AUGUSTA — Same teams. Same result. Same collective ‘Uh-oh’ uttered by the rest of the KVAC.
Edward Little dominated every phase of the game to defend its KVAC boys’ basketball championship, its third in four years, in an 82-57 win over Brewer Monday night at Cony High School. And like last year’s 17-point championship dismantling of the Witches that preceded a run to the regional title, the Red Eddies sent a message to their competition on the eve of the Eastern Class A tournament.
Junior Bo Leary racked up a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds for EL, while senior James Philbrook added 15 points and 13 boards. The frontcourt duo outrebounded Brewer by themselves as part of a 50-19 effort on the glass.
“That was one of our keys, rebounding,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “Defense and rebounding, we said that’s what we have to do, and we did do that tonight.”
“We’ve been doing a good job on the boards all season, pretty much,” Leary said. “Coach gets after us in practice to make sure we crash.”
The Eddies created numerous second opportunities on the offensive boards (18). Combined with a moderate number of turnovers (13), they were able to get of 21 more shots than the Witches.
“Coach said keep (the turnovers) under 12 and we’ll be good,” said junior forward Brandon Giguere, who contributed four points and five rebounds..
“Up at Brewer, we had tons of turnovers and we barely pulled that one out,” Leary said. “We needed to make sure we took care of the ball.”
It was the third time the Red Eddies have beaten the Witches this year. The first two games, including one contest that went to overtime, were decided by a total of five points.
“They just came ready to play and we didn’t,” Brewer coach Ben Goodwin said. “They came out and got after it early and we just couldn’t match their intensity.”
Edward Little trailed once, on a Ray Bessette 3-pointer to start the game. The Eddies collected six offensive rebounds in the quarter, and putbacks by Philbrook, Giguere and Leary helped them build a 19-11 lead after one.
Other than Bessette (19 points), the Witches could get little going offensively. Dom Drake, their leading scorer, was limited to just two points in the first half. He finished with 14.
A 3-pointer by Cody Nicholas on the opening possession of the second period put the lead in double digits for the first time. EL led by as much as 13 before Brewer made one last run to get back in the game. A three-point play by Bessette pulled the Witches within six with under two minutes to play, but the Eddies ended the half strong with an 11-4 run.
Nicholas got it going with another 3-pointer. Yusuf Iman (12 points), who was named the KVAC South Player of the Year prior to the game, slashed his way to the hoop for two, then found Steven Giorgetti on the fast break for a layup. The Eddies continued to push the ball, even after a made free throw by Bessette narrowed the lead to 11, when they found Quin Leary for a layup that made it 39-26 at the half.
EL kept its foot on the pedal to start the second half, bursting out of the gate with a 10-0 run sparked by a Bo Leary putback, a steal and layup by Tim Maines (seven points), and an Iman jumper off a Philbrook steal.
“(The Witches) are a team that if they start playing well and close the gap, their defensive intensity goes up five or six notches. They’re so quick and they press so well,” Adams said. “We said once they get down, if we can handle their pressure, and if we can reverse it on them, that’s what we’ll get is those inside looks, just by being patient offensively.”
Crisp ball movement by the Eddies resulted in a 27-point third quarter, with Bo Leary (nine points) leading the way as they opened up a commanding 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“Coach has been making the point that we’ve got to face the basket and kick it back out if we don’t see anything, just look opposite side,” said Leary, who also had five assists.
“He’s our hardest worker, by far,” Adams said of Leary. “That’s just his character in everything — academics, school, everything. That’s the way he manages his life.”