AUGUSTA, Maine — Top-ranked Edward Little of Auburn survived a battle of attrition Wednesday night, coming up with several key plays late in the fourth quarter to earn a hard-fought 44-39 victory over No. 5 Bangor in an Eastern Maine Class A semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
“At one point we said we could be a team that make excuses and has a long ride home, or we could be a team that makes some plays and comes back and plays again on Friday,” said Edward Little coach Mike Adams, whose team avenged a loss to Bangor in last year’s EM title game.
“I thought all of us, coaches included, got caught up in making excuses in the first half, but we did a better job in the second half of making plays,” Adams added.
The win advances Edward Little (18-2) to Friday’s regional final against No. 10 Lawrence of Fairfield, which ousted No. 6 Mt. Blue of Farmington in Wednesday’s first semifinal. The Red Eddies will be seeking their first Eastern Maine championship since 1957.
Bangor, the two-time defending Eastern A champ, finishes its season at 14-6.
Bangor, which lost to the Red Eddies twice during the regular season, held a 33-30 lead when sophomore forward Zach Blodgett scored from the low post with 6:49 left in the game.
But Edward Little’s defense tightened up, holding Bangor to just one field goal over the next 4½ minutes, and standout forward Corey Therriault and guard Dominique Bailey each came up with some key baskets to help the Red Eddies take control.
“We had a chance when we were up three,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed, “but we didn’t capitalize and turned the ball over a couple of times after that.
“I thought we had a lot of good chances but didn’t move the ball as quickly as well as we should have. When we had them in real foul trouble we could have punched it inside better, but some of our kids aren’t real big and the size factor might have bothered them a little bit.”
Bailey capitalized on one of those Bangor turnovers and hit a jumper from the top of the key that gave EL a 34-33 lead with 3:15 left, then Therriault converted after a steal by teammate James Philbrook to make it a three-point game.
Bangor rallied to tie the game as junior forward Maxx Alexander hit a free throw and then scored after grabbing an offensive rebound, but Bailey drove the lane for the basket that gave Edward Little the lead for good at 38-36 with less than two minutes remaining.
“Dominique Bailey’s two drives were huge,” said Adams. “Nobody can match Dominique’s athleticism, so when he does that he’s very good.”
Bangor’s Dan Taft then made 1 of 2 from the line with 1:39 left, but Therriault scored on a perfect give-and-go with teammate Sean Daigle to make it 40-37, and the Red Eddies made 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
“Even though Bangor’s supposedly having a down year this year, they’re a great team,” said Therriault, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
“They lost a lot of players from last year but they still finished top-five so we knew coming into this game it was going to be a great battle.
“We knew it was going to be a real physical second half, and we just went in there and got some big rebounds and hit free throws down the stretch.”
Alexander led Bangor with 13 points, while Blodgett added 10.
“It was the kind of game we wanted,” said Reed. “Our biggest problem was Therriault. We knew that was going to be the problem, and we thought we could contain him better than we did, but he got loose a few times.”