AUGUSTA — The Winthrop boys basketball team has won one big game after another over the years.

Rarely, if ever, have the Ramblers had to dig as deep for one as they did Saturday night.

Cam Hachey scored 19 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, and top-seeded Winthrop’s trademark defense delivered one of its greatest performances in a 39-30 win over No. 2 Waynflete in the Class C South final at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday night.

The win came against a Flyers team deemed by some to be the favorite in the tournament, and after Winthrop’s top scorer, Ryan Baird, left with an injury with 1:42 remaining in the first period.

But the resilient Ramblers (20-1) first caught, then passed, Waynflete (19-2) in the second half, and held on to earn a second straight trip to the Class C state final and leave coach Todd MacArthur playing the ranking game.

“This is a top five,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s in the top five. … This one is a big one, just because of the adversity we faced.”

It also filled one of the few remaining holes on Winthrop’s resume.

“We’ve had a lot of success in this program. One of the things we haven’t done is beat Waynflete,” said MacArthur, whose team lost to the Flyers in the 2016 South final. “We really wanted to check that off our list.”

Winthrop went into the fourth quarter leading 27-26, but fell behind quickly in the fourth on a putback by Waynflete’s Dominick Campbell with 7:24 left. The Ramblers pulled even on the next possession on Jevin Smith’s free throw, tying the game at 28 with 7:01 to play.

With no margin for error, Winthrop’s defense, always the Ramblers’ backbone, came through. Waynflete missed its next five attempts from the field. The Flyers turned the ball over five times before they finally scored again. They tried perimeter shots and attacking the basket, and for seven minutes and 12 seconds, the Ramblers kept turning them away.

“We just had to talk,” said senior captain and forward Jevin Smith, who was tough down low against Campbell and helped hold the 6-foot-8 junior to seven points. “You should have heard us. We were just talking. That’s how we are so good, we talk. We let people know where we are. And we had to buckle down.”

Winthrop got its breakthrough on the offensive end when Gavin Perkins (eight points) stole the ball and went in for a layup, putting the Ramblers ahead 30-28 with 3:12 left. From there, Hachey iced the game at the line. He hit a free throw with 1:57 left, two more with 1:29 to go, and two more with 31 seconds left to put Waynflete in desperation mode.

“When Ryan went down, it was certainly tough,” Hachey said. “But we just got the job done. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

That Winthrop would be in any position to cut down nets or lift hardware seemed a longshot when Baird, who had 21 of the team’s points in a 40-25 semifinal win over North Yarmouth Academy, went down with an apparent ankle injury late in the first.

MacArthur went over to see his senior standout, and realized he would be without him the rest of the way.

“‘Oh, crap,'” MacArthur said. “‘Oh, crap’ …. That definitely went through (my mind). ‘Oh, crap.'”

He wasn’t alone.

“It did go through my head,” Smith said. “I’m not going to lie.”

Once the shock wore off, however, a team that had long since proven its mental toughness was ready to do it again.

“As a coach and as a team, you have a choice to make,” MacArthur said. “Do you make excuses? And one of the things we’ve never done in this program is make excuses. … As a coach, I said, ‘I’ve got to step my game up and coach a little harder,’ and I’m sure the kids said they had to step up their game.”

Winthrop did, and despite giving up a size advantage to the Flyers, never let them pull away. The Ramblers never fell behind by more than four, and went into halftime down 19-15.

In the third, Winthrop caught up, with Hachey hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 21 with 5:51 to go. The Ramblers fell behind and pulled even two more times, and finally pulled ahead on a Smith free throw with 1:04 to go.

Winthrop lost the lead at the start of the fourth. But after regaining it, the Ramblers didn’t trail again.

“We just had to bring everybody up,” Hachey said. “We knew we could still do it, Ryan obviously is a great player, so it definitely hurt our team a little bit offensively and defensively. But I think we just rallied around it and got the win.”

 


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