AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawrence of Fairfield’s Cinderella run through the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball tournament came up against an obstacle just too tall Friday night.
Top-seeded Edward Little of Auburn used its considerable height advantage to dominate the backboards and get Lawrence in foul trouble as the Red Eddies won their first regional title since 1957 with a 58-50 victory over the 10th-ranked Bulldogs at the Augusta Civic Center.
“It’s great, and it’s great for coach [Mike] Adams,” said 6-foot-4 junior forward James Philbrook, who led Edward Little to its 14th straight victory with game-high totals of 18 points and 11 rebounds. “He’s been this program. He works hard and dedicates his time to this, and we did it for him.”
The win advances the Red Eddies to next Saturday night’s state championship game against the winner of the Western A final between Thornton Academy of Saco and Westbrook.
Lawrence, which needed help from other teams in the final week of regular-season play just to qualify for the playoffs, ends its season at 12-10.
Philbrook and 6-5 senior Shane Cirello (15 points and seven rebounds) helped Edward Little amass a 36-19 rebounding advantage, including 18 offensive rebounds against a Lawrence squad whose top players, 6-4 senior Brooks Spaulding amd 6-1 classmate Matt Perkins, battled foul trouble throughout the game.
“Cirello and Philbrook just presented such matchup problems. Not only did they get 18 offensive rebounds, but they put our two big kids in foul trouble all night,” said Lawrence coach Mike McGee. “Those two kids just killed us.”
EL threatened to take control of this game on several occasions, but couldn’t put the stubborn Bulldogs away until the final seconds.
The Red Eddies grabbed a 14-4 lead just over six minutes into the contest, but a 3-point play by Spaulding helped get Lawrence back within 14-8 by the end of the first quarter.
EL then stretched its lead back out to 19-10 on a followup basket by Philbrook with 5½ minutes left in the half, but Lawrence had a six-point possession — all on free throws — aided in part by a technical foul on Cirello.
“It could have been a turning point to the game,” said Adams, “but fortunately the guys were able to turn it back around.”
The Red Eddies increased a 27-24 halftime lead to as much as 37-28 after a steal and layup by Corey Therriault — named the tourney’s outstanding player-sportsman who had 10 points in the final — midway through the third quarter.
But with Spaulding sidelined with four fouls, Lawrence turned to Perkins on six of seven possessions and he produced two baskets and five free throws to help rally the Bulldogs within 41-39 at the end of the period.
Lawrence got as close as 49-48 on two free throws by Bobby Belanger with 2:52 remaining, but after an EL timeout the Red Eddies twice got the ball to Philbrook for layups that pushed the lead back to five points.
“I thought we got away from giving him the ball,” said Adams. “So I thought we needed a timeout to remind ourselves of what we wanted to do. It’s not a play we had run before, but I knew it would give him a good look at the rim.”
Spaulding scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to get Lawrence within 53-50 with 1:16 left, but Cirello made 5 of 6 from the line in the final 49 seconds to seal the victory.
Spaulding finished with 13 points and Perkins 11 for Lawrence.
“The technical got us back into it, and then we just couldn’t hit those big shots,” said McGee. “I think our kids just ran out of gas. We gave it everything we had but we just ran out of gas.”