South Portland senior Noah Malone goes up for a shot as Edward Little senior Ibn Khalid (23) and junior Wol Maiwen defend during the Red Eddies’ 66-62 overtime victory Tuesday night.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
EL- 8 18 15 14 11- 66
SP- 19 15 13 8 7- 62
EL- Khalid 9-2-22, Shea 4-10-21, Maiwen 3-8-14, Brown 2-0-6, Morin 1-1-3
SP- Malone 13-1-31, Lewis 6-0-12, Hasson 2-2-7, Bijokta 2-1-5, Buckley 2-0-5, Savidge 1-0-2
EL (7) Shea 3, Brown, Khalid 2
SP (6) Malone 4, Buckley, Hasson 1
SOUTH PORTLAND—This one was worth a 15-year wait.
Tuesday evening at Beal Gymnasium, South Portland’s boys’ basketball team hosted Edward Little in a late-season Class AA showdown between two top title contenders and 32 minutes wasn’t enough to determine a winner.
The Red Riots spent much of the night en route to a relatively easy victory, but the Red Eddies wouldn’t be denied and rallied to make a powerful statement.
South Portland rode eight points in less than two minutes from unheralded junior Scott Lewis to grab a 19-8 lead after one quarter and with just seconds to go before halftime, the Red Riots enjoyed a 12-point lead, but a free throw and a desperation 3-pointer from sophomore Austin Brown pulled Edward Little within 34-26 at the break.
Six quick points from South Portland senior standout Noah Malone and long 3-pointer from classmate Connor Buckley opened up a 45-27 third quarter lead, but just when it appeared the Red Eddies were dead in the water, they roared back.
Edward Little closed the stanza on a 14-2 run, capped by a bank shot with under a second to go from junior Wol Maiwen, to cut the deficit to 47-41 going to the fourth period.
There, the Red Eddies completed their comeback and grabbed a 53-51 lead when senior sharpshooter Darby Shea sank a 3 with 1:57 left, but a driving layup from senior Riley Hasson drew South Portland even.
After a layup from senior Ibn Khalid put Edward Little ahead, Shea had a chance to ice it, but missed two free throws, which left the door open for the Red Riots, who tied the contest on a layup from Malone with just 3.4 seconds remaining, and the game went to overtime tied, 55-55.
There, two Shea foul shots put the Red Eddies ahead for good and Maiwen clinched it with two free throws late as Edward Little capped its comeback and made a statement by sneaking out of town with a stirring 66-62 victory.
Khalid had 22 points, Shea added 21 and Maiwen had 14 as Edward Little improved to 11-4 and in the process, dropped the Red Riots, who got a game-high 31 points from Malone, to 11-4 as well.
“We were ready to win when we walked in the gym, but they came out fast,” Shea said. “That’s happened to us a lot, but we adjusted well.”
“It was a playoff-caliber game, win or lose,” South Portland coach Kevin Millington said. “We need more games like that.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the first countable game between the teams since Dec. 17, 2002 (an 82-56 Red Eddies’ win in South Portland).
This winter, both squads are chasing two-time defending state champion and both have shown glimpses of greatness.
Edward Little, a regional finalist a year ago, won four straight to start the year, then, after losses to Windham, Scarborough and Portland, beat Bangor, Morse, Deering, Lewiston and Gorham. After dropping a close decision to Oxford Hills, the Red Eddies bounced back Saturday with a 62-47 home victory over Thornton Academy.
The Red Riots won their opener, 69-59, over visiting Cheverus, lost at defending Class A champion Greely (66-60), then got on a roll, downing visiting Scarborough (60-46), host Oxford Hills (53-49), host Sanford (82-42), visiting Massabesic (62-33), visiting Deering (64-50) and visiting Windham (72-63). After a 62-53 loss at two-time defending Class AA state champion Portland, South Portland won at Deering, 54-42. After a 76-64 loss at Thornton Academy, the Red Riots responded by beating visiting Noble (67-28) and winning at Falmouth (59-53) and Bonny Eagle (67-43).
Tuesday, the Red Riots appeared bound for another victory, but the Red Eddies simply wouldn’t let it happen.
Shea opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 68 seconds in, but South Portland came to life and controlled the rest of the first quarter.
A pair of free throws from Hasson got the hosts on the board and a 3-pointer from Malone with 5:18 remaining in the frame put the Red Riots ahead.
After junior Tyree Bijokta and Khalid traded free throws, Lewis first made his presence felt, as he took a pass from junior Jacob Milton and made a layup.
South Portland then got out in transition and Milton set up Lewis for another layup, making it 10-4.
Shea hit a 3 to end the 10-1 surge, but Hasson fed Lewis for a layup and junior David Fiorini set up Lewis for yet another layup, giving him eight points in 1 minute, 52 seconds.
Malone added a 3 and after Shea made a free throw, a driving layup from Malone put the Red Riots up, 19-8, after eight minutes.
In the first quarter, Lewis and Malone both had eight points, while Shea paced the Red Eddies with seven.
South Portland then tried to pull away in the second quarter, but Edward Little refused to fold, as Khalid came to life.
The Red Riots started the new period with an easy basket, as Hasson passed to Bijokta for a layup off an inbounds set, but the Red Eddies would respond.
An old-fashioned three-point play (driving layup, foul, free throw) from Khalid was followed by a driving bank shot from Khalid and a 3-point rainbow from Brown to cut the deficit to 21-16.
Malone stemmed the tide with a bank shot and after Maiwen scored his lone first half point at the foul line, Hasson sank a three to push the lead back to nine.
Khalid answered with a 3 for Edward Little, but Malone hit a floater and Buckley hit a fadeaway jumper in the lane.
After a layup after a nice baseline drive from Khalid, Bijokta drove for a layup and Malone made a layup after a steal with just 2.9 seconds to go to push the lead to a dozen, 34-22.
Any momentum the Red Riots could have taken into halftime was quickly erased, however, as Malone was called for a technical foul and after Shea made one of two shots, Edward Little got to inbound the ball at midcourt instead of under its basket and as a result, Brown was able to throw up a prayer of a 3-pointer at the horn that rattled in to cut the deficit to 34-26.
“Austin hit some big shots,” said Red Eddies coach Mike Adams. “He was kind of a forgotten guy. That shot before halftime was huge.”
In the first half, Malone led all scorers with 14 points, while Khalid’s 11 kept the Red Eddies in it.
In the third period, South Portland again threatened to end all doubt, but again, Edward Little refused to go quietly.
In the first 41 seconds of the second half, Malone put up six points, first draining a 3, then converting an old-fashioned three-point play for a 40-26 lead.
Maiwen got a point back at the line, but after Lewis blocked successive shots at the defensive end, he got another perfect feed from Milton at the other and made a layup. Then, with 5:13 on the clock, a long Buckley 3-pointer made it 45-27.
But back roared the Red Eddies once more.
The rally started with a reverse layup from Maiwen. Khalid then made a layup and Shea banked home a shot to cut the deficit to a dozen.
After junior Shippen Savidge scored on a third-effort putback for the Red Riots, Shea made two free throws, Shea sank two more, Khalid hit a jumper and with under a second left, senior Tyler Morin inbounded the ball to Maiwen, who banked it home to cut the deficit to just six, 47-41, heading for the final stanza.
There, Edward Little finally caught up and went ahead
The fourth quarter started the way the third ended, as Morin again set up Maiwen for an easy hoop, this one a layup, off an inbounds set. Then, with 5:19 to go, Maiwen added a free throw to cut the deficit to 47-44.
After Malone set up Lewis for a layup to make it a two-possession game, Khalid calmly drained a 3 from the corner to make it 49-47 with 4:28 to play.
Malone countered with a leaner, but after Khalid made a free throw, Maiwen drained a pair and with 1:57 on the clock, Shea buried a long 3 to put the Red Eddies ahead, 53-51, their first lead since 3-2.
It didn’t last, as with 1:37 to go, Hasson drove for the tying layup.
After Khalid missed two free throws, Shea stole the ball back and with 27.8 seconds on the clock, Khalid drove the baseline for another layup and a 55-53 lead.
Shea then stole the ball and had a chance to make it a two-possession game, but with 17.4 seconds remaining, he missed both shots.
That left the door open for the Red Riots, who drew even when Bijokta set up Malone for a layup with just 3.4 seconds showing, making it 55-55.
Edward Little had time to win it, but it threw the ball away, giving South Portland a chance to pull it out.
The Red Riots would get a pretty good look too, as Buckley passed to Lewis in the lane, but under duress, Lewis’ shot was long and the game went to overtime.
High school basketball overtime consists of a four-minute session and the Red Eddies would never trail as they completed their dramatic triumph.
After the teams traded misses, Edward Little got a driving layup from Morin, but Malone tied the game with a layup of his own.
After Maiwen missed a shot, Shea kept possession alive with an offensive rebound and with 1:49 on the clock, Shea was fouled. After missing earlier, he wasn’t about to do so again and he sank both attempts to put the Red Eddies on top to stay.
“I wanted those so bad,” Shea said. “I was (upset when I missed the others). I wasn’t missing those.”
“(Darby) doesn’t miss often,” Adams said. “He’s our best free throw shooter and we want him on the line.”
Then, after a Maiwen steal, Khalid drove for a layup with 37 seconds to go to make it a two-possession contest.
Hasson missed a shot and Morin was fouled and added a free throw, but with 16 seconds remaining, Malone hit a runner in the lane to cut the deficit to three.
Edward Little didn’t buckle, however, as Shea was immediately fouled and drained two more free throws, but with 10.1 seconds on the clock, Malone drained a long 3 to keep hope alive, making the score 64-62.
The Red Eddies then nearly threw the ball away, but Maiwen used every inch of his 6-foot-plus frame to collect it and with 2.4 seconds left, Maiwen sank both free throws to bring the curtain down on Edward Little’s 66-62 victory.
“We practice for this,” Shea said. “Coach Adams gets us prepared for every situation. We had to stay mentally tough. We didn’t panic.”
“I might have been panicking a little bit, but we wanted to chip away and we got on a roll,” Adams said. “We believe we have the players to go on those stretches. We’ve lost to a lot of good teams. We beat up some of the other teams, but we needed to prove that we’re an elite-type team. This is a step in the right direction.”
Khalid paced the Red Eddies with 22 points. He also had seven rebounds.
“I thought Ibn played tremendous the whole game, on both sides of the ball,” Millington said.
Shea contributed 21 points and three steals.
“When Darby is scoring, he scores in so many different ways that it makes the other guys even harder to guard,” Millington said.
Maiwen stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
“South Portland did a great job taking Darby out and we couldn’t get the ball inside to Wol, so they took two of our main options away, but we adjusted,” Adams said. “Khalid was awesome. Khalid and Wol and Darby are our strongest offensive players and they’re different in what they can do.”
Brown had six points and Morin finished with three.
Edward Little only turned the ball over 11 times in 36 hard-fought minutes and hit 21 of 34 free throws.
For South Portland, Malone went off for 31 points.
“Noah is the real deal,” Adams said. “He makes everyone around him better. He’s phenomenal.”
Lewis had 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
“I give Scott a lot of credit,” Millington said. “I was worried going in he’d have a tough matchup on the defensive side (on Maiwen), but he did a nice job.”
Hasson had seven points (to go with six rebounds, five steals and four assists), Bijokta and Buckley added five apiece and Savidge finished with two.
The Red Riots outrebounded the Red Eddies, 36-30, committed 16 turnovers and took just five foul shots (29 fewer than the opposition), making four.
“What happened? I think EL happened,” Millington said. “We made a few poor decisions with the ball and got tentative offensively, but EL played hard without fouling and came back. Two good teams played four more minutes. I don’t think we had momentum. They’re hard to guard. They’re well-coached. We’re going through an adjustment period. Noah and Scott picked us up enough to win.”
If someone other than Portland wins the Class AA championship the first Friday in March, there’s a pretty good chance it will be Edward Little or South Portland and with the playoffs right around the corner, both squads are looking to solidify the highest seed possible.
Edward Little (currently second to Portland in the Class AA North Heal Points standings) welcomes Messalonskee Friday, then closes with games at Brunswick Tuesday and Bangor Thursday of next week.
“Our biggest key is that we win as a team,” Shea said. “We have to stay humble and keep our heads. We don’t look past teams. We’re mentally prepared for everyone.”
“We’re not close to peaking and hopefully we will when the season ends,” Adams said. “Ideally, we’d play in a tournament setting, but AA for some reason doesn’t get to play in a tournament setting. They adjust calendars and schedules for everyone else, but AA, your biggest class, with the most kids, won’t get an opportunity to play at the Expo or Civic Center.”
South Portland (second behind Scarborough in Class AA South) hosts Gorham Tuesday, has its home finale against Portland Tuesday, then closes at Cheverus Thursday of next week.
“We’re eye-balling the tournament,” Millington said. “We’re trying to peak and play our best basketball. We have three tough games left. We want to be mentally and physically tough for the tournament.”
South Portland senior Connor Buckley defends Edward Little senior Tyler Morin.
South Portland junior Scott Lewis makes a layup for two of his 12 points.
South Portland junior Tyree Bijokta passes the ball around Edward Little sophomore Austin Brown.