AUGUSTA — Top-seeded Winthrop wasted no time jumping out to a quick lead and used its stifling defense to suffocate North Yarmouth Academy 52-29 in Class C South boys’ basketball semifinal action at Augusta Civic Center on Thursday night.

Sophomore Cam Wood got the ball rolling for the Ramblers (20-0) right from the start. After winning the tip, Wood went straight down the court, where Jacob Hickey found him for a quick layup just eight seconds into the game. Wood continued making his presence known underneath with strong moves to the basket, including a three-point play that put Winthrop up 5-0 to start the game.

NYA wouldn’t go away. Te’Andre King became the Panthers’ offense in the quarter, scoring nine points while hauling down four rebounds. The aggressiveness and hustle of King left the Panthers only trailing by one, 10-9, after the first quarter.

Winthrop looked to make adjustments on King between quarters.

“We had a plan to always know where he is, and boxing him out. We wanted to stay low and take away his legs because he’s a jumper,” said Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur. “The first few possessions, we didn’t follow our game plan. Once we got back to doing our job and doing what we were supposed to do, we were fine.”

After making the adjustment on King, he and the rest of the Panthers were shut down by the Ramblers’ defense, hitting just one field goal in the second quarter. 

“Our defense was what we hang our hats and tonight, we did something special,” MacArthur said. “When you hold a team like that to 29 points, that’s impressive.”

On the offensive side, Winthrop benefited from Hickey’s perfect 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line to start to pull away. After NYA’s Haven Cutko picked up his third foul and a Panthers technical foul, Winthrop went on a 8-2 run to close out the half, including a hoop in transition started by a block from Wood. The bucket gave Winthrop a 26-11 lead into the locker room at the half. 

“I ask so much of Cam. He has progressed so much for us this year,” MacArthur said. “For a sophomore that size, he’s constantly getting better because of the work he puts in. He’s able to do things for us that no one else can do, simply because of his size.”

NYA’s frustration continued in the second half when senior guard Cutko picked up his fifth foul with just under six minutes left in the quarter, fouling him out of the game. Although the Panthers’ offense wasn’t at the top of its game, Winthrop showed glimpses of what its capable of and and showed off some of its passing ability. Bennett Brooks grabbed a loose ball at the NYA end, passed to Hickey, who found Wood underneath for an easy two points.

“Our offense was a little off tonight but that’s where our defense picked us up,” said MacArthur. “We’re good at picking up loose balls and starting the transition.”

NYA’s King netted another six points while bringing down four more rebounds before fouling out with 2:10 left in the third quarter. The freshman finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds.

Winthrop’s Jared McLaughlin entered the game in the third quarter and immediately made an impact, nailing a 3-point shot and putting Winthrop up 33-13. The sophomore sank another 3 before the quarter would ended, and Winthrop was in command at 41-19.

North Yarmouth remained aggressive at trying to keep Winthrop off the boards, but it wasn’t enough. The Panthers continued to foul Winthrop (20-0) and had two more players foul out, including Jake Malcom, who finished with eight points.

Maine Mr. Basketball finalist Jacob Hickey finished with a team-high 15 points, including a fourth quarter 3, for the Ramblers.

Winthrop will face Madison on Saturday at 8:45 p.m. for the chance to represent the South region in the Class C state championship game. Madison defeated Waynflete earlier in the evening.

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