AUGUSTA — Top-seeded Winthrop punched its ticket to the regional semifinals for the third year in a row with a 76-42 win over No. 9 Wiscasset Monday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

Jacob Hickey finished with a game-high 30 points for the Ramblers, while Nate Leblanc added nine points. Ethan James had 19 points to lead the Wolverines.

The Ramblers (19-0) will face No. 4 North Yarmouth Academy in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Wolverines end their season at 10-10.

“We knew we had a big challenge in front of us. You can’t look past any team,” Hickey said. “Throughout the season, we’ve learned that every team is very strong. We’ve had some close games and we wanted to bring it tonight, on the defensive end, definitely. Ethan James is a terrific player.”

“The thing about our guys is them came in here focused,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “With what happened last year (losing in the regional final) having a little bit of a bad taste, they came in focused.”

The game was never in doubt, as the Ramblers had too much Hickey, too much depth and too many answers for James, a 6-foot-6 senior center.

“We had to know where he was at all times,” MacArthur said. “There was one rotation early in the game where we didn’t get out on him, and that was kind of emphasized in the next time out. One of the things about this group is they like challenges.”

“We got frustrated offensively. We really didn’t do the things we’d done in practice,” Wiscasset coach Dana Lawrence said. “For 16 minutes, we did three things that we’d worked on in practice. You’ve got to do it more than three times. Part of that you’ve got to give to Todd and his team. Their defensive scheme is aggressive and it works.”

Back-to-back hoops by Spencer Steele put the Ramblers’ lead into double digits at 19-9 six minutes in. 

Hickey scored nine points in the second quarter as the Ramblers pulled away to a 39-18 halftime lead.

“That was a big thing for us, getting out early, getting our crowd into the game,” Hickey said. “Our first game this year against them (an 80-53 win), we were losing at the half or we were tied or something like that. So we wanted to make sure we got out in front of them quickly.”

“I said (to Hickey), ‘This is our fourth year together. Let’s go have some fun,'” MacArthur said. “There’s no thinking about it or over-analyzing it. It’s basketball. And he went out there and did what he does. He’s the player of (the year in) our conference for a reason.”

The senior guard scored the Ramblers’ first nine points of the second half as they extended the cushion to 48-20.

“He’s a tough matchup, and he’s on most every night. He’s a very consistent player,” Lawrence said. “That whole team, even when you take Hickey off the floor, they’re still a good team all the way around.”

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