Nokomis basketball fans react to a call during a Class A North semifinal game against Cony on Wednesday in the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — No matter who wins the Class A North boys basketball final Saturday, there will be some history made.

When No. 1 Nokomis and No. 2 Brewer meet in the regional championship, it’ll be the first time in more than a decade each team has played in the game. And for the team that ends up making it to the state final stage in Portland, it’ll end an even longer drought than that.

Brewer (18-2) is on the front porch of the state championship for the first time since 2010. The Witches haven’t played for one since 1988.

“I think it would be great,” coach Ben Goodwin said. “I think the biggest thing is it would be great for this group of kids. They put in a lot of time, ever since they were freshmen. Our two guards (Colby Smith and Aaron Newcomb) started since they were freshmen. And to get them an opportunity to play for a Northern Maine championship is outstanding.”

“It feels awesome. We’ve been working toward this, especially Colby and I, for four years now,” added Newcomb, a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist. “It feels great to finally get there.”

Nokomis (19-1), meanwhile, is in the regional final for the first time since 1977, and is looking to play for a state championship for the first time in its history.


Nokomis’ Connor Sides (15) dives for a loose ball as Cony’s Brayden Barbeau (2) takes possession as teammate Dom Napolitano (14) watches during a Class A North semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Honestly, it’s huge,” said freshman center Cooper Flagg, who had 22 points with 12 rebounds as the Warriors beat Cony . “We’ve always talked about it. It’s really exciting, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

“It’s a great feeling,” junior guard Madden White said, “knowing that we could be the first to do it and get our names out there, probably forever in Nokomis history.”

Both programs have bounced back from lean years, but how they’ve done it has been different. After that trip to the Eastern Maine final in 2010, the Witches missed the tournament for four straight seasons. But they’ve been steadily building themselves back, and this trip to the regional final comes after two straight trips to the semis — the last of which was a 54-52 loss to eventual state champion Hampden that came down to the final play.

“It is (a building process), and it’s one of the things we’ve preached forever here at Brewer with our coaching staff and our kids,” Goodwin said. “We needed to build a program, and I think we’ve done that over the last few years. We’re taking those little steps, little steps, little steps, and now all those little steps have gotten us to a point where we get to play for a championship, so it’s outstanding for these guys.”

As those steps were being taken, Brewer’s chemistry was steadily refining. Now to watch the Witches play is to watch a team in constant sync. Players move as one, the transition game is smooth and effortless, and in the halfcourt, Brewer’s polished dribble-drive offense has impressed through 64 minutes of tournament play.

“On any given night, any one of our guys can go for as many points as they want,” said Brady Saunders, who led Brewer with 20 points in the semifinal victory over Skowhegan. “The dribble-drive offense is something that does give them (trouble), but it’s just the other sets that we can put in and all the progressions we have to our offense that can mess up teams.”


“It’s a lot of repetition,” Newcomb said. “We play within our system and we like to be unselfish, we want to move the ball and make it so we’re really unguardable.”

There was nothing gradual, meanwhile, about Nokomis’s rise. The Warriors missed the last two tournaments and won one game in the 2019-20 season, but with the arrival of Cooper and Ace Flagg and the progression of supporting starters like White, Connor Sides and Alex Grant, they morphed this season into the favorite in the region.

With that status as a favorite has come hype and expectations — both of which the Warriors have shown they can handle.

Brewer junior forward Cameron Hughes, left, and Skowhegan junior forward Collin LePage go for a rebound during a Class A North boys basketball semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Pretty much, we just block it out,” Cooper Flagg said. “We just keep our heads forward and block out the noise.”

“We’ve kind of known what we were getting into, even before the season started,” White added of the pressure. “It’s just getting used to it, and knowing how to play with it.”

Though labeled a team to beat at the start of the season, Nokomis has gone through the winter as one of the region’s youngest teams. The Warriors start two freshmen and two sophomores, and coach Earl Anderson said the team is often regarded as being more tested and experienced than it really is.

“I think it’s so unfair the way people look at this team. We start four people who never played a varsity game until this year,” he said. “Two freshmen, two sophomores, and our first player off the bench (Dawson Townsend) is a freshman. They’ve handled it well, but I think it’s really unfair.”

Young as they are, the Warriors have shown a poise and toughness in reaching this stage. They won their last 16 games of the regular season against growing expectations and have netted a pair of tournament wins in front of big Civic Center crowds, the last one being earned with a strong fourth quarter after an upset-minded Cony team gave them everything they could handle for three quarters.

“They’re great kids, and they’re resilient,” Anderson said. “They’re coachable and they trust one another. That showed when it counted.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.