NEWPORT — Kelly Flagg scored 1,257 points while playing at Nokomis Regional High School. She played Division I college basketball at the University of Maine. She was a starter on the Black Bear team that beat Stanford in 1999 for the program’s only NCAA tournament win.

And yet for Flagg, those feats all had to take a backseat Saturday when her sons Hunter, Cooper and Ace celebrated in the moments following the Nokomis boys basketball team’s Class A North regional championship victory over Brewer.

“As exciting as it was as a player to reach that sort of level,” Kelly said, “the excitement for me doesn’t compare to how exciting it was to watch the boys cutting the nets.”

The victory propelled the Warriors (20-1) into the Class A final, where Nokomis will meet Falmouth (19-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

For the Flaggs, this season has seen the progression of an impressive basketball pedigree. Kelly and husband Ralph both played at Nokomis and then in college, with Ralph playing at Eastern Maine Community College. Their sons have followed in their steps by guiding the Warriors to their first state championship game, with freshmen Cooper and Ace earning Division I offers along the way.

Family ties are nothing new to Nokomis: Penny Stevens Townsend (son Dawson), Jaime Nye Cote (Ethan), Katie Nye Grant (Alex) and Amanda Dorman White (Madden) are all alums from the 1995 Nokomis team that made the Eastern Maine final with sons on the current team. Madden White’s father, Jeff, was a 1,000-point scorer. Grady Hartsgrove’s brother, Zach, reached the 1,000-point milestone as well.


Basketball bloodlines, however, don’t come much richer than they do with the Flaggs.

“It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” said Hunter, a senior. “From watching mom play in a men’s league down at the rec center in Newport when I was little, like 3 or 4, to now trying to win a state championship, it’s been such a big part of my life.”

“It’s always been about basketball for us,” Cooper added. “Mom and dad have always been there for us, whatever we want to do.”

Kelly Bowman Flagg, left, sits with her three sons, from left, Ace, Hunter and Cooper, outside the gymnasium at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport on Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Kelly, who played for the Warriors and Black Bears as Kelly Bowman, said she’s enjoyed the ride of watching the next Flagg generation this season.

“It’s really been kind of surreal,” Kelly said. “It’s just been the most enjoyable time of any of my basketball experiences in my life, even as a player, just to be able to watch them out there and the love that they have for each other.”

Kelly knows what it’s like to carry the weight of a school’s basketball expectations. As an excellent post player at Nokomis from 1992 to ’95, she led the Warriors against teams that have endured through history. Teams like Cindy Blodgett’s Lawrence Bulldogs, Amy Vachon’s Cony Rams and Katie Clark’s Bangor Rams.


Kelly played AAU with Clark and Vachon, and became friends with them. On the court during high school season, however, things changed between the whistles.

“The friendships, as soon as the ball goes up for the jump, sort of go out the window for the next 32 minutes,” said Kelly, whose father, Daniel Bowman, was also a talented athlete. “I would never want anybody to get hurt, but let’s just say my intensity level was amped up.”

In 1995, Nokomis beat Clark and Bangor in the regional semifinals, but lost to Vachon and Cony in the final. Asked if she considered Kelly a rival, Vachon didn’t hesitate.

“One hundred percent,” said Vachon, now the decorated head coach of the University of Maine women’s basketball team. “She was very fiery, very intense. Really versatile. She was a post player in high school and in college she turned into a guard. She was really intense, and a really good player.”

University of Maine women’s basketball player Kelly Bowman finishes off a drive to the basket during a Nov. 20, 1998, game in Portland. Portland Press Herald file photo

Kelly was undersized at 5-foot-10 for a college forward, but began the process of transforming herself into a shooting guard. That transition was helped by having Blodgett, Clark and Vachon now as teammates, rather than opponents.

“A lot of us talked (during AAU) about ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if we went to Maine and played together?'” Kelly said. “As things developed and coach (Joanne) Palombo (McCallie) started recruiting a lot of Maine players, it became kind of like ‘Oh, this could really happen.’ And it was an exciting time to want to go to Maine.”


A few years after graduating in 1999, Kelly’s focus shifted to parenthood, starting with Hunter in 2004, and she quickly began pointing her sons in the direction of the sport she loved.

“From the second she could, she had a ball in our hands,” Ace said.

“I have pictures of the kids with teething rings that were basketball-shaped,” Kelly added. “It’s just what my family has always done. … It’s just in our blood, and what we do.”

Hunter and Ace took their time getting into the sport. Cooper, Kelly said, was different.

“All of them found their own path to loving the game,” she said. “But I will say about Cooper, I think he definitely came out of the womb ready to go. I’ve got pictures of him on one of those Little Tikes hoops dunking when he was maybe 18 months.”

As their passion grew, Kelly played the role of mentor, coaching her sons, along with Ralph, and teaching them post moves, including the “Kevin McHale up and under.”


Kelly Bowman Flagg, with her arms on her knees, is reflected in a window Friday while sitting outside the gymnasium at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport. She’s sitting with her three sons, Ace, Hunter and Cooper. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

She also played the role of peacemaker, breaking up the squabbles in and around the house.

“That’s all that goes on,” Kelly said. “They’re competing for everything. They compete for food, they compete to get in the front seat of the car. Everything is a competition.”

The competitions were never tougher than by the hoop in the driveway.

“We played so many 1-on-1 games outside,” Cooper said. “We got in a ton of fistfights over basketball. … Every summer, every day, it would be hours on hours out on the driveway, shooting around, playing P-I-G against each other.”

As they grew up, however, the brothers’ sights drifted to this season, when they knew they would have their first chance to play as teammates. With a chance to play for a state title, the season hasn’t disappointed.

“It’s just been such a great opportunity,” Hunter said. “I was really excited for it, even when I was younger. … To be able to get to play with them, and play at a high level too, has really been such a great experience.”


“It’s been a pleasure,” Cooper added. “It’s really fun being able to be together every single day after school, and then just being able to go home and talk about what happened at practice.”

There’s been unprecedented attention and hype surrounding the family, but Ace said there’s never any jealousy or frustration with each other’s roles.

“I feel we do a good job of sharing the spotlight,” he said. “None of us really care about it.”

That’s the sense Kelly says she feels as well, while watching another generation of basketball unfold.

“It’s really been special for our family,” she said. “Watching the closeness and the bond that has really solidified them as brothers has been cool.”

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