Nokomis High School boys basketball team players celebrate their win in the Maine Class A state championship game in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday, March 5. 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Whether the expectations came from outside the program or from within, the Nokomis boys basketball team was focused from the beginning of preseason practices just before Thanksgiving on bringing home the program’s first state championship.

Freshman phenom Cooper Flagg’s all-around game and a suffocating team defense passed the final test Saturday afternoon, smothering Falmouth 43-27 in the Class A state championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“It’s really exciting to be able to give this back to the community,” said the 6-foot-7-inch Flagg, whose arrival in high school along with twin brother Ace spurred the school’s championship aspirations.

The win was the 20th straight for coach Earl Anderson’s club, which concluded its season with a 21-1 record after a four-game tournament run during which it limited opponents to 37.3 points per game.

“At the start of the season we were good defensively but now, in my opinion, we’re the best defensive team in the entire state,” Nokomis sophomore guard Alex Grant said.

Falmouth, seeking its first state title since 2016, ended its season at 19-3.

Cooper Flagg, ranked among the top players in the Class of 2025 nationally based on his travel basketball exploits, capped off a stellar freshman year at the high school level with game-high totals of 22 points and 16 rebounds.

He shot 8 of 14 from the field and 6 of 9 from the free-throw line while pacing the Nokomis offense. Junior forward Madden White added eight points for Nokomis while Ace Flagg added six points and five rebounds and sophomore guard Conner Sides also chipped in five points.

“They’re coachable,” Anderson said. “They want to be pushed, they want to be challenged. They trust and believe in each other and are willing to do whatever it takes to win, and we’ve won every way possible.”

Nokomis High School’s Cooper Flagg passes the ball during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Jack Stowell led Falmouth with eight points, but Nokomis held the Navigators to an 11-for-41 shooting performance from the field and limited the South champions’ Mr. Basketball semifinalist, senior guard Brady Coyne, to six points on 3-of-12 shooting.

“When all five of us stay together and we play as a team, no one can really score on us,” Cooper Flagg said. “Our ability to talk to each other and navigate through screens and things like that just makes us better.”

Cooper Flagg scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half, but Falmouth was largely able to control the pace of the game while hanging within 19-12 at the break.

Nokomis High School’s Cooper Flagg takes the ball to the hoop during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Falmouth High School’s Zach Morrill runs into Nokomis High School’s Cooper Flagg during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Stowell came out aggressive on offense, with his 3-pointer and a follow-up shot by Zach Morrill giving Falmouth an early 5-2 lead.

Nokomis countered with nine unanswered points, including six by Flagg to build an 11-5 lead before Stowell beat the buzzer — though replays showed the ball may have been still in his shooting hand — as the first quarter ended.

Cooper Flagg had eight points in the opening period, then added six more in the second quarter, four on two field goals assisted by White.

Nokomis High School’s Madden White dribbles around Falmouth High School defender Lucas Dilworth during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Falmouth High School’s Jack Stowell takes the ball by Nokomis High School’s Connor Sides during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Nokomis extended its lead to 28-16 midway through the third quarter after Cooper Flagg fed White for a 3-pointer and then made two free throws after being fouled during a Warriors fast break.

The Warriors took a 30-21 lead into the game’s final eight minutes but a drive by Cooper Flagg, a fast-break layup by White off a Connor Sides assist and an Ace Flagg basket off an assist from his twin pushed the advantage to 36-21 left, and a celebration was brewing.

“This group of guys has been dreaming about this since we were in third and fourth grade,” Grant said. “Just being able to play with these guys and being the first ones in the history books to win a state championship is just such an unreal feeling.

“There’s no feeling like it.”

Nokomis High School fans cheer on their team during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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...