AUGUSTA, Maine — Yusef Iman has had a flare for the dramatic as a senior guard on the Edward Little of Auburn boys basketball team.
Earlier in the season, his long 3-point shot late in overtime earned the Red Eddies a hard-fought road victory over top-ranked Brewer.
But Iman found an even bigger stage for such heroics Wednesday evening, banking in a 22-foot, 3-pointer from the left of the key with 4.2 seconds left in overtime to lead the defending Eastern Maine Class A champions to a 60-57 win over Bangor in a regional semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Edward Little had hoped to set up a screen-and-roll play involving Iman and teammate Bo Leary, but Bangor reacted quickly, leaving Iman to improvise and loft a high-arching shot with a defender in his face.
“Bangor played phenomenal defense on the play,” said Iman, “but as a senior leader and captain I felt I needed to take the big shot. I took the ball and took responsibility. I’m not afraid to miss, so I caught it, let it fly and God put the ball in.”
Bangor was unable to get a timeout in the final seconds, and a desperation shot from beyond half-court fell way short.
“We had a set play but that didn’t work,” said EL coach Mike Adams. “Thankfully Yusef had the court awareness to get the shot up and give us a chance. The shot wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be, but it was good enough in that situation to win the ballgame.”
The second-seeded Red Eddies (18-2) play top-seeded Brewer in Friday’s 7 p.m. regional final. Brewer (17-3) rallied past No. 4 Hampden Academy 59-50 in Wednesday’s late semifinal.
EL edged Brewer twice during the regular season, 74-70 at Auburn on Dec. 19, and 60-57 at Brewer on Jan. 15 thanks to Iman’s 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in overtime.
No. 3 Bangor, which had won 16 straight games entering Wednesday’s game, finishes 17-3 after losing to Edward Little in the semifinals for the second straight season.
Iman finished with a game-high 23 points — including four 3-pointers — and also played a key defensive role against Bangor’s Zach Blodgett. Blodgett scored 17 points in the first half as Bangor built a 33-28 lead, but against Iman’s defense the junior forward managed just two more points after the break.
“We just couldn’t stop Blodgett in the first half,” said Adams. “Yusef’s our best on-the-ball defender, but I thought ‘we can’t put Yusef on him, because he’d already scored 17 points on jump shots, and now he’s going to score 100 points on rebounds.’ Yusef isn’t our best rebounder, but he did a good enough job of keeping Blodgett off the glass in the second half.”
Senior center James Philbrook added 15 points and nine rebounds for EL, and scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter as the Red Eddies outscored Bangor 11-1 over the final 3:57 to forge a 54-54 tie.
The Red Eddies used full-court defensive pressure to force several Bangor turnovers, then worked the ball inside for two baskets each by Leary and Philbrook for a 10-0 run to draw within 53-52 with 1:02 to play.
“The consensus is that if you get down 10 points to Bangor, you’re done, you can’t come back,” said Adams. “We didn’t think we could press them, but in the second half we had to press them.
“That was just heart and our kids refusing to lose that way.”
Bangor center Clark Noonan finally ended EL’s run by making the second of two free throws with 48 seconds left to give the Rams a two-point lead.
Edward Little then worked the ball around until Leary found Philbrook underneath for the game-tying layup with 23 seconds left.
“We didn’t play very good defense in the low post, and they were a lot more patient in getting the ball to the post,” said Noonan, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “That where the main strength is for both of our teams, and they did a better job of utilizing it.”
Iman made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:47 left in overtime to give EL its first lead since late in the first quarter, then stole the ball at midcourt and made two more free throws after being fouled.
Bangor gained its final tie at 57-57 on a 3-pointer by point guard Luke Hetterman with 1:21 left in the extra period.
Bo Leary added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Edward Little, while Bangor’s Tristan Thomas made four 3-pointers for 12 points and Nate Henigan came off the bench to contribute eight points and eight rebounds.