BANGOR — One reason the Edward Little boys’ basketball team was picked first in this year’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A preseason poll was because of the Red Eddies’ veteran leadership.
Coach Mike Adams’ club needed all that experience Friday night to remain unbeaten through three games, withstanding a 3-point shooting barrage by Bangor during the second half to escape Red Barry Gymnasium with a 66-64 victory.
“We have three (seniors) who have played up since they were sophomores,” said EL coach Mike Adams of Lew Jensen, Ian Mileikis and Elijah Roe, who combined for 59 points and 24 rebounds. “They’ve been in this situation before, and they didn’t panic when we got down. They knew we just needed to keep pressing and making things happen.”
EL led by as many as 15 points midway through the second quarter, but Bangor point guard Ethan Dorman made three free throws after being fouled with 0.3 seconds left to reduce the Rams halftime deficit to 35-24 despite their shooting just 8-of-27 from the field overall and 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Yet Bangor apparently was far from flustered with its long-range game.
Coach Ed Kohtala’s club drilled 10 of its first 13 3-point attempts of the second half, including 6 of 7 during a 25-5 surge that produced Bangor’s largest lead at 46-40 on a Dane Johnson trifecta with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
“I didn’t think we could go the whole season without making a shot, because we have some kids who are pretty good shooters and they’ve spent a long time with it,” said Kohtala, whose team had amassed just 75 points while splitting its first two games. “Finally we had a run and made some big shots.”
But Edward Little regrouped, scoring 10 unanswered points to regain a 50-46 cushion on a Mileikis 3-pointer 47 seconds into the fourth quarter. That lead soon mushroomed to 55-47 on a Kaleb Main free throw with 5:13 remaining.
But Bangor was not finished, using 3-pointers by Liam Harrigan and Dorman around a jumper by teammate Karl Gurschick to close within 65-63 with 1:01 to play.
“I was more impressed with the second run we made,” said Kohtala. “The first one you could say EL came out and maybe they thought it was over and we got back in it, but then EL — as a good team will do — took charge again but we made another run. It’s a real credit to our kids.”
Two missed front ends of one-and-one situations by EL gave Bangor even later life, but the Rams made just 1 of 4 tries from the line during the final half-minute — missing their final two attempts with three seconds left around an EL timeout.
Jensen then grabbed the rebound of the second miss and made the first of two free-throw tries to give the Red Eddies a two-point edge with 0.9 seconds left.
“We settled for jump shots early in the second half, and we didn’t get good looks,” said Adams. “Later on we did a better job of attacking and not necessarily getting shots in the paint but getting the ball inside and then coming back out with it.”
Jensen led Edward Little with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Mileikis had 22 points and six rebounds and Roe contributed 12 points and seven boards.
Junior forward Justin Smith finished with 16 points and six rebounds for Bangor, while Dorman had 12 points and five assists, Andrew Hillier contributed 11 points and eight rebounds and Harrigan scored 10 points for the Rams, who made 13 of their 28 3-point attempts overall.