AUGUSTA, Maine — Most Maine high school basketball players never get the chance to play for a state championship.
Kyle Bouchard wasn’t about to let his opportunity slip away.
With an undefeated season and a gold ball on the line, the junior forward made two of three foul shots with 1.3 seconds left in overtime Saturday night to lift Houlton High School to a 58-56 victory over Waynflete of Portland in the Class C boys title game at the Augusta Civic Center.
“It’s been a lot of years, a lot of work, a lot of time in the gym, a lot of people helping us along the way,” said the 6-foot-5 Bouchard, who piled up 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to help coach Rob Moran’s Shiretowners secure the program’s first undefeated season (22-0) and its first state title since 2004.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bouchard added.
After getting a stop on the last play of regulation, Houlton had the ball to close out the overtime. The Shiretowners called timeout with 18.5 seconds left.
Bouchard would get the final shot.
“We were going to put him on the high post and try to get a touch, but then as we were going out of the huddle, he said something about a ball screen and I said yeah, let’s try that,” Moran said.
Bouchard dribbled from inside half-court toward the middle, quickly received a screen from Jake Drew and cut to the right. His 3-point attempt missed, but he was fouled.
“It came down to the last possession and a foul on a shot that missed the rim by 30 feet, so what are you going to do?” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry, who exaggerated, as the shot hit the rim.
“A few more seconds on the clock, who knows what would have happened,” said the former University of Maine 1,000-point scorer.
Bouchard stepped to the line and made his first two free throws. Flyers standout Serge Nyirikamba rebounded the third, but the clock ran out.
“At this point in my life, those are the moments I live for and I’m happy I took advantage of it and we’re state champs,” Bouchard said.
Junior center Christian Crane made Waynflete pay for concentrating on Bouchard. He posted 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
Guards Isaac Cone (7 points, 4 rebounds), Jake Drew (4 points) and Nick Guiod (4 points) concentrated most of their efforts on the defensive end, while Elyjah Crockett and Noah Holmes also made contributions.
“It was such a nerve-wracking experience. Trying to hit free throws, oh my goodness,” said Crane, who missed two in overtime.
“It was a bit scary, but somehow we held it together and came out with the ‘W,’ which is all that matters,” he said.
Nyirikamba was a force inside for Waynflete. He tossed in 24 points and used his 6-3 frame and long arms to snare a game-best 22 rebounds. He also had two blocks.
Nyirikamba picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, which may have hampered his effectiveness late.
“Serge is a hell of a player; hell of a young man, too,” Henry offered.
Harry Baker-Connick scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds for the Flyers, while Abel Alemayo finished with 12 points and Milo Belleau added seven.
Bouchard tallied 18 first-half points, including 10 to fuel a 15-0 burst that put Houlton up 24-12 early in the second quarter. The Shires shot 12-for-18 (67 percent) in the half and wound up 22-for-37 (59 percent) in the game.
Houlton made only 11 of 22 free throws.
Baker-Connick and Alemayo each hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter as Waynflete rallied. Two Baker-Connick foul shots gave the Flyers a 37-36 edge late in the period.
The game, which featured eight ties and nine lead changes, was deadlocked at 50 when Nyirikamba made a steal with 59 seconds left in regulation. After the teams traded misses, the Flyers had the ball with 23.2 seconds to play.
Their long shot missed at the buzzer.
“We were confident that we could keep them out of the paint and that we could get a stop, and we did,” Guiod said.
Houlton scored the first four points of OT, including Cone’s clutch rebound hoop. The Flyers later tied it at 56-56 on a nifty eight-footer from the baseline by Belleau with 1:28 left.
After a Houlton turnover, Belleau missed from the baseline and Houlton’s Crane rebounded with 52 seconds remaining. Houlton held for Bouchard’s last shot.
“It’s a tough foul and we were lucky enough that they did foul and [Bouchard] went to the line and drilled a couple foul shots,” Moran said.