AUBURN — Lew Jensen still looks a tad pale, a few pounds missing from his 6-foot-5 frame, after a stomach virus that wreaked havoc for two to three days this week.
Saturday’s second half, though, the Edward Little boys’ basketball mainstay was the one making Lawrence experience the queasiness, chill and loss of appetite.
Jensen scored all 18 of his points after intermission, including a putback with 9.7 seconds remaining, to help the undefeated Red Eddies escape with a 68-66 KVAC victory over the winless Bulldogs.
“I felt better against Messalonskee, Thursday, and today I felt a lot better finally,” Jensen said. “I just tried to get inside and got some good looks.”
Six fourth-quarter points, including the go-ahead basket, were the result of Jensen steals. He finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six thefts and saved the day after Ian Mileikis fouled out with 23 points at the 6:19 mark.
Elijah Roe added 14 points for EL (6-0).
“That’s the best 0-5 team in the state, no question,” EL coach Mike Adams said of Lawrence. “They almost beat Hampden, they almost beat Oxford Hills, and they almost beat us.”
Lawrence led 42-30 at the half, 54-43 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter and 66-63 with 1:53 to play.
Jensen stole the ball just on his defensive side of halfcourt and drove for two with 45 seconds remaining. He swiped it away again with 20 ticks left, and was there for the follow after Roe’s first attempt grazed the rim.
“We stopped settling,” Jensen said. “Everyone got to the glass. We got big rebounds and big stops. That was huge. We stopped them on defense and were able to get out and run and got some easy baskets.”
The Bulldogs had a final chance to sneak away with the win, but Cole Robinson couldn’t get it to fall after his baseline drive. Kaleb Main collected the defensive rebound and sank the first of two free throws to ice it.
Three EL victories have come by a margin of one or two points. This was Lawrence’s second two-point loss.
“To give our kids credit, they believed we could come down here after a really tough week, and they fought their butts off to try to get this ‘W.’ There is not a coach out there who could be more proud of his kids,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “These kids deserved better. They fought too hard not to get it.”
Mason Cooper led Lawrence with 18 points. Dustin Simpson-Bragg added 16.
The Bulldogs outperformed the Red Eddies in every offensive category while building the first-half lead.
Lawrence shot 54 percent from the field prior to the break. EL missed six of its first 11 free throws and committed 11 turnovers. Mileikis (16), Roe (10) and Main (4) were the only Red Eddies to score.
“It goes back to 1990 when I played (at Mt. Blue). They’re strong, they’re physical, and they don’t back down from anybody,” Adams said. “Us, we’ve got to get some of that. We let them score 42 points in the first half. That’s awful. We haven’t bought into defense yet, and for us to be as good as we can be, we’ve got to get better. We’re playing hard. We’re just not playing smart.”
EL led 10-4 thanks to Roe’s 4-for-4 shooting before Lawrence embarked on a 21-4 run. The Eddies went nearly seven minutes without a field goal.
“I thought we were real active,” Pellerin said. “We took away their post plays as best we could. We just tried to make Jensen and Mileikis work for everything that they could get.”
The first signs of both a Jensen revival and EL comeback were visible early in the third quarter, when he and Mileikis combined for all the Eddies’ offense in a 9-2 surge. In addition to a 3-point play via the offensive glass, Jensen also made a steal and found Mileikis in the open floor for a bucket.
Simpson-Bragg’s 3-pointer stopped the bleeding for the Bulldogs, however, and despite Cooper, Derick Raven, Walker Thomas and Kyle Robinson each acquiring their fourth foul to match Mileikis, the lead went back up to double digits on a Seth Powers bucket with two minutes left in the third.
The Cedre twins, Thomas and Charles, scored the final seven points of the period to get EL within four at 54-50.
“We talk a lot about, ‘What’s your strength and what can you do for us?’ Thomas and Charles are good catch-and-shoot guys, and they can defend very well,” Adams said. “They came in and gave us huge minutes tonight.”
Jensen’s second-chance basket tied it with 7:24 to go, and his free throw 18 seconds later produced the first of five lead changes down the stretch.
Cooper delivered six Lawrence points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer to break a 63-all deadlock.
“Everybody’s going in every single night thinking they can beat everyone in the conference, so you’ve got to bring it every night,” Jensen said.
“Jason’s kids played really, really hard. They outplayed us. They outhustled us. They made big play after big play,” Adams added. “I think at the end maybe we just had more depth and maybe a little bit better basketball players than they had.”