LEWISTON, Maine — There are too many frenzied fourth quarters, finicky sprained ankles and frosty bus rides remaining in the season to overstate the importance of one victory on the first weekend of January.
Aw, heck, life is short: The Lewiston High School boys’ basketball program pocketed its biggest win in 22 years Friday night.
Lewiston lost every shred of an early 19-point lead, then trailed twice in the fourth quarter before rallying in the final minute to a 43-40 victory over Hampden Academy.
Less than halfway through the season, there are no more undefeated teams in the KVAC and Eastern Class A. The Blue Devils and Broncos are tied at 7-1. That’s air Lewiston hasn’t inhaled this far into winter since 1990, when it was a member of the SMAA and celebrated a perfect regular season.
“It’s the biggest win since I’ve been here. The biggest win in a long time,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said.
Learning to put away such games and believing they belong in them has been a process, but the Devils took an abominable snowman-like step against the KVAC’s preseason favorite.
Huge, because it had a dozen chances to go the other way.
Hampden, which trailed 21-2 at the 6:27 mark of the second quarter, went ahead 40-39 on Logan Poirier’s uncontested lay-up with 45 seconds left in regulation.
Josh Thomas’ 3-point bid rattled in-and-out and Hampden’s Tyler Norris grabbed the rebound. He was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Steven Patrie corralled the rebound for Lewiston. Hampden’s man on the scene tried to slap at the ball and drew Patrie’s wrist, sending him to the line in the double bonus.
Patrie swished both for the lead with 31.2 seconds showing.
“Those were huge free throws,” Lewiston senior Luke Cote said.
Larger still was the work of Cote and Lewiston’s defense in the backcourt, frazzling Christian McCue into a five-second violation.
The tug-o’-war continued. Hampden’s Zach Gilpin went skyward for a nifty steal but traveled as his feet returned to the floor. After a timeout, Lewiston committed its own five-second infraction when Corbin Hyde couldn’t find an open man from the baseline.
That left Hampden a chance to take the game-winner, but a Bronco dribbled the ball off his foot just past the time line. Hyde made the recovery and located Cote, whom Hampden failed to foul until one second remained.
Cote sank both free throws, and McCue’s 75-foot heave fell just shy of the rim at the horn.
“They beat us last year in the playoffs,” Patrie said. “We knew we were better than they are. We just had to go out and execute.”
Lewiston did that, using Cote and Thomas’ physical quickness to harass McCue and Patrie and Hyde’s positioning to lure wide-body Fred Knight into foul trouble.
McCue was held to eight points, all from the free-throw line. Knight (five points, six rebounds) fouled out with 2:37 remaining.
“We didn’t expect to foul Knight out of there so early,” Cote said. “We were trying to double McCue every time he got the ball.”
It all worked frighteningly well in the first half. Shawn Ricker’s 3-pointer at the first-period buzzer left Lewiston with a 14-2 lead.
Cote’s leaner, Cody Mousseau’s 3-pointer and Donne Agossou’s bucket off a Cote steal produced seven straight points to start the second stanza.
Hampden was 1-for-11 from the field and 2-for-6 from the line to start the game. Even after its own extended cold snap and a flurry of free throws by Knight and McCue, Lewiston still led 25-15 at the break.
Farrar knew the cushion was insufficient.
“Because what do you talk about at halftime? What adjustments do you make? And you know they’re going to come out stronger,” Farrar said.
Ricker and Jake Dumas scored the Devils’ only field goals of the third period. Hampden ended the quarter with a 9-2 run, and Matt Palmer’s penetration-and-pitch to Tyler Norris at the buzzer tied it at 30.
Lewiston and Hampden swapped 5-0 runs to start the fourth. Gilpin (team-high 10 points) gave the Broncos their initial lead, 38-37, on a 3-pointer with 4:13 to go.
Hyde’s spin move made it 39-38 prior to Poirier’s bucket to set up the wild finish.
Thomas led Lewiston with 10 points. Ricker scored nine. Patrie and Hyde added six apiece to go with a combined 14 rebounds.
Winning suddenly tattoos a bull’s-eye on a team that ended a lengthy playoff drought in its loss to Hampden at Augusta 11 months ago.
“It’s a big win,” Patrie said. “It puts us out there. Now teams want to beat us.”
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