy with how we ended the first half, and I think we were very, very confident about what we were going to do in the third quarter.”

“We were down 15, and then we started playing our basketball,” Ace Flagg said. “We got the defense right before the end of the half, and that’s when we really saw what we could do against them. We just continued that into the third quarter.”

With that momentum continuing, Nokomis was off and running.

“Defensively, we got fundamentally sounder,” Anderson said. “They scored three points in the third quarter, and that’s a good offensive team. That’s not just shutting down anybody.”

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