AUGUSTA, Maine — Top-ranked and undefeated Hampden Academy used a smothering defensive effort Saturday night to overwhelm No. 9 Mount Ararat of Topsham 78-35 in an Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Centering their attention on Eagles’ freshman point guard Shyheim Ulrickson, the defending Eastern Maine champions harassed Mount Ararat into 25 turnovers and 30 percent shooting from the field.
“Obviously Ulrickson was the focus for us,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett. “Our concept was when he had the ball we really wanted to protect all the dribble gaps and get the ball out of his hands, and when the ball was out of his hands we really wanted to crank up the pressure.”
Hampden (19-0) will face No. 5 Lewiston (13-6) in Wednesday night’s semifinals. Lewiston scored its first tournament win since 2000 by defeating No. 4 Bangor 69-59 earlier Saturday evening.
Hampden took charge of its quarterfinal by limiting Mount Ararat to just five points over a 10-minute span of the first half to take a 31-9 lead after the teams had played to a 4-4 stalemate through the opening 3½ minutes of play.
The Broncos’ lead was 36-15 at intermission, then Hampden senior forward Matt Palmer scored 14 of his game-high 16 points during the third quarter — including a 4-of-5 shooting exhibition from beyond the 3-point arc — as the top seeds extended their advantage before pulling their starters late in the period.
“Matt Palmer pretty much closed the deal in the third quarter by himself,” said Bartlett. “I think the only thing he did wrong tonight was miss a dunk. Other than that he played great.”
Zach Gilpin added 13 points for Hampden while younger brother Nick Gilpin, a freshman, scored nine points and Tyler Norris contributed eight points and six rebounds. Brian Fickett came off the Broncos’ bench to provide seven points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Jake Demosthenes led 8-12 Mount Ararat with nine points.
In the earlier game, senior guard Josh Thomas led a balanced Lewiston attack with 17 points as Blue Devils took control late in the first half and fended off a fourth-quarter Bangor comeback bid to win for the 10th time in their last 11 games.
“(Thomas) was everything he had to be,” said Lewiston coach Tim Farrar. “He guarded their best player, he controlled the ball in the press break, he made shots early and then he was the one who got us under control late.”
Thomas scored 12 points in the first half — 10 in the first quarter — as Lewiston built a 40-26 lead at intermission.
The Blue Devils took the lead for good with an 11-3 run after Bangor grabbed a 7-5 edge on a drive by Alex Campbell two minutes into the uptempo contest.
Bangor rallied within 20-19 by the end of the first quarter, but Lewiston created some breathing room by scoring the final 10 points of the first half, including two baskets by reserve forward Carlos Gonzalez and a jumper and two free throws by guard Adam Poliquin.
Lewiston maintained a cushion of as many as 16 points for much of the third quarter, but Matt Cosgrove led Bangor on an 8-0 charge that helped pull the Rams within 51-41 by the end of the period.
Bangor then drew within five points twice during the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer from the right corner by Hussein gave Lewiston the breathing room it needed, up 57-48 with 2:28 left.
“That’s Abdi, he can hit that shot, he’s hit big shots for us all year,” said Farrar. “I thought that was the dagger.”
Hussein finished with 13 points while Poliquin and Steven Patrie scored 12 points each for Lewiston. Patrie also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Blue Devils, who were playing without starting guard Donne Agossou, sidelined by a knee injury suffered during the team’s Feb. 7 regular-season finale.
“You never get better by losing a quality player, but if anything what it did for those guys who were playing was maybe tighten their focus,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala, whose team finishes with a 13-6 record. “I thought they did a particularly good job on the backboard. We were stuck with either going smaller so we could stop their penetration better or going bigger so we could rebound better. Whichever one we tried exposed the advantage they had in the other area.”
Alex Campbell paced Bangor offensively with 17 points, while Connor Adams scored 13 points and Cosgrove finished with 12.