Blanketed by two hard-nosed Seahawk seniors — Nick Gorey, then Matt Burnham off the bench — Hickey went nearly 26 minutes of game time without a field goal after a typically explosive first quarter. With the Ramblers on the brink of being swept in the season series and leaving a first-round bye in the Class C South boys’ basketball playoffs to chance, though, there was no doubt who would be taking the big shot, guarded or otherwise.

Hickey drained that go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:23 left, and Winthrop shut down three subsequent Boothbay possessions to prevail, 42-39, in a pivotal MVC clash.

“On the sideline we were saying we’ve got to get him something,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We had gone through quite a bit of the playbook at that time, so we went back to something we’d already run. Fortunately for us he’s a big-time player. They did a great job on him.”

After erupting for 11 points in the first 4:48 of the game, staking Winthrop to a 15-2 lead, Hickey finished with game-highs of 17 points and eight steals. Spencer Steele added 11 points and four swipes for the Ramblers (14-3), who will enter the regional tournament no worse than the No. 2 seed.

Jacob Leonard and Carter Babcock led Boothbay (11-6) with 10 points apiece. Leonard fouled out on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 32. Although the Seahawks pulled ahead on three different occasions down the stretch, their offense sputtered in his absence.

“We didn’t struggle so much against the press last time as we did this time,” Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said. “And we got in foul trouble. When the Leonard kid is not playing, we struggle.”

Boothbay beat Winthrop in its half of the annual home-and-home three weeks ago, despite 29 points and eight 3-pointers from Hickey.

This time, the Ramblers won despite shooting only 28 percent from the field. Giveaways were the Seahawks’ undoing. Boothbay had more turnovers (17) than points (16) at halftime and handed it back to Winthrop nine more times in the final period for an even 30 on the night.

“I have no complaints about our defense,” Pinkham said. “If we’d stop throwing the ball away, we’d be pretty good.”

Winthrop led 32-26 after back-to-back inside buckets from Anthony Owens late in the third period, but Boothbay closed with consecutive hoops by Abel Bryer, Babcock and Burnham to pull even.

Babcock’s layup gave the Seahawks their initial lead with 6:43 to go. Steele spun to the basket with an answer for Winthrop. Boothbay worked the ball inside to Bryer for two. Again, Steele tied it.

“Spencer Steele is kind of the unsung hero for us,” MacArthur said. “In order for us to do anything this year, we need him. He had to step up and he did.”

Kyle Ames’ second 3-pointer of the night gave Boothbay a 39-36 edge. Owens clawed Winthrop within one before a three-minute drought at both ends ahead of Hickey’s game-winner.

Owens and Steele each scored six points in the second half.

“Probably our second half wasn’t our finest second half, but one of the points we’ve emphasized all year is in crunch time, we’ve got to execute and do some things,” MacArthur said. “Defensively they got stops. As a defensive coach, it’s nice to see that.”

Nate Scott, starting in place of point guard Bennett Brooks, who was resting an injured ankle, hit the first of two free throws with 30 seconds left to make it a three-point Winthrop cushion.

Steele’s theft gave Hickey a chance to clinch from the line, but he missed the front end of 1-and-1. Babcock grabbed the rebound, and Boothbay called time out to set up a 3-pointer for Ames from the right corner.

Winthrop waved multiple hands in his face, and the prayer sailed long at the horn.

“I’m pleased with our effort. We kept going, we kept going, and we kept going,” Pinkham said. “We got down 9 or 10 pretty quick. We managed to not let it get any worse for a while, and then we started coming back a little bit.”

The Ramblers led 15-6 after one quarter and 25-16 at the half. Garrett Tsouprake hauled down a game-high 12 rebounds. Scott dished out five assists and made four steals.

Winthrop honored its 1965 state championship team at halftime, presenting nine living members with a lifetime pass to all Ramblers’ sporting events. That team, recently inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, averaged 84 points per game before the advent of the 3-point line.

“It was nice to have that team here and be able to talk about the tradition of this program and win a game like this in which there was a lot at stake for us,” MacArthur said. “It was a great game. I guess that’s what high school basketball is supposed to be.”

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