AUGUSTA – No, Winthrop wasn’t surprised by the diamond-and-one defense Boothbay used in the second half of Thursday night’s Western Class C semifinal. But it sure looked like it.

With Owen Johnson shadowing Winthrop point guard Sam Leclerc all over the floor, Boothbay shut down the Mountain Valley Conference’s leading scorer, and most of the Ramblers’ other top scoring options, to pull off a surprisingly easy 71-46 win at the Augusta Civic Center.

No. 2 Boothbay (18-2), which avenged a regular-season defeat to Winthrop and its loss to the Ramblers in last year’s regional final, will meet top-seeded Dirigo for the West crown Saturday night. Winthrop finishes its season at 17-3.

Kris Noonan scored 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Seahawks, who utilized their size advantage in the paint and on the offensive boards. Roy Arsenault added 16 points, but the key was Johnson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. He had 16 points and eight rebounds Thursday, and limited Leclerc to just six points, none in the second half.

“He played Leclerc the entire game. Even when we were in the (2-3) zone (in the first half), he was responsible for Leclerc,” said Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham. “He had him man-to-man, so he did everything defensively.”

“Coach brought (the diamond-and-one) up a few days ago and we tried it out and it worked pretty good. It seemed to bother (Leclerc) a little bit,” Johnson said. “They seemed a flustered. That was the whole goal.”

Leading 35-32 at the half, Winthrop shot 3-for-23 and scored just 11 points in the entire second half. Ezra Damm scored eight of them on his way to a team-high 13 points. Brothers Mike and Tim Gingras, the Ramblers’ other two top scorers, went scoreless in the second half and finished with six points apiece.

“Actually, I had some inside information from a friend of (Boothbay point guard) Matt Sceviour’s that they were going to come out in some sort of box-and-one, diamond-and-one,” said Winthrop coach Dennis Dacus. “We worked on it in practice (and) this morning in our shoot around, and I made a change to it once I saw what we were going to try to do wasn’t going to work. The two times that we ran what we wanted to do, we got good looks right in the middle of the paint, but we never ran it correctly other than those two times.”

Winthrop ran a lot correctly in the first half against Boothbay’s mix of man and 2-3 zone. The Ramblers shot 51 percent and, sparked by 3-pointers from Damm and Mike Gingras, went on a 14-2 run to lead by as much as eight in the second quarter.

Boothbay closed to within three on a Sceviour buzzer beater, then came out in the diamond-and-one early in the third period.

“We know they run everything through Leclerc,” Pinkham said. “I called a time out at one point to go back to the zone, and they said ‘Coach, the (diamond-and-one) is working. They’re getting frustrated. Let’s keep it going.'”

The Seahawks scored the first eight points of the second half to take the lead for good. Damm scored all five of the Ramblers’ points of the period to keep them within five heading into the fourth. But Boothbay opened the fourth with a 15-3 run to pull away.


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