When Brock Flagg came around from the left and received the ball at the top of the key with eight seconds left down by one, Falmouth’s Eli Cowperthwaite came up to double Flagg, leaving Cameron Hughes open under the hoop.
“I said a quick prayer and threw it behind me. Cam was there and caught it,” Flagg said.
Hughes caught the ball on the left side of the paint, took one step in and splashed it off the glass with his right hand to give Brewer the 42-41 win and the Class A boys state championship Friday night at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I was wide open and I was looking at Brock, praying I was going to get the ball, and I got the ball and felt like I had it for two minutes staring at the backboard,” Hughes said. “I thought, ‘Man, if I miss this,’ but it went in and I am so happy.”
The win was Brewer’s first basketball state title in school history.
“So many emotions,” Hughes added. “It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t imagine this going any more perfect.”
With 16 seconds left, Ryder Goodwin tried to take a charge in Falmouth’s backcourt but was called for the blocking foul that sent Paul Dilworth to the free throw line with the No. 1 Clippers (17-5) holding a 41-40 lead. Dilworth missed both tries at the line and Goodwin picked up the rebound.
No. 1 Brewer (21-1) had one timeout left but didn’t call it. Goodwin found Saunders who brought the ball up the court, then passed back to Goodwin before finding Flagg. Flagg said he wanted to shoot but then found Hughes open.
“I saw Brock drive and Cowperthwaite went to double for some reason and I said, ‘Brock, look up,’” Saunders said.
“I didn’t think I was going to get the ball,” Hughes added. “I was getting ready to get the rebound.”
The play was for a shooter to get the ball but Hughes, who describes himself as the “hustle guy,” was the open shooter at the end.
“For him to score that and finish the game is just amazing,” Brewer coach Ben Goodwin said. “You take a kid like that that’s given everything, he defends, rebounds, does everything we ask and he deserves the credit. It’s well-deserved for the young man.”
At the half, Brewer was clinging to a 21-18 lead. The Witches had just weathered an 11-4 run by Falmouth before Evan Nadeau hit two free throws.
Falmouth had a strong third quarter. The Clippers took a four-point lead four minutes in on a Cowperthwaite layup and had all the momentum. During timeouts and between the third and fourth quarters, the mantra was the same for Brewer: “We’re going to win this. We’re going to win this.”
“They knew we were going to win and they did that,” Goodwin said. “They had confidence in themselves and they did a great job.”
At the end of the third quarter, Dilworth hit a layup to put Falmouth ahead 35-29. After the buzzer, Cowperthwaite earned himself a technical foul that sent Saunders to the free throw line where the Mr. Maine Basketball finalist made both to cut the deficit to four.
The two free throws with no time on the clock proved costly for Falmouth, but they were only two of the 12 points Saunders made on the night. Saunders only made three shots from the field.
“We didn’t even have to score points. I mean, I missed like 20 shots and I don’t even care, man,” Saunders said. “Down the stretch, the most important thing for me is to keep shooting. But when I noticed they started not to fall I found Ryder and Cam, and Cam scored the biggest two points of the game.”
Flagg hit a layup two minutes into the fourth, then stole the ball on the ensuing Falmouth possession and found Saunders for a mid-range jumper that tied the game at 36-36.
With 1:04 left, Goodwin drilled two free throws to cut a Falmouth lead to 40-38 before Dilworth made one of two free throws on the next possession to make it a three-point game.
Goodwin scored again to make it 41-40 in favor of the Clippers before attempting to take a charge. The rest is history.
“It’s amazing,” Goodwin said. “Teamwork, how to be a family, we take it to another level. At 9:30 at night we want to be in the gym playing together. We eat breakfast, dinner together and we push each other on the court and that’s what makes us great.”
After the game, Flagg was found sitting by himself in the upper deck of the Augusta Civic Center awaiting a radio interview. The senior was taking in the moment the best he could. The storybook season with his best friends was over.
“It’s the definition of bittersweet,” Flagg said. “I was just taking a moment to take it all in because this is it for me. I don’t play baseball so this is it for me. I’m never going to take another snap with Cameron on the football field, never take another shot with Ryder, play another basketball game with Evan, so I want to smile and I want to cry.”
Regardless of how they celebrated after the game, the family sentiment was consistent throughout coaches and players.
“To do it with the guys I love, my best friends, there’s no feeling like it,” Nadeau added.