LEWISTON — Josh Thomas returned to his comfort zone as sixth man for the Lewiston boys’ basketball team four games ago.
The Blue Devils have rattled off four consecutive wins. Coincidence? Probably not.
Thomas controlled the flow of Friday night’s KVAC contest from the moment he reported to the scorer’s table midway through the first quarter. His 16 points and seven steals launched Lewiston to a 74-62 victory over Oxford Hills.
Now one of seven seniors on Lewiston’s roster, Thomas was the team’s leading scorer in the same reserve role as a junior.
“He’s Hondo, I guess,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said, referring to Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek. “He’s played well at home. He’s an emotional player. He gets up and down (the floor). When things go well, he’s talking, and he’s battling through when something doesn’t go his way. They ran a lot of guys at him and he really handled it.”
Thomas had six points in the second quarter, when Lewiston turned a 22-18 deficit into a 33-32 lead, and six more as the Blue Devils punched the accelerator in the third.
Those six points all came in backbreaking fashion. Thomas weaved a 3-point play off a steal near halfcourt to highlight an 11-0 Lewiston run. And he swished one from the opposite foul line — roughly 65 feet — at the horn for a 52-40 advantage.
“I just think I bring energy and then people follow,” Thomas said. “People are talking out there and we’re just being a team.”
Lewiston (7-5) lost four straight before the matching win streak that has virtually sewn up its third consecutive trip to the Eastern Class A tournament.
The Blue Devils avenged an opening-night loss to the Vikings (4-8), who have dropped five out of six and currently are on the wrong side of the playoff bubble.
“It’s been an offensive thing for us more than a defensive thing,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “We haven’t been able to score. Sixty-two points is a lot for us.”
Steven Patrie matched Thomas with 16 points and tore down 15 rebounds for Lewiston. Abdi Hussein added 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Isaiah Harris scored five of his eight points in the fourth quarter, and Donne Agossou delivered his seven all after intermission.
“We’re finally finding our touch. We’re moving the ball and playing the way we know we can play,” Patrie said. “We started off slow, but we got it and we’re doing real well.”
Ken Lynch led Oxford Hills with 15 points, 10 of them in the first quarter. Jake Plummer and John Frechette each added eight.
Neither team missed much in an explosive first quarter that ended with the Vikings on top by four. Lewiston’s 7-for-11 start from the floor was offset by 10 turnovers.
Three straight Thomas buckets settled down the Devils, who tied it three separate times before snagging a 31-30 lead on Quintarian Brown’s free throw with 2:55 left.
Patrie answered Frechette’s two from the line with a pair of his own to land Lewiston the halftime edge.
Hussein’s third 3-pointer of the game ignited the Devils in the third period, and Patrie produced five points during the surge of 11 straight. Oxford Hills also was hurt by a technical foul on Thomas’ traditional 3-point play.
“The first half we didn’t defend really well, but we matched them offensively. We gave up some wide-open 3s that kept them ahead of us at halftime,” Graffam said. “The third quarter the game continued similarly but we couldn’t score. The technical foul I think was a huge turning point. It went from a game to eight points.”
After Thomas’ prayer from beyond halfcourt, the Vikings got no closer than nine points down the stretch.
Lewiston owned a 37-17 disparity on the boards, allowing Oxford Hills only one offensive rebound in the second half, and shot a toasty 25-for-46 (54 percent) on the night.
“Lately the ball has moved. We’re taking open shots and they’re falling,” Farrar said. “We’re starting to get patient as best we can with the way we play. They’re really starting to learn how to play together.”