Like it or fear it, the rematch is etched in stone.
All signs pointed to it for the last two weeks of the regular season. Some would even say most of the winter. And the final Eastern Class A boys’ basketball Heal Point standings confirmed it: Lewiston and Edward Little are the can’t-miss coupling of this year’s quarterfinals at Augusta Civic Center.
No. 2 Lewiston (15-3) and No. 7 Edward Little (11-7) will meet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, easily the poster pairing of what most observers believe is the most balanced Eastern A tournament in years.
The two were virtually guaranteed either a 2-7 or 3-6 collision no matter what happened in Friday’s season finale at Auburn Heights. Lewiston fought off EL, 58-53, to avenge a 61-50 defeat in December.
Lewiston won its seventh straight game and ended an eight-game losing skid against EL that dated back to 2007.
“Our seniors have enjoyed success in a lot of areas, and now basketball is one of them,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said.
The Blue Devils are in the midst of their most successful season since 1989-90. Lewiston, now a member of the KVAC, went undefeated in the SMAA that year and reached the Western final. The Devils challenge No. 1 Hampden (17-1) for the KVAC title tonight at Cony High School in Augusta.
Second-seeded teams usually enjoy an easier draw than this one. No two teams in the fray know one another as well as Lewiston and EL. And this year’s modest record doesn’t disguise that the Red Eddies have played in four straight Eastern championship games.
“We’ve got to be stronger with the ball and we’ve got to be smarter with the ball,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “Hopefully we can work on that. I don’t know what we can do in a week. You kind of are who you are at this point.”
Regardless of the Lewiston-EL outcome, the tri-county region has a 75 percent chance of seeing a team in the regional final. No. 3 Mt. Blue (14-4) is in the same half of the bracket and will face Brunswick in the quarterfinals.
All those teams advance directly to the tournament proper. Six other local schools have work to do. They’ll tip off in five midweek preliminary round games at campus sites.
In a battle of two area teams with contrasting tourney histories, No. 9 Poland (10-8) is at No. 8 Mountain Valley (11-7) on Tuesday.
The Knights set a school record for wins and made the playoffs for the first time in anything other than an open tournament format. The Falcons have three Class B state titles on the wall at Puiia Gym, the last in 2007.
“Playing at home will help us,” Mountain Valley coach Rick White said. “We do shoot better here at times. The players in both teams should feel pretty good about the matchup.”
Tuesday’s winner will advance to a quarterfinal Saturday at the Portland Expo against No. 1 Falmouth, the only remaining undefeated boys’ team in the state.
Thanks to Gardiner’s 35-foot buzzer-beater in the season finale, Leavitt dipped to No. 5 in Western B and will host No. 12 Maranacook in a prelim.
“Whether it is straight to the Expo or playing another game at home, we’ll be ready wherever they tell us to go,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said.
No. 2 Spruce Mountain (17-1) rides an 11-game winning streak into the Western B tournament in its inaugural season. The Phoenix face Wells in the quarterfinals.
There was no drama at the top in Western C, where Dirigo stood No. 1 from wire-to-wire. The Cougars (17-1) are seeking their fourth consecutive regional title, and they’ll enter the tournament with a hungry taste in their mouths after dropping a 46-41 decision at Spruce Mountain last week.
“We’ll see if we respond,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “I think we will.”
Dirgo and Spruce will enjoy one last tune-up against each other in tonight’s MVC title game at Augusta Civic Center.
As for the next elimination game, Dirigo will take on the winner of Wednesday’s Telstar at Sacopee Valley play-in.
The other local Western C hopeful, St. Dom’s, is the 11th and final seed and will travel to Wiscasset on Wednesday. The Wolverines downed the Saints at Auburn in overtime last week.
Buckfield is the only local entry in the Western D tournament. The No. 8 Bucks (7-11) won six of their last eight games and will host Seacoast Christian of Berwick in the opening round. The winner meets No. 1 Hyde School of Bath on Saturday.