Nokomis' Cooper Flag (left) and Brewer's Brady Saunders will go head-to-head on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, as the two teams compete in the Class A North boys regional final at the Augusta Civic Center. Credit: Josh O'Donnell; Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Class A North boys basketball championship game may be coming a night later than originally scheduled, but most fans of the sport expect it will be worth the wait.

The long-awaited third meeting of the season between top-ranked Nokomis (19-1) and No. 2 Brewer (18-2) is set for 8:45 p.m Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center, just after the 7 p.m. Class A North girls final between top-seeded and undefeated Skowhegan (20-0) and No. 3 Lawrence of Fairfield (17-3).

The boys final matches a Brewer team loaded with experience against a youthful Nokomis team led by two of the most notable freshmen in Maine schoolboy basketball history in towering twins Cooper and Ace Flagg.

“Whoever is the mentally stronger team [will win],” Brewer senior guard Colby Smith said. “There’s going to be a lot of hype around this game, and we’ve got to put that behind us and just play our game, execute and we’ll be good.”

While the roster compositions may be different, each team will be seeking to end a long championship drought for their programs.

Nokomis has never won a regional championship in boys basketball, its closest call coming in 1977 when the Warriors reached the Eastern Maine Class A final before falling to top-ranked Stearns of Millinocket.

Brewer is pursuing its first regional crown since 1988, when the Witches entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed in Eastern A and captured the title by outlasting No. 8 Presque Isle 71-67 in the championship game.

The Witches have been on the brink of major success in each of the last two winters, suffering a last-second loss in the 2019 Class A North semifinals to that year’s eventual state champion Hampden Academy, then going 13-2 last winter to win the Penobscot Valley Conference Classes AA-A-B championship after the schedule was abbreviated and regionalized due to the pandemic.

The teams have split two regular-season games this year, each winning on its home court.

Brewer won the first meeting 57-46 on Dec. 17, pulling away in the second half to improve its record to 3-0 at the expense of Nokomis’ team playing just its second regular-season game together.

Nokomis dominated the rematch, using an early run of 18 unanswered points to pull away for a 72-43 victory in Newport on Jan. 20 that knocked Brewer from the unbeaten ranks after its 9-0 start.

“We thought we could just go in there and take care of business because we were undefeated at the time,” Brewer junior forward Brady Saunders said, “but that obviously wasn’t the case and props to them.”

Both teams have used stout defense in their early tournament games to advance to this winner-take-all clash for the regional crown.

Nokomis, which allowed just 40.1 points per game during the regular season, has yielded just 32 points per game in its tournament victories over No. 9 Messalonskee of Oakland and No. 4 Cony of Augusta.

“Our offense comes and goes in spurts but that’s at every level, even the highest levels,” Nokomis coach Earl Anderson said. “But our defense has been constant for two months now and that’s what we live on.”

Brewer may be coming off its best performance of the season in a 58-30 victory over No. 3 Skowhegan, as the Witches denied the bigger River Hawks their inside offense and controlled the rebounding action while also forcing 24 River Hawk turnovers.

“It wasn’t our best offensive game but our defense was really what gave us an edge,” Smith said.

That defense will be tested against a Nokomis offense that averaged 65.5 points per game during the regular season as spearheaded by the multi-dimensional 6-foot-7 Cooper Flagg. He led Class A North this winter in scoring (20.4 ppg), steals (3.9 per game), blocked shots (3.9 per game) and field-goal percentage (.632) while ranking second in rebounds (9.4 rpg) and assists (6.0 apg).

Ace Flagg also is a double-double threat for the Warriors, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Warriors’ 51-35 semifinal win against Cony after averaging 11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and two steals per game during the regular season.

Junior forward Madden White, the elder statesman of the senior-less Nokomis starting lineup, scored 26 points in the quarterfinals, while sophomore guards Alex Grant and Connor Sides add perimeter defense and shooting,

“Nokomis is a great team,” Saunders said. “They have a lot of great role players and they obviously have Cooper Flagg. We’re just going to build our practice based on what we [saw in the semifinals] and we’ll be ready to go on [Saturday].”

Brewer was the top-scoring team in Class A North at 74.4 points per game.

Coach Ben Goodwin’s club has featured a balanced offensive approach featuring the perimeter work of Mr. Basketball semifinalists Smith and classmate Aaron Newcomb and the versatile frontcourt play of junior forwards Saunders, Brock Flagg and Ryder Goodwin.

“We know what they play like, we know who they are, so we’re just going to be grinding in practice getting ready for them,” Ace Flagg said.

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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...