AUGUSTA — The 3-point shots weren’t falling at their typical rate for the Hampden Academy boys basketball team during its Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal against Lewiston on Saturday.
So the Broncos subconsciously resorted to Plan B — driving to the basket — and the reward was a strong free-throw shooting effort that led to a 70-51 victory over the Blue Devils at the Augusta Civic Center.
“They were pressuring me so hard and the only way to fight pressure is with pressure, so I just attacked it,” said Hampden junior guard Christian McCue, who didn’t make a 3-pointer against Lewiston’s defense after leading the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in that department during the regular season.
McCue did get to the line, however, where he made 9 of 10 tries as the Broncos made 23 of 28 overall to help overcome a 12-7 first-quarter deficit.
“I think as soon as we got settled into the game a little bit we were OK,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett. “Defensively we weren’t making any plays in the first quarter, the second quarter much better, and we got to the free-throw line, which was a big help.”
Graham Safford led the way with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as No. 2 Hampden (16-3) advanced to face No. 3 Edward Little of Auburn at 7 p.m. Wednesday. EL (18-1) topped No. 6 Mount Ararat of Topsham 66-48.
Hampden and EL already have met once, with the Broncos winning 73-65 at home on Jan. 4.
Hampden used a 19-2 second-quarter run to take a 30-20 halftime lead against No. 7 Lewiston, and stretched its advantage to 39-22 on a Safford free throw with 4:28 left in the third quarter, But the Blue Devils (9-10) fought back on the offensive boards and then drew within 41-32 on a 3-pointer by Cody Mousseau with 2:06 left in the period.
Hampden took a 46-36 lead into the final quarter and scored five unanswered points to extend that margin back to 15 points as Norris hit a jumper from the top of the key and McCue made a free throw and a pull-up jumper.
Lewiston again rallied within nine at 51-42 on after followup shots by Luke Cote and Jeff Turcotte. But McCue scored on a layup to start a run of six straight Hampden points that also included a fast-break layup by Safford and a jumper by Brian Fickett to give the Broncos a 57-42 cushion with 3:45 left.
Fickett finished with 11 points while Tyler Norris came off the bench to score eight points for Hampden. Shawn Ricker led Lewiston with 10 points.
“It wasn’t pretty, but in the playoffs it’s all about finding ways to win,” said McCue. “Hopefully it’s prettier on Wednesday night.”