WINDHAM — Starting fast and keeping Edward Little from playing fast gave the Windham Eagles all of the edge they needed on Friday.
Windham sprinted out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back to emerge with a 69-54 victory in an intense showdown between the top two-ranked teams in the Class AA North Heal points going into the game.
Both teams are now 4-1.
The Eagles/ dynamic senior backcourt of Nick Curtis and Mike Gilman led the way. Curtis finished with 21 points and 10 assists, while Gilman finished with 28 points and also played outstanding defense of EL’s leading scorer, senior forward Darby Shea (seven points).
“We know how deadly Shea is,” Windham coach Chad Pulkkinen said. “Last year, we did the same thing here at home then let him get free for a couple in the playoffs and that hurt us. Michael takes that challenge. He did a great job stepping up and making his night tough. He did it at both ends for us.”
Junior forward Wol Maiwen picked up much of the scoring slack for the Red Eddies with a game-high 31 points, as well as eight rebounds and four blocks off the bench. But he was the only EL player to score in a 10-point third quarter and had all but six of their 27 second-half points.
“It was an awful start. You can’t do that against a great team like Windham,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said. “We did against Cheverus and we did it tonight, so hopefully, it’s not a pattern. If it is, then we have to do something about it as coaches to fix it. We came out flat. They came out with more energy.”
Windham made 10 of 16 shots in the first quarter, including four of seven 3-pointers, and didn’t turn the ball over.
The Eagles scored the game’s first seven points, then extended the lead to 17-4 when Gilman took a pass from Curtis and converted a nifty reverse layup.
Gilman matched EL’s scoring output by himself as the Eagles ended the first quarter with a 24-12 lead.
“I thought tonight we did a good job playing at our pace, not playing at their pace,” Pulkkinen said. “Their pace is extremely fast and chaotic at times, and we don’t play well in that situation. We needed to take care of the ball. We did that in the first quarter and got some good looks.”
The quality and quantity of Windham’s looks declined in the second quarter (5-for-13). An Austin Brown 3-pointer and a Maiwen dunk helped the Eddies pull within seven, 31-24 with 2:17 remaining in the half.
Windham finished the half strong as Nazari Henderson put back his own miss and Curtis drilled his third 3-pointer to inflate the cushion to 40-27 at halftime.
“The kids were excited to play,” Pulkkinen said. “We’re starting to click. We’re starting to play like we’re capable of playing. When we’re moving the ball, we’re unselfish, we’re going to knock down shots.”
EL never got closer than 10 points in the second half. A 10-3 Windham run widened the margin to 20. It got as high as 22 in the third as the Eddies couldn’t generate any offense other than Maiwen.
“We did some things better tonight, like Wol in the paint,” Adams said. “We’re going to put it together, with an outside shooter like Darby and an inside presence like Wol. Darby’s had his turns this year, and tonight it was a little more Wol. But once we put it together, then we’re going to be strong. That’s why we play 18 games.”
Shea became the second Eddie to score in the second half with a 3-pointer 46 seconds into the fourth quarter. Led by Maiwen, EL frequented the free throw line, but didn’t convert often enough (14-for-30 for the game) to get any closer than a dozen points in the fourth.