EL outlasts Portland in double-OT thriller

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Portland senior Pedro Fonseca (10) gets a hand on the ball as Edward Little’s Wol Maiwen, left, Jamaine Luizzo and Austin Brown and Portland’s Simon Chadbourne all fight for possession late in regulation of the teams’ showdown Friday night. The Red Eddies prevailed in double-overtime, 61-56.

Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Edward Little 61 Portland 56 (2 OT)

EL- 16 12 11 9 3 10- 61
P- 3 16 19 10 3 5- 56

EL- Creaser 12-4-30, Brown 5-4-17, Maiwen 3-1-7, Jipson 1-0-2, Milks 1-0-2, Robinson 1-0-2, Yorke 0-1-1

P- Gaddas 6-0-15, Mahan 4-3-15, Fonseca 3-2-9, Bellew 3-1-7, Chadbourne 2-0-6, Alado 2-0-4

3-pointers:
EL (5) Brown 3, Creaser 2
P (10) Mahan 4, Gaddas 3, Chadbourne 2, Fonseca 1

Turnovers:
EL- 23
P- 20

Free throws
EL: 10-20
P: 6-14

PORTLAND—The two teams who have combined to capture the past three Class AA boys’ basketball state titles ran the gamut of emotions and provided plenty of thrills in a 40-minute passion play Friday evening at the Portland Exposition Building.

Perennial powerhouse Portland welcomed defending champion Edward Little and both teams made a statement, but only one came away victorious.

And that would be the Red Eddies, who have yet to lose this winter.

Edward Little appeared primed for an easy victory when it closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run and took a 16-3 lead after one quarter, as the Bulldogs struggled in all phases.

Portland found its shooting range in the second period and got back in the game before the Red Eddies held a 28-19 advantage at halftime.

The Bulldogs drew even on a 3-point shot from senior Pedro Fonseca early in the third period and after Edward Little, behind the heroics of junior Max Creaser, went back on top by five, a 3-ball from junior Simon Chadbourne gave Portland a short-lived lead.

The Red Eddies clung to a 39-38 advantage starting the fourth quarter, but a driving layup by senior Lewis Gaddas gave the Bulldogs the lead and when senior Trey Bellew made a layup with 1:32 to go, Portland held a 48-43 advantage.

It didn’t last, as Edward Little senior standout Wol Maiwen scored on a putback and after the Bulldogs missed three free throws that could have clinched it, junior Austin Brown sank a clutch, game-tying 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Neither team scored in OT until Brown made another 3-pointer with 7.3 seconds on the clock, but Portland improbably extended the game on a free throw from junior Stillman Mahan and after an offensive rebound, two more foul shots from Fonseca with just 0.1 showing on the clock.

But just when it appeared the Bulldogs had all the momentum, the Red Eddies finally salted it away in the second overtime., as a layup from Maiwen put the visitors on top to stay and consecutive Creaser layups opened up some breathing room. Gaddas made one final 3, but a pair of Creaser free throws iced it and Edward Little held on, 61-56.

The Red Eddies got a game-high 30 points from Creaser, 17 more from Brown and improved to 7-0 on the year, handing Portland consecutive losses for the first time in four years and dropping the Bulldogs to 5-3 in the process.

“Tonight could have gone either way,” said longtime Portland coach Joe Russo. “The kids were short-handed and I was very proud of how they played tonight. They gave their heart and soul. It would have been a nice win, but it didn’t happen for us.” 

Two heavyweights

For several years now, discussion of Class AA North favorites always includes Edward Little and Portland.

This winter has been no different, as the Bulldogs and Red Eddies have again served notice that they’re in it for the long haul.

Portland won its first four games: 80-48 at Noble, 59-46 over visiting Windham, 56-53 (in overtime) at Oxford Hills and 69-41 at Massabesic. After letting a 15-point halftime lead slip away in a 64-58 loss at Bangor, the Bulldogs beat visiting Deering, 55-32, then dropped a 56-53 overtime heartbreaker at Gorham Wednesday, when an apparent tying 3-point shot from three-quarters court off the hands of junior Griffin Buckley was waved off.

Edward Little, meanwhile, started by winning at Oxford Hills (49-34). A 75-56 home victory over Lewiston was followed by wins at Cheverus (61-56) and Mt. Ararat (56-43) and at home over Windham (50-28) and Scarborough (73-47), in a state final rematch.

Portland won a thriller at Edward Little last winter, 78-70. An expected rematch in the regional final never materialized as the Bulldogs were upset in the Class AA North semifinals by Windham, while the Red Eddies marched to the pinnacle.

Friday, in the teams’ 157th all-time meeting (dating to 1908), the Bulldogs had their chances to get back on track, but instead, Edward Little earned a rare victory in Portland, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead in the series to 102-55.

But it would take much more than 32 minutes.

Portland got the jump when Fonseca set up senior Jeremiah Alado for a reverse layup 56 seconds in, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t score another field goal the remainder of the first period.

Brown’s first points, on a layup, tied the score and a free throw from junior Cam Yorke gave the visitors the lead.

After junior Storm Jipson made a layup after a steal, Russo called timeout and began experimenting with everyone on the bench in an attempt to jump-start his squad, but it didn’t work.

Bellew made a free throw with 5:48 remaining in the quarter, but Portland wouldn’t score another point and the Red Eddies went on an 11-0 run to open up a seemingly healthy lead.

The surge began when Creaser scored his first points, as he took a pretty pass from Maiwen and made a layup. After Yorke fed Creaser for another layup, junior Dan Milks made a layup on the fastbreak, Maiwen made a layup and as time wound down, Brown sank a 3-pointer to make the score 16-3.

“I was looking for some team chemistry and it wasn’t there early,” Russo said, of his frequent substitutions. “The curveball was that we didn’t know Simon wasn’t going to play until warmups.”

The Bulldogs could have rolled over right there, but they got back in the game in the second stanza.

With 6:47 left in the first half, Gaddas sank a 3-ball, ending Edward Little’s run, a 7-minute, 1-second scoring drought and an 8-minute, 17-second field goal drought.

Brown got two points back with a jumper, but after Jipson was whistled for his third foul, Fonseca set up Gaddas for a layup.

Creaser countered with a jumper, but Bellew made a layup to pull Portland within 10, 20-10.

After Brown made two free throws, Chadbourne made his presence felt with a 3-ball before Mahan added another to cut the Edward Little lead to 22-16.

Creaser stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer of his own and Maiwen added a foul shot, but Mahan countered with a 3 before senior Eric Robinson’s layup gave the Red Eddies a 28-19 halftime advantage.

In the first 16 minutes, Brown and Creaser each had nine points, while Mahan’s six points paced the Bulldogs.

The intensity would only increase in the second half.

Mahan sank a long 3 to open the third period and another Mahan 3, this one rattling in, followed by a driving layup by Fonseca, cut Portland’s deficit to a mere point, 28-27.

Creaser countered with a layup, but with 5:33 remaining in the third, Fonseca’s 3 found nothing but net and Portland had erased a 13-point deficit.

Creaser put Edward Little back on top with a 3 and he took a pass from Jipson the next time down the floor and made a layup for a 35-30 lead.

Again, the Bulldogs had to respond and did so, as Gaddas made a long 3, then finished a feed from Fonseca and made a layup to tie the score again.

Creaser’s layup gave the Red Eddies the lead again, but with 2:40 left in the quarter, Chadbourne’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the score was 2-0.

With 4.7 seconds on the clock, Creaser made a layup and Edward Little clung to a one-point lead, 39-38, heading the fourth quarter.

There, nothing was decided.

Portland started strong in the fourth, as Fonseca made a jump shot and Mahan sank two free throws to make it 42-39, but Creaser made a jump shot and with 4:29 left, Creaser’s two foul shots put the Red Eddies ahead again, 43-42.

Twenty-four seconds later, Gaddas drove for a layup and the Bulldogs had the lead.

After Maiwen missed a layup, Alado hit a short jumper with 2:39 to play for a 46-43 Portland advantage.

With 1:32 to go, Alado set up Bellew for a layup and the Bulldogs could sniff victory, but Edward Little wasn’t about to buckle.

Thirty seconds later, Maiwen scored on a putback of his own miss, as he gave the Red Eddies their first non-Creaser points of the second half.

With 48.6 seconds on the clock, Fonseca went to the free throw line for a one-and-one, but he missed the front end and Yorke’s rebound gave the visitors a chance to pull even.

It didn’t happen, as Bellew stole the ball away and with 33.8 seconds remaining, Fonseca got another chance to make it a two-possession game.

Again, Fonseca couldn’t do so, missing two free throws and when Brown got the rebound, Edward Little had another chance to tie it.

And this time, the Red Eddies would do so.

After Creaser missed a 3, Maiwen and Gaddas each grabbed the rebound and the possession arrow went to the visitors.

Out of a timeout, Brown would have a look to tie it from 3-point land, but he missed.

Yorke kept hope alive by grabbing the offensive rebound and he got the ball back to Brown, who threw up a 3-point prayer with 7.7 seconds showing and it found nothing but net, as Edward Little made it a 48-48 contest.

“I was looking to shoot,” Brown said. “I knew there wasn’t much time left, so I tried to give my team a chance to go to overtime.” 

“Austin is smart,” said Red Eddies coach Mike Adams. “He knows what we’re trying to do.”

Portland had a chance to win it in regulation and Chadbourne, despite being double-teamed, got off a decent look, but it was just off-target and the game went to overtime.

In Maine high school basketball, teams play a four-minute OT session and if no winner emerges, the game goes to another extra session.

That would be necessary on this evening.

The first overtime was a battle of attrition as neither team could put the ball in the basket for nearly four minutes.

Just 19 seconds in, Bellew fouled out, but Edward Little couldn’t take advantage.

After Milks missed a shot, Alado got the rebound, but at the other end, Alado missed a shot and Maiwen got the rebound.

With 3:13 to play, Milks was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one and Gaddas got the rebound.

At the other end, Alado missed a shot and Brown rebounded.

The Red Eddies couldn’t capitalize, as twice Maiwen missed shots. The second was rebounded by Chadbourne, but Portland turned the ball over.

After Mahan stole the ball back, Chadbourne was called for an offensive foul.

Fonseca stole the ball back, but Alado missed a shot and Maiwen got the rebound.

Then, with 7.3 seconds left, finally some offense returned, as Brown buried a 3 for a 51-48 lead.

The Bulldogs appeared doomed, but with 3.4 seconds on the clock, Mahan was fouled. He hit the first free throw, but intentionally missed the second. Fonseca managed to wrest the carom away from Maiwen and just before the horn, he went up for a putback, but was fouled and with 0.1 showing, Fonseca went to the line, needing to make both foul shots to send the game to a second overtime.

And that’s exactly what he did.

Fonseca coolly sank the first attempt, then drained the second and the game was tied again, 51-51.

“That’s been an issue in practice, not rebounding,” Adams lamented. “We didn’t box out well, we fouled their guy and he hit both.”

That turn of fate could have broken Edward Little’s will, but instead, the Red Eddies got the job done in the second OT.

After Maiwen missed the first shot of the new session, Yorke blocked a shot and at the other end, Maiwen drove by a defender and swooped in for a layup to put Edward Little on top for good.

After a Maiwen steal, Creaser drove for a layup to make it 55-51.

After a steal by Milks, Creaser made another layup and the lead was six.

With 1:18 to go, Gaddas hung in the air before shooting a 3-pointer that pulled the Bulldogs within a possession, 57-54.

Fourteen seconds later, Brown countered with two free throws, but with 53 seconds left, a leaner from Gaddas dropped and the hosts were again down three.

Portland got a break when Creaser forced a 3 that missed, but instead, Maiwen got the rebound and kept possession alive.

Creaser would go to the line with 31.5 seconds left and he made both free throws.

After Creaser blocked a Fonseca shot, Brown got the rebound.

Creaser would be fouled again and while he missed both attempts with 2 seconds to go, the Red Eddies still managed to close out their scintillating 61-56 double-overtime triumph.

“Our defensive intensity was there at the end,” Creaser said.

“It was back and forth,” Brown said. “We were trying to work the ball inside and do the best we could.”

“We got out of here with a big win and hopefully we can get better,” Adams added. “The guys have been in different scenarios in big environments. This says a lot for our kids. Portland played really, really well. They played loose, with confidence. They had a great defensive plan in the halfcourt and limited what we do. They’re a great team. Coach Russo is one of the best coaches in the state for a reason and his boys responded tonight.”

Creaser had a game to remember, tallying 30 points.

“Passes were coming to me and shots were falling,” Creaser said. “I was on the bench last year. It’s been awesome being on the floor.”

“Max is the ‘X Factor,'” said Adams. “Wol was off tonight because (Portland) did a great job defensively, but Max showed he can be the offensive player we need. He does a little of everything. He’s (6-foot-4), he’s long and he can shoot and you saw all of that tonight.”

Brown hit the most clutch shots of the night and wound up with 17 points, to go with eight rebounds.

Maiwen had a relatively quiet evening, scoring seven points. Maiwen also had 10 rebounds, three blocks, three steals and had a highlight-reel put-back dunk waved off for a questionable foul.

Jipson (three steals), Milks  and Robinson (five boards) all added two points and Yorke finished with one.

The Red Eddies had a 35-29 rebounding advantage, overcame 23 turnovers and made 10 of 20 free throws.

Portland, which suffered consecutive losses for the first time since Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, 2015, got 15 points apiece from Gaddas (who also had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Mahan (three steals).

Fonseca added nine points (along with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals), Bellew had seven, Chadbourne six and Alado four (to go with three steals).

The Bulldogs missed eight of 14 free throws and committed 20 turnovers.

“It’s hard because teams are beating us for the first time in a long time, so it’s like a championship for them,” Russo said. “I told the guys they can’t let it get to them. They keep fighting and I like what we did. I’m pleased with our effort.”

Parity

In a year devoid of a favorite, both Edward Little and Portland are seeking to finish as high as possible in the standings, but both face stern tests in the days to come.

The Red Eddies travel to Bangor Monday. After hosting Morse Thursday of next week, they visit undefeated Thornton Academy Saturday of next week.

“I think we need to keep moving the ball and working hard on defense and the shots will fall,” Creaser said.

“It’s a big win, but we have to move on,” Brown said. “We’re playing a good Bangor team Monday. It’s a lot of fun this year.”

“I love my team,” Adams added. “All the teams are good this year. It will be fun.”

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, welcome Sanford Tuesday, play at South Portland Thursday, then host Scarborough in a matinee next Saturday.

“Our three losses, we could have won any of them,” Russo said. “That shows that we’re right there. We have a lot we can build on. We have another big week coming up. Sanford is no picnic and South Portland and Scarborough are tough.” 

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Edward Little junior Storm Jipson delivers a pass as Portland junior Stillman Mahan looks on.

Edward Little junior Max Creaser shoots over Portland senior Pedro Fonseca for two of his game-high 30 points.

Portland senior Trey Bellew and Edward Little senior Wol Maiwen fight for a rebound.

Portland senior Lewis Gaddas looks to go up for a shot.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.