Few semifinal victories of recent vintage have been more fitting than the 45-31 lockdown of Boothbay on Thursday night at Augusta Civic Center, one that vaulted Winthrop into the regional final for the first time since 2008.

“When our offense has trouble, I think we use defense as a motivator to get back into the game,” Hickey said. “I think that’s our best attribute as a team. We used that tonight.”

Held without a field goal from the first quarter forward, Hickey hit all six of his free throws in the final 1:39 to close it out.

Winthrop (17-3) didn’t allow a Boothbay basket from the floor for the final 10:39 and forced 28 turnovers.

Hickey led Winthrop with 16 points. Anthony Owens added 14 points, eight rebounds and four steals for the Ramblers, who will face fourth-seeded Waynflete at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Nick Gorey had 11 points for the Seahawks (13-8). Abel Bryer bolstered Boothbay with 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

It was a defensive stalemate that shouldn’t have surprised anybody after the MVC rivals split two close-to-the-vest battles in the second half of the regular season, neither decided by more than four points.

“They know everything we do. We know everything they do,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “They do a good job slowing us down with the diamond-and-one. The recipe is for that kind of game. We were able to win with our defense, and that’s what we preach all the time.”

Boothbay used a 15-4 run, beginning with the final basket of the first half, to grab a 29-27 lead with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter. Gorey capped it with a layup off Kyle Ames’ steal.

Spencer Steele supplied the answer and the equalizer with a drive. An inside bucket by Owens and two Hickey free throws gave the Ramblers the lead for keeps to end the third.

Owens provided another key basket to open the fourth quarter.

“It was a team effort that got me open,” Owens said. “We had some plays that we executed that really worked.”

Ames’ two free throws with 6:40 remaining were the final Boothbay points. Bennett Brooks found Garrett Tsouprake for a hook shot that gave Winthrop additional breathing room.

“That’s happened before in other games,” Bryer said. “We struggle in the fourth quarter. We came out strong in the third quarter and were really excited. Hats off to their defense.”

Winthrop shot 30 percent from the field but was 16-from-18 from the line.

“I told the guys that’s probably the worst game I’ve been part of, but it’s a game that you’re proud of because you’re headed to the (Southern) Maine finals,” MacArthur said. “We’re proud. We’re happy. For the program’s sake, we always talk about what’s next. We want to get this program back to being what Winthrop was 10, 15, 20 years ago, Every year they were here, and we want to be here every year.”

Winthrop never trailed in the first half while harassing Boothbay into more turnovers (16) than field goal attempts (14).

“It’s our philosophy, what we stand behind, is our defense,” Owens said. ‘I don’t think that will ever change.”

Hickey hit two 3-pointers and a transition layup in the first quarter. The Seahawks shut him out in the second period, but not before he staked the Ramblers to a rapid 12-4 advantage.

Owens also converted twice down low. Two layups by Bryer, one a buzzer-beater, cut the deficit in half.

The margin hit double digits for the first time at 21-11 on a 3-pointer by Brooks with 4:48 remaining in the half. Boothbay sliced that gap to seven before consecutive buckets by Tsouprake in a 24-second span pushed Winthrop to a 25-16 halftime edge.

“They played a great game. Abel had a great game rebounding, all the stuff that he usually does. He’s so dominant,” Hickey said. “We had to find other ways to get the win. We had to knock down all our foul shots, find the open seams in that zone, and I think we did that at the end. That’s how we closed it out.”

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