AUGUSTA — Senior center Bo Leary was the catalyst for much of what the Edward Little of Auburn boys basketball team accomplished in reaching Wednesday night’s Eastern Maine Class A semifinals, ranking among the state’s leaders in both scoring and rebounding.
But mid-game foul trouble inadvertently turned the Red Eddies’ star into a decoy of sorts during their matchup against Hampden Academy, yet Leary’s teammates came through as all five EL starters scored in double figures to fuel a 70-65 victory over the Broncos at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Obviously people know about Bo, I think he’s one of the best players in the state and should be in consideration for Mr. Basketball,” said Edward Little coach Mike Adams. “He also makes the players around him better. The other guys understand their roles and how to use him to make themselves better. Different guys can do different things for us, and everybody stepped up tonight.”
The win advances the two-time defending EM champs (19-1) to Friday night’s regional final against top-ranked Bangor, which defeated Mt. Blue of Farmington 41-34.
Hampden, which had defeated Edward Little 73-65 in their only regular-season meeting on Jan. 4, finishes with a 16-4 record.
Leary’s younger brother, Quin Leary, led the balanced EL attack in the rematch against the Broncos with 17 points and nine rebounds. Bo Leary added 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots while point guard Timmy Mains scored 14 points with six assists.
Brandon Giguere and Cody Nicholas each contributed 12 points for the Red Eddies.
“I thought it would have been tough for anyone to beat them tonight with all of those guys making shots,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, “but we were two plays away from making it happen.”
Senior guard Graham Safford scored a game-high 27 points for Hampden — including a 7-of-13 effort from beyond the arc in leading the Broncos to an Eastern A single-game game team record of 12 3-point goals.
Backcourt mate Christian McCue added 12 points for the Broncos, while sophomore forward Brian Fickett had eight points and nine rebounds.
“Our philosophy was that Graham was going to get his because he’s that good, and we had to try to hold McCue down and not let other guys have monster games,” said Adams. “I was really worried about their size and how we’d rebound the ball, and we did a great job rebounding, too.”
Hampden took a 52-50 lead into the fourth quarter but went scoreless for nearly 3 ½ minutes as Edward Little ran off eight unanswered points, including two free throws each by Quin Leary and Mains.
That would become a trend for the Red Eddies, who made 14 of their 16 free-throw tries during the final period to withstand three late 3-pointers by Safford.
“We had a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter, but the big thing was the foul shots,” said Bo Leary. “We hit them and were able to close it out.”
Edward Little held a 34-30 lead at halftime, thanks in large part to three 3-pointers by Nicholas in the second quarter. Two came in the opening two minutes of the period to erase an 18-12 Hampden lead, and the third helped the Red Eddies extend their advantage to as much as 32-25.
Bo Leary added six of his eight first-half points for EL in the quarter, but picked up his third foul during the final minute of play.