Cooper Flagg dunks the basketball during a practice with the U.S. Under-17 team in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Credit: Courtesy of USA Basketball

In an opening-round thriller at GEICO Nationals, top-seeded Montverde fell to No. 8 Sunrise Christian 46-45 at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday.

Cooper Flagg had a tip-in attempt to win the game at the buzzer for the Eagles but it rimmed out. The Newport, Maine, native and former Nokomis star finished with eight points in the loss.

Sunrise Christian will play No. 4 Link Academy tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in the boys semifinals.

Montverde had won the last three national championships.

Flagg hit a 3-pointer with just under a minute left in the third and tied the game at 32-32. With five seconds left, Flagg’s teammate Liam McNeeley added another triple from the left wing that gave the Eagles a 35-32 lead heading into the fourth.

Montverde went on a big run to start the fourth and held Sunrise Christian scoreless for a long stretch, thanks in part to a big block from Flagg off the backboard. Sunrise was scoreless until a 3-pointer from Layden Blocker with three minutes to go. Scotty Middleton later hit another 3-pointer that pulled the eighth seed within three points with 2:23 left.

Sean Stewart slammed a dunk home to put Montverde up five with less than two minutes to go in the game.

Matas Buzelis drilled a 3-pointer and was fouled on the shot, making the free throw with 1:04 left that cut the deficit for Sunrise to two points.

Middleton hit a triple with 20 seconds to give Sunrise a one-point lead, 46-45. On the other end, Montverde threw the ball off a Sunrise player and had an out-of-bounds play with 6.5 seconds left under the basket.

Derik Queen missed a layup at the end of the game, followed by the miss from Flagg.

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.