BANGOR, Maine — Eraleena Hairston gave the Edward Little High School girls basketball team a lift off the bench Saturday night as the Red Eddies of Auburn handed Bangor its first loss of the season 61-49 at Red Barry Gymnasium.
Hairston, a 5-foot-9-inch sophomore center, scored 13 points, including 7 of 8 free throws, as she worked underneath offensively and defensively against Bangor’s 6-2 sophomores, center Cordelia Stewart and forward/guard Mary Butler.
“She had a great game,” said EL coach Craig Jipson. “She had some big baskets and some big rebounds.”
They were especially big toward the end of the game when starting center Emily Jacques, a freshman, got into foul trouble. Jacques, who scored 10 points, fouled out with 4:29 left in the game.
That put more of the burden on Hairston, in her first year on varsity.
“She hasn’t been putting in many minutes in crunch time,” said Jipson. “She really came up big with the pressure on.”
Hairston said her teammates believed she could handle it.
“They’ve always had confidence in me,” she said, smiling. “I was the one who needed the confidence.”
Her points were spread throughout the game and included three free throws in the final 2:04 to help seal the win.
“This was huge for us to win this one on the road,” said Jipson, who expected a tough game against the Rams.
“They’re one of the best teams in Eastern Maine,” Jipson said. “Butler and Stewart are so good, and Denae Johnson [too].”
The Eddies tightly guarded Stewart and Butler close to the basket, trying to prevent easy baskets, forcing the ball outside.
“We didn’t hit any outside shots,” said Bangor coach Katie Herbine, whose Rams were playing only their second game in two weeks because of postponements. “When we can do that, it opens up the inside for us.”
Butler and Johnson, a senior guard, had stretches when they were able to use their speed and quickness to put up points.
“In the fast break, we do really well,” said Johnson, “but we didn’t have a lot of chances with it.”
Bangor continued to battle and trimmed Edward Little’s lead to seven on a Jordan Seekins steal and outlet pass to Butler for a fast-break basket, but only 1:49 remained and every possession would be key.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they weren’t able to take advantage of a couple of opportunities.
“We missed [an offensive] rebound and had a big [EL] turnover,” said Herbine. “If we could have scored on those, it would have been down to three. That would have been a pretty big swing in a couple of possessions.”
The Rams were then forced to foul to try to get the ball back, but EL hit seven of eight free throws in the final 1:11 to squelch the rally.
Junior guard Kory Norcross led the scoring for EL (5-1) with 15 points, and senior guard Ashlee Arnold posted 12.
Butler finished with a game-high 18 points for Bangor (4-1), Johnson registered 12 and Stewart finished with 10.
The two Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A contenders played even through most of the first quarter with Bangor’s 9-5 lead with 4:17 left in the quarter being its largest.
Edward Little, ranked No. 6 in the Heal points before the game, came back to tie the game, then took the lead for good at 13-11 on Jacques’ jumper in the lane with 1:47 remaining in the first.
After a Stewart free throw, Jacques hit another short jumper from the lane, then Hairston hit a layup and two free throws to push the margin to 19-12.
Three drives to the basket by Butler sandwiched around another Jacques jumper from the free-throw line cut EL’s lead to three points at 21-18, but that was as close as the Rams, ranked No. 3 entering the game, would get.
Bangor was still within six early in the second half, but a Hairston layup started a nine-point run that put the Eddies up by 15.