AUBURN — Zone defenses have been causing Edward Little some sleepless nights this season. But what Lewiston showed the Red Eddies in Friday night’s season finale gave them nightmares.
The Devils’ length, athleticism and determination was too much for the Eddies, as was a 14-point third quarter deficit that EL nearly erased. Lewiston shut down the paint, held EL’s heralded duo of Lew Jensen and Andrew Middleton to 10 points combined, and picked up its first win in two years inside a packed and raucous ELHS gym, 46-35.
“It’s an emotional win,” said Lewiston senior Quintarian Brown, (nine points, six rebounds, four steals), who turned that emotion into a strong all-around game. “The whole year we’ve been through some ups and downs and we haven’t done as well as maybe we’d hoped coming into the year. But any time you beat EL on their floor, it’s big.”
With the win, the Blue Devils (8-10), leapfrogged Lawrence for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern A tournament and will host the Bulldogs in a preliminary next Wednesday. The Red Eddies (11-7) are the No. 5 seed and will face No. 4 Messalonskee in the quarterfinals next Saturday.
Lewiston’s 2-3 zone sealed off passing lanes with the long arms of Isaiah Harris (10 points, three steals) and Carlos Gonzalez (nine points, nine rebounds) up top and the quick feet of Brown and Mohamed Mohamud (nine points) on the wings. When the Eddies did take it inside, they usually found 6-foot-7 center Trever Irish (four points, six rebounds, three blocks) waiting for them at the rim.
“We’ve changed a couple of things. We’ve gone to a longer, taller lineup. I don’t know of anybody who’s longer and taller in our league,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said. “I’m just glad we got it figured out.”
“Our zone defense was definitely the difference. They had no clue what to do with it,” said Harris, who earned the Gordon “John” Gillette Award as the game’s outstanding player. “Everyone in our starting lineup has got long arms, so we’re standing there waving our arms and making it hard for them to see through them. And Trever owns the paint every game. He’s an intimidating factor protecting down low.”
The Devils limited EL to 29 percent shooting from the field, including 3-for-11 in the fourth quarter.
“That’s not going to win many games,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “And we didn’t get to the free throw line (to make up for it) because we were settling for jumpers.”
“If the word wasn’t out, it is now. When you go zone on us, we’re not going to reverse the ball. We’re going to settle,” Adams said. “Hopefully this will be a good thing for us and we’ll use the experience to get better.”
Brown beat the buzzer with a halfcourt heave that put the Devils in front to stay, 15-12, at the end of the first quarter.
But Lewiston took control in the second quarter with Gonzalez scoring inside, Harris setting up Irish for a dunk and Ace Curry tossing an alley-oop to Harris that made it 21-12 Devils.
“We were able to get enough inside and enough outside early to stretch them out,” Farrar said. “And we played with a lead…”
“That’s all we had to do (was hit some outside shots) because we have the players that can take it to the rim,” Brown said. “If we do that, we’re playing our game.”
Tylon Myers’ 3-pointer extended the lead to 10. Gonzalez sent the Devils into the intermission up 12, and the Lewiston crowd into a frenzy, with a thunderous jam off a Brown steal.
“Carlos knew how big this game was, and he always steps up when we need him to,” Harris said.
The Devils led by 14 midway through the third quarter before Jensen (seven points, six rebounds, three steals) made his first field goal, a 3-pointer, with 2:08 left in the period. He added another for good measure. Lewiston went the final 4:36 of the period without scoring, and just like that, it was a five-point game, 34-29, heading into the fourth quarter.
Brown made it a seven point difference early in the period, but that would be the Devils’ last field goal for more than four minutes.
Kaleb Main (10 points) scored six in a row for the Eddies. Ian Mileikis, playing his first game of the season recovering from a broken foot, drove the baseline and fed Main for a layup that made it 37-35 with 2:19 left.
But Lewiston went inside to Gonzalez and, after a Brown steal, Harris made one of two from the free throw line for a five-point bulge.
Gonzalez then blocked Mileikis inside and Mohamud sank a pair of free throws to put the game away.