Nokomis freshman Cooper Flagg drives the ball down court past Hampden Academy’s Nick Johnston during a preseason game on December 2. At far left is Ace Flagg. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Cooper Flagg enjoyed his first experience playing in Maine’s high school basketball tournament on Saturday night.

“The atmosphere was great, there was tons of energy,” said the highly regarded 6-foot-7-inch freshman forward from Nokomis Regional High School in Newport after his team’s 57-29 Class A North quarterfinal victory over Messalonskee of Oakland at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We had so many students come out to support us, it was really great. We went out there and got it done, so it’s on to the next one.”

The arrival of Flagg and his twin brother Ace as first-year students at Nokomis led to the Warriors being anointed by many observers as the state’s best high school basketball team even before the season started, a pretty lofty status for a team whose starting five consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and a single junior.

“We had nobody that had ever stepped foot in a tournament game, ever in their whole lives,” Nokomis head coach Earl Anderson said.

That early attention spoke to the reputations Cooper and Ace Flagg have established for themselves on the travel basketball circuit, reputations the two now 15-year-olds have backed up while leading their hometown high school to an 18-1 record heading into Wednesday’s night regional semifinal against No. 4 Cony of Augusta.

Cooper Flagg ranked among the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference leaders in most statistical categories tracked during the regular season. He led the league in scoring (20.4 points per game), steals (3.9 per game), blocked shots (3.9 per game) and field-goal percentage (.632) while ranking second in rebounds (9.4) and assists (6.0) per game.

Ace Flagg wasn’t far behind with 11.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while finishing second to his brother with a .631 shooting percentage.

Cooper Flagg’s play at the regional and national levels had spawned college scholarship offers as early as last summer from first Division I Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island and then the University of Albany, an America East conference rival of the University of Maine.

Then last Friday, just one night after UMaine and head basketball coach Richard Barron parted ways following a 6-19 start to the Black Bears’ season, the state’s lone Division I program now led by interim head coach Jai Steadman offered scholarships to both Cooper and Ace Flagg — something proudly announced on social media by their mother, former UMaine women’s basketball player Kelly (Bowman) Flagg.

The Flagg twins won’t have the opportunity to sign a National Letter of Intent accepting such college scholarship offers until November 2024 at the earliest, and the options figure to be even more numerous by then.

“Obviously it’s just really exciting knowing that both of our college educations are going to be paid for,” Cooper said. “I think it’s really exciting for both of us and hopefully there will be many more to come.”

They also hope there are many more tournament games to come following Saturday’s solid debut that featured Cooper Flagg’s triple-double (13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) against a diamond-and-one defense and a 26-point outburst by junior forward Madden White.

Nokomis allowed just 11 Messalonskee field goals, no real surprise given that the Warriors led Class A North in team defense during the regular season with just 40.11 points allowed per game.

“Honestly, it’s just communicating and playing as a team together,” Cooper Flagg said. “We all trust each other and we know where each other is going to be. We have each other’s backs and we’re rotating and covering for each other, that’s the biggest thing.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...