For the first time in the 21st century, Western Class C will crown a champion that does not play in the Mountain Valley Conference on Saturday night.
Waynflete, representing the Western Maine Conference, and Maranacook, in its first year in Class C out of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, ended the MVC’s 15-year reign over the region by eliminating Hall-Dale and Dirigo, respectively, on Thursday.
On Saturday (8:45 p.m., Augusta Civic Center), one of them will become the first school outside of the MVC to win Western C since Falmouth’s threepeat ended in 1999.
If any teams had what it took to change the course of history in the region, it was the third-seeded Flyers (17-2) and fifth-seeded Black Bears (16-5), both of whom, despite their lower seeding, were considered dangerous teams heading into the tournament.
Waynflete, which has won nine in a row, is in the regional final for the second year in a row, having fallen to Boothbay last year, 70-52.
In their quest for their first regional title, the Flyers are led by senior Serge Nyirikamba, the most dominant low post player in Western C. The 6-foot-3 Mr. Basketball semifinalist’s impressive regular-season numbers (21 points, nine rebounds per game) have been dwarfed by his tournament output of 27 points and 13 rebounds per game through the first two rounds.
But trying to throw off Nyirikamba’s rhythm and myriad of moves by sending help to the post is a risky proposition. Waynflete’s guards, led by Milo Belleau (12.5 ppg in the tournament) and Harry Baker-Connick (9 ppg) are quick and capable outside shooters.
Those guards, joined by Abel Alemayo and forward Henry Cleaves, may be even more dangerous at the other end of the floor. With Nyirikamba (seven blocks in the tournament) patrolling the paint, they can be aggressive on the perimeter. The Flyers have allowed 86 points through the first two games and gotten easy hoops off turnovers and transition opportunities resulting from their defense.
No team the Flyers have faced so far is more capable of testing their defense than Maranacook.
Their pedal-to-the-metal pace was too much for even Dirigo, which prides itself on pushing the tempo, in Thursday night’s 86-71 semifinal shootout. The Black Bears have already broken the record for most 3-pointers made in the Western C tournament with 20.
Maranacook, which won Class B regional and state titles in 2006 and 2008, feeds off the energy of star senior guard Taylor Wilbur, the KVAC’s leading scorer. Wilbur drained eight 3-pointers en route to 34 points in the Bears’ 68-52 quarterfinal win over Monmouth.
But if Wilbur has an off night shooting, as he did against Dirigo (despite still scoring 21), the Black Bears have plenty of other weapons. Cam Brochu was a force inside and outside, tallying 24 points. Kent Mohlar shook off the affects of an illness that slowed him in the quarterfinals and added 19 points, while Caleb Jackson chipped in 14 points.
The task of trying to contain Nyirikamba may fall on 6-foot-4 senior Brad Worster, who isn’t called up to score as much as his fellow starters but provides a physical presence in the paint.
The boys’ title game will be preceded at 7 p.m. by the girls’ championship, which features another 3 vs. 5 matchup, No. 3 Carrabec (17-4) against No. 5 Madison (15-6).