Nokomis’ Cooper Flagg (32) dunks against Brewer during the Class A North boys basketball final Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Well, this is fun.

The return of the Maine high school basketball tournament after a lost 2020-21 season provided a needed respite from the daily grind of life in a pandemic.

Teams from across the state converged on big stages last week in Portland, Bangor and Augusta to slug it out in regional tournaments.

Twenty teams — 10 boys, 10 girls — survived Tourney Week, and will play for Gold Balls, beginning Friday with the Class B games and continuing Saturday with ones in classes AA, A, C and D.

The Augusta Civic Center hosted 42 games in a nine-day run, beginning Feb. 18 with regional quarterfinals and culminating Saturday with boys and girls regional final games in A North, C South and D South.

Here’s a few thoughts on the week that was in the ACC:



• • •


Cooper Flagg and the Nokomis boys basketball team dazzled and awed fans from near and far in Augusta last week.

The freshman — still trying to wrap my head around that — helped lead the top-seeded Warriors (20-1) to the Class A North title with victories over No. 9 Messalonskee, No. 4 Cony and then No. 2 Brewer in the regional final.

Flagg scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He also delighted onlookers with some electrifying dunks. His brother, Ace, finished with 13 points and provided some tough defense as well.


The Flaggs and company did their damage before near-capacity crowds, too.

Nokomis’ Cooper Flagg (32) dunks with authority against Brewer during the Class A North boys basketball final Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

An estimated 4,000-plus fans saw the Warriors handle the Rams in the semifinals. More than 4,400 came out for the regional final.

No one in the building was more riveted to the action than Kelly (Bowman) Flagg, mother to Cooper, Ace and senior Hunter.

“It was nerve-racking,” said Kelly, who led the Nokomis girls team to a regional final appearance in 1995 before playing at the University of Maine. “It was exciting. We all know the buzz around Cooper with what he has done. A lot of people came to see what he was all about, to see what the buzz is all about. It was crazy. It seemed like nearly every seat was full. It was so exciting to see and to see all the support. I don’t even know if the excitement has settled in yet. I’m not really sure. I’m just trying to enjoy the ride and trying not to get ahead of the moment.

“I was just really nervous. I try not to show my nervous energy and project that on to them. My boys have played in some big situations so they know how to handle themselves, but this was different. This was nervous-excited kind of energy. It’s hard to contain it.”

Nokomis is set to play Falmouth (19-2) in the Class A final at 3 p.m., Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.


“I’ll probably start to get anxious on Friday,” added Kelly Flagg, a sixth grade science teacher at Nokomis Middle School. “School will be difficult on Friday. I’ll be sick to my stomach. But once the ball goes up Saturday, I usually settle down.”


• • •


The Skowhegan girls played well, but not great, during the A North tournament. Still, the River Hawks reached the Class A final with convincing victories over Brewer (76-26), Erskine (47-35) and Lawrence (44-30).

The River Hawks (21-0) will meet perennial contender Greely (16-4) in the state final at 1 p.m., Saturday in Portland.


Here’s how coach Mike LeBlanc summed up his team’s performance in Augusta: “There’s always room for improvement because I’m a perfectionist. We’re definitely going to have play better.”

Greely won Class A titles in 2018 and 19. Skowhegan last played for the Class A crown in 2010, when it lost to Scarborough, 52-32.

Skowhegan’s Callaway LePage, left and Jaycie Christopher cut down the net after the River Hawks sank Lawrence in the Class A North final Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Greely has been there before and we’re sort of coming in blind,” LeBlanc acknowledged.

LeBlanc added that Skowhegan will practice at the Cross Insurance Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re going to go down there and shoot around,” he said. “This will give us a chance to see the floor, see the shooting backgrounds.”



• • •


The spectators, as they always do, provided plenty of memorable (good and bad) moments throughout the week.

First, the funny.

  • The No. 5 Greenville boys basketball team was routing No. 4 Vinalhaven in a Class D South quarterfinal game on Feb. 19, when a few of the Lakers’ faithful could be heard yelling, “Enjoy the boat ride!”

We’ve all heard the over-used ‘warm up the bus chant,’ but this was classic.

And, yes, the Vikings did safely return to their island.


Skowhegan and Brewer play in front of large crowd during a Class A North semifinal basketball game last Wednesday in the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

  • The Nokomis student section was terrific all week, with strong numbers for each game.

The Warriors were facing heavy underdog Messalonskee in an A North quarterfinal game when — with more than 10 minutes remaining in pregame warmups — Nokomis students flooded the ACC with an “it’s all over!” chant.


Nokomis won, 57-29.

Now, for the not-so-funny stuff.

As is the case with every basketball tournament, the stands are littered with spectators who think they know more about the game than the officials. Newsflash: They don’t.

Were there missed calls? Of course. Were some officiating crews more whistle-happy than others? You bet.


But just so we’re all clear: The officials didn’t decide a game’s outcome all week.


• • •


Basketball players weren’t the only ones to put on a show at the ACC, as a host of pep bands turned up in force, too.

Brewer High’s band, which played a variety of excellent music, stole the show when it performed ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by the immortal Guns N’ Roses.


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

“The picks are totally student-driven,” said Brewer pep band director Nathan Williams, a senior music education student at UMaine. “We have some talented musicians. They’re all friends and practice together all the time. It’s pretty cool.”

Brewer seniors Kaleb Silva (saxophone), Logan Pelletier (bass) and Michael Desjardins (guitar) — each jazz band all-state selections — helped lead the way.

Well done, Witches.


• • •



ACC by the numbers last week:

9: The number of games out of 42 that were decided by nine or fewer points.

17: The number of games decided by 20 or more points.

87: Points the Mt. Abram boys scored in a C South quarterfinal win over Boothbay, the most by any team during the week.

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