You already knew this, but Lewiston and Edward Little just can’t stay out of each other’s way.
That has been true on the fields and courts for more than a century, but it takes on new meaning in a boys’ basketball context over the next nine days.
Lewiston (14-3) and EL (11-6) close out the KVAC regular-season at 8 p.m. tonight in Auburn.
Barring any bizarre quirk of the Heal Points, regardless of how the game ends, the teams should collide at Augusta Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 18 in the Eastern Class A quarterfinals.
‘I don’t think anybody has figured out a way we would not play each other again,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said. “We’ll be wearing the same colored uniforms, just playing a half-hour away.”
“Somebody told me a few weeks ago that this was going to happen, and you could tell that’s the way it was headed,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “I guess the good thing is either way it works out, the communities will have a team that moves on and gets a chance to compete for an Eastern Maine championship.”
It has been years since the two programs concluded the campaign with such a significant contest.
EL will bid for its fifth straight appearance in the Eastern Class A title game when the playoffs begin. Lewiston makes back-to-back playoff appearances after ending a lengthy drought.
“When I got the job, I called Mike. He’s made that program with a lot of help and lot of great talent into one of the preeminent programs in our conference,” Farrar said. “I told him that I wanted to make this area the basketball capital of the state. I’d like 10 years from now for people to say the same things about our program that they say about his.”
Lewiston improved from two to nine wins a year ago. The Blue Devils used a late-season victory streak to make the tournament field as the No. 7 seed, losing to Hampden.
They avenged that loss by handing the Broncos their only 2011-12 defeat to date, 43-40, at Lewiston on Jan. 6.
“The way we finished last year set this year up. That momentum led to us winning and taking that next step,” Farrar said. “It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but I like where we are. I think we’re playing our best basketball as a team right now.”
Senior leadership, bench depth and a potentially different leading scorer each night are Lewiston’s calling cards.
Guards Luke Cote and Shawn Ricker have been streaky scorers and lockdown defenders. Corbin Hyde and Steven Patrie have helped the Devils dominate the boards, and Donne Agossou gives Lewiston a versatile inside-out presence.
Jake Dumas, Josh Thomas and Cody Mousseau have been major contributors off the bench.
“They’re a scary team,” Adams said of Lewiston. “With the style they play and all the kids they use, they’re tough to prepare for.”
Lewiston will match up with an EL team that isn’t quite as a deep but has a starting five that can compete with anybody, as evidenced by a convincing 61-50 victory Dec. 23 at Lewiston.
Quin Leary, Omar Haji-Hersi and point guard Ian Therriault lead the Red Eddies. All three were part of the Eddies’ two previous tourney teams.
“They’ve had our number for a while,” Farrar said. “We need to do this. For this group of seniors, it’s time.”
Lewiston hasn’t beaten EL since December 2007.
“Let’s not talk about that,” Adams said with a laugh. “All the psychological things go through your mind. But when it’s Lewiston-Edward Little, I think everybody plays up and everybody plays well.”
Ending that eight-game skid would be significant on many levels for Lewiston. Fifteen wins would represent Lewiston’s best season since 1989-90, when the Blue Devils went 18-0 and advanced to the Western Maine final.
It also would clinch a spot in Monday’s KVAC title game against Hampden at Cony High School in Augusta. If EL wins tonight, Mt. Blue likely would leapfrog Lewiston and take the spot.
“That’s a goal of ours to be in that game, but this game is just as big in a different way,” Farrar said. “It’s the Battle of the Bridge or the Androscoggin Championship or whatever. I think it’s the biggest game in the state. I know it’s the biggest game in our conference because they all played (Thursday).”
With a Lewiston win, the Devils would remain No. 2 and the Red Eddies would stay at No. 7. EL probably would ascend to No. 6 and slide Lewiston to No. 3 with a victory.
Either way, they’re on a collision course.
“Nobody wants to go into the tournament being beaten by the other team,” Adams said.
“Obviously the game means a lot more than just seeding. I don’t know how to quantify that, because we want to win every game we play,” Farrar added. “But they’re the measuring stick for every sport at our school, and we’re the measuring stick for every sport at their school.”
Speaking of immediate rematches, two local teams will square off in another conference championship game.
On the heels of their sensational showdown Wednesday night, Spruce Mountain (17-1) and Dirigo (17-1) meet Monday for the MVC title. Tip-off time is 7:30 p.m. at Augusta Civic Center.
Both teams are likely to be down a starter for the game.
Dirigo’s Ben Holmes twisted his ankle during pre-game warm-ups and was hampered by both a noticeable limp and foul trouble. Holmes finished with four points in the Cougars’ 46-41 defeat.
For Spruce, Ben Keene — the Phoenix’s lone starter from the Livermore Falls side of RSU 73 — missed the entire second half with a nagging hip injury.
In his absence, Spruce Mountain received huge minutes from junior Pat Ryan and freshman Peter Theriault.
Theriault drew an offensive foul, had a pair of assists and drew more than a few quizzical who’s-that-guy looks.
“What more can you say about him? I don’t think he’s even on the roster,” Spruce Mountain coach Chris Bessey said. “We called him up in the middle of the season, and I wanted to get him into a high-pressure game at the end of the year to see how he would respond. It doesn’t get much bigger than this.”