Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur, left, and Rambler bench celebrate taking a lead in the fourth quarter of their Class C South semifinal game Thursday against Boothbay at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

AUGUSTA — The play was called “spoon.”

Nate LeBlanc ran away with the spoon, and Winthrop ran away with a stunning victory.

LeBlanc’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds left was the end result of the play, and, as it turned out, the game-winner as top-seeded Winthrop rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat No. 6 Boothbay, 61-60, in the Class C South semifinals.

“As a team, we never give up,” LeBlanc said. “We’re that team that uses grit and determination.”

Winthrop, the defending regional champion, will face the winner of the other semifinal between No. 1 Hall-Dale and No. 5 Richmond at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Jared McLaughlin led the Ramblers (16-4) with 23 points, while Cam Wood added 15 and LeBlanc 12. Kyle Ames led the Seahawks (15-6) with 22 points, while Hunter Crocker added 19.

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“We just executed really down the stretch,” McLaughlin said. “No one thinks that we’re out of this game until the final horn goes, so we just kept pushing.”

The Ramblers trailed, 52-42, with 6:30 remaining after Ames hit a pair of free throws resulting from a technical foul called on LeBlanc for flopping.

Sam Figueroa started the rally with a three-point play, and a LeBlanc 3-pointer followed by a Figueroa free throw pulled Winthrop within three with 4:12 left.

Boothbay quickly widened the margin back to eight on an Ames 3 and a Crocker layup with 3:45 to go.

McLaughlin made three consecutive 3-pointers wrapped around a Crocker 3 to make it 60-58 Seahawks with 1:07 left.

“We knew they can shoot really well, and we can shoot really well, too,” said McLaughlin, who made six of Winthrop’s 10 3-pointers on the night. “We finally got stops.”

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“One of the conversations I’ve had with Jared all season long is wanting to be the man and wanting to be successful. And that’s not something easy for a kid to just grasp and learn how to do,” MacArthur said. “I think that was his coming-out party down the stretch.”

After Crocker missed the front end of a one-and-one, MacArthur called a time out with 30 seconds left to set up the final “spoon” play.

The play is designed to work against the man-to-man defense Winthrop was expecting from Boothbay. The Seahawks came out of the time out in a zone, but MacArthur didn’t change the play, believing the Ramblers would still get an open look at a 3-pointer.

“Nate LeBlanc had a wide open shot and he buried it,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “It’s a testament to him. That’s a big shot in a big moment. I couldn’t be happier for that kid and the rest of the team.”

“I thought we rebounded with them alright. I thought we did a decent job defensively. In that last three minutes or so, we made a couple of bad decisions,” Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said. 

Pinkham eschewed a time out after LeBlanc’s hoop, and Ames got a hot up from about 10 feet before the final horn, while drawing contact from a Winthrop defender. It bounced out and Wood pulled down the rebound as the Boothbay bench pleaded for a foul call.

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“(The officials) didn’t want to end the game that way,” Pinkham said. “He got fouled. One guy wanted to call it, and then the other ref talked him out of it.”

Ames scored all 10 of Boothbay’s points in the second quarter to cut a four-point Winthrop lead down to one, 25-24 at halftime. 

“You can’t take away how good of a game that Kyle Ames played for them,” MacArthur said. “He put that team on his back.”

Ames’ shooting became contagious in the second half, as the Seahawks missed just six shots in the final 16 minutes (14-for-20). Crocker (seven points) and Steve Reny (six points) helped Ames out in the third quarter.

Winthrop answered by pounding the ball inside to Wood (eight points), but Crocker converted a pair of acrobatic reverses to send them into the fourth quarter with a 46-40 lead.

Boothbay extended the lead to double digits as the Ramblers missed their first four shots of the fourth quarter. 

“I just told them I couldn’t be more proud of a group of kids,” MacArthur said. “That’s kind of what they needed. They’ve never been in that situation before this season where they’ve had to fight, dig deep and claw their way  to secure the win as the back into a game, and execute perfectly down the stretch. And that’s exactly what they did. They got stops on the defensive end and they executed on the offensive end.”

Winthrop’s Cameron Wood, back, has shot blocked by Boothbay’s Nick Simpson during their Class C South semifinal game Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

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