Monmouth Academy’s Sammy Calder is pressured by Traip Academy defender David Durling during a Class C South boys basketball quarterfinal game Monday at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Monmouth Academy’s hot start Monday night was a year in the making.

After losing in the Class C South final last season, the second-seeded Mustangs let that flame smolder until it finally ignited in full-fledged flames in a 59-36 win over No. 10 Traip Academy in the regional quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.

Junior Sam Calder netted a game-high 22 points, while senior Hunter Frost added eight points and 10 rebounds for Monmouth (16-3), which will meet No. 6 Carrabec in a semifinal Friday.

“The experience last year definitely helped us,” said Frost, who had six of his eight points and seven of his 10 boards in the first half. “We lost that last game (to Dirigo), and it killed us. It’s all we’ve been working towards all year. The experience here definitely helped.”

The Mustangs couldn’t have drawn up a better start to their tournament if they’d tried.

Monmouth scored 13 of the night’s first 15 points and took a 27-10 lead into halftime.

“Our first 10 minutes were everything that we wanted,” Monmouth coach Wade Morrill said.

With Frost providing the spark inside to keep Traip (8-12) from getting second-chance points or possessions, Calder was the fuel can setting things ablaze. The guard connected on three of his first four tries from the floor and had six points and two assists in Monmouth’s 13-2 run to begin the contest.

Calder showed no signs of nerves in making his return to the Civic Center floor.

“The last year helped me a lot,” Calder said. “With Hayden (Fletcher) graduating, having to take a bigger role with ball-handling and stuff like that. It helped me so much with all the pressure.”

Morrill said the team’s hot start comes from its work ethic in practice.

“We work really hard in practice,” Morrill said. “Our practices are not fun. Guys don’t really like me sometimes. We pump a lot of noise into our practices, it’s very chaotic. We try to create an atmosphere where it’s really hard to listen and communicate, and we really focus on everything we have to do to be successful. 

“At this time of year, you really don’t want the boys to think too much. You want the to do what they’re good at.”

While the Mustangs benefited from free-flowing first half in which they shot 48 percent from the field, the second half bogged down with turnovers and personal fouls. But by the time the Rangers – led by 12 points from Ben Hawkes and 11 more through Nick Martine – found their footing Monmouth had already torched the floor.

Monmouth Academy’s Manny Calder dribbles the ball through Traip Academy defenders during a Class C South boys basketball quarterfinal game Monday at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Traip tried nibbling into the Monmouth lead in the fourth quarter, getting to within 43-27, but Calder’s 3-pointer with 5:33 remaining made it a 46-27 game and ended any hopes of a what would’ve been a miraculous comeback.

“We stressed all week that it was all about the first four minutes,” Sammy Calder said. “I just let the game come to me. I worked the ball around and found my open shots and took the right shots.”

Manny Calder finished with 11 points, while Gavin Gregor added eight more.

In all, nine of the 13 rostered Monmouth players registered points and all but two failed to score at least one point or register at least one rebound.

Frost was the epitome of that team-first Mustang mentality.

“We had to come out high intensity, they’re an athletic team. We had to play quicker and smarter,” Frost said. “I just had to stay in the game. I had to find a way to score the ball and help the team any way I can — by rebounding, scoring, passing when I need to.”

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