BANGOR, Maine — BANGOR, Maine — Xavier Lewis spoke of a sense of serenity upon entering Red Barry Gymnasium Wednesday evening to play basketball against his former teammates for the first time.
Serenity? For a high school kid now suddenly on the opposite side of a rivalry game between his new school and his old school? Who is he kidding?
Maybe it was hard to believe from the outside, but Lewis proved his coolness when it counted, scoring 13 of his game-high 25 points during the fourth quarter as Lawrence of Fairfield outlasted Bangor 52-49 in a battle of two of the top five teams in the latest Eastern Maine Class A Heal point ratings.
“This day was calm, a lot more calm than I thought it would be,” said Lewis, who transferred to Lawrence last summer after spending his first two years of high school at Bangor.
“I knew it was going to be a big one, so I definitely had to focus on relaxing because I knew they’d be coming at me from the crowd and on the court. It was a good mental day.”
After scoring just a single free throw during a third period that ended with Lawrence clinging to a 39-35 advantage, the 6-foot-2-inch junior guard scored all of the Bulldogs’ points over the game’s final eight minutes, including three 3-point goals.
“He really impressed me as a competitor,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala. “I’m sure there were all kinds of things going on emotionally for him, but he funneled it the right way and just competed.
“We tried some different looks and some different people on him, none with much success. He played at a high level for all four quarters. You keep hoping maybe the run would end, but he just seemed to keep coming.”
Lewis’ first two 3-pointers of the fourth quarter gave Lawrence a 47-42 lead with 3:40 remaining before former teammate and current Bangor junior guard Alex Campbell fed Matt Cosgrove for a baseline drive, made a 15-foot jumper and then hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to restore the Rams to a 49-47 lead with 1:21 remaining.
Lawrence then called a set play for Lewis, who ran off a screen by teammate Nick Noiles and buried a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:05 remaining to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
“We had been running that play all game and that was pretty much what I had been getting my shots from,” said Lewis. “There was an opening and I saw it and shot it and made it.”
Campbell soon fouled out on a technical foul and the Rams subsequently were unable to generate a good shot attempt in the final minute, with Lewis adding two insurance free throws with 16 seconds to play.
Bangor had one final possession, but a Lawrence defense anchored by senior forward Spencer Carey relegated Bangor’s Hunter Boyce to an unsuccessful halfcourt heave as time expired.
“We definitely knew we didn’t want to give them any open 3’s and we didn’t want to foul them shooting a 3,” said Carey, “so we just contained our guys and played one-on-one defense all over the court.”
Carey also finished with 13 points for coach Mike McGee’s Lawrence club, now 7-1.
Junior center Conner Adams led 4-3 Bangor with 19 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots while Campbell added 17 points, but the Rams were beset by 25 turnovers.
“You’ve got to get shots, and there were stretches when we did and even when we missed we got a couple offensive rebounds,” said Kohtala, whose team was coming off a 52-50 loss at undefeated Edward Little of Auburn on Saturday.
“But in a grind-it-out type of game when you’re probably not going to have big runs or score a ton of points, you’ve got to get the ball in the air. We got it in the air, but often it was to the guys in the blue jerseys (Lawrence).”
Lewis had five points and two assists in the first quarter as Lawrence built a 17-11 lead, but the Bulldogs had no defensive answer early in the contest for the 6-3 Adams, who scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed five rebounds to help Bangor rally for a 26-24 halftime lead.
But Lawrence’s defense was relentless, forcing nine Bangor turnovers during the third quarter alone as the Bulldogs outscored the Rams 15-9 to take a four-point lead into the final period.
And Lewis, calm as the most seasoned professional, was just getting started.
“I was very happy for Xavier because the crowd was on him at the beginning and I worried about him coming in here and laying a goose egg,” said McGee. “But that’s the best he’s played all year. He really rose to the occasion.”