AUGUSTA, Maine — Andrew Fleming has a lot going for him as a sophomore basketball player at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris.
The 6-foot-4-inch forward has a soft left-handed shot, the quickness to get past defenders and the determination to pursue rebounds.
He’s also got some serious presence of mind, which Fleming displayed when he flipped a loose ball into the backcourt to run out the clock and preserve the sixth-ranked Vikings’ 44-41 victory over No. 3 Bangor in their Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal Saturday.
“I knew there was only a couple of seconds left and I didn’t want Bangor to get the ball so I just threw it,” said Fleming, who posted game-high totals of 24 points and 13 rebounds in leading Oxford Hills to its first-ever tournament win at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Vikings (12-7) will play No. 2 Brunswick (14-5) in a Wednesday semifinal.
Oxford Hills had built its biggest lead, 44-36, with 50 seconds left, but Bangor’s Xavier Lewis hit a 3-pointer and converted a layup after a steal to rally the Rams within one possession with 33 seconds left.
The Rams soon regained possession after another OH turnover, and though Lewis came up short on a 3-point try, teammate Garrett Johnson induced the Vikings to knock the rebound out of bounds.
That gave Bangor one last chance, but OH’s Luke Davidson tipped the inbounding pass and Fleming flipped the ball high into the air to the other end of the court as time expired.
“Basketball’s a game you can play too hard, particularly on offense,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala, whose team ends its season at 13-6. “I just thought we forced some things, not out of selfishness or bad motives, but simply in trying to make things happen against a good defensive team when a lot of times it wasn’t there.
“To their credit we kept fighting and we kept getting the ball back, and I thought maybe we’d make one more play.”
Lewis finished with 21 points, six rebounds and four steals, but with backcourt mate Alex Campbell hindered by foul trouble and senior center Connor Adams limited by a late-season knee injury the Rams lacked the offensive options to advance.
“I told them if anything we tried to do too much,” said Kohtala. “And if you’re going to lose a game, I’d rather be with a team that tried too hard and tried to do too much than a team that went down without swinging.”
Bangor came out firing from long range, with two 3-pointers by Lewis and a third by Andrew Hillier helping stake the Rams to a 13-10 first-quarter edge.
The Rams led by as much as 23-14 midway through the second period en route to a 26-20 halftime lead — but an 11-minute, 26-second stretch of the second half without a field goal proved their undoing.
“In the first half we thought we made them work and work and work so we really didn’t make any adjustments other than to talk more on screens,” said Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam. “We figured they would do the same thing as they did (in the first half), they just got tired.”