Boys’ Eastern A Prelim: Devils bounce Bulldogs, advance to quarterfinals

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The eighth-seeded Blue Devils followed the run by going nearly a full quarter without scoring a point. Yet the suffocating zone defense that is now becoming their trademark kept the ninth-seeded Bulldogs at bay just enough to earn them a ticket to the Augusta Civic Center for the fourth year in a row.

“It’s like going back home,” senior center Carlos Gonzalez said.

“This has been a special group of kids that have battled all year,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said. “Every year is a new experience with new leaders and new positions and new roles, and to get back says a lot about our kids and the program that we have.”

The Blue Devils (9-10) will face the top seed, three-time defending regional champion and defending state champion Hampden Academy (18-0), in the quarterfinals at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Senior Isaiah Harris tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals to lead the Devils, while Gonzalez added 11 points and 12 rebounds. Dustin Simpson-Bragg came off the bench to lead Lawrence (8-11) with 13 points.

After a quiet first half, Harris came out aggressively to start the second, scoring the Devils’ first six points and sparking the 11-0 run on a putback with 6:08 left in the period.

Junior Quintarian Brown (seven points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks) added a layup, senior Mohamed Mohamud put back his own miss and junior Tylon Myers drilled a 3-pointer to make it 40-28 Devils with 3:25 left in the quarter.

The scoreboard froze at 40 on the home side for the next 7:51.

“For the most part they made plays but I think the emotions got them out of their focus,” Farrar said. “And the other thing is how Lawrence plays. They take charges. They don’t give up on plays. They really played a great team game and we’re really happy to come out with a win.”

Lawrence chipped away by attacking the baseline against Lewiston’s zone. Brad King found Seth Powers underneath for a bucket, then Simpson-Bragg drove to the hoop to make it 40-35 with 4:40 remaining.

“They killed us with (baseline penetration),” Farrar said. “We weren’t surprised by it, but (Lawrence coach) Jason Pellerin does such a great job with it. We were able to adjust a little bit late, and I think that helped.”

The Blue Devils missed their first eight shots in the fourth, a string they finally broke when Mohamud fed Gonzalez inside to make it 42-35 with 3:34 left.

Powers converted from the baseline again, Harris answered with a putback, then Simpson-Bragg attacked the baseline yet again to make it 44-39 with 1:58 to go.

“It was either (give them the baseline), or have them shoot a bunch of threes,” Gonzalez said. “I’d rather give them two points than three.”

The Devils called timeout and didn’t give the Bulldogs anything but a single free throw the rest of the way.

“We have the long arms and the size that can just poke the ball out whenever,”  Mohamud said. “When they pass it, we have hands in the passing lane. We have Carlos to dominate the top and Trever (Irish) down in there defending the post.”

“I think we got good looks. We just needed to put more down,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “Their height obviously gave us problems. It’s tough shooting over all of that height when we don’t really have a lot ourselves. They did a good job taking away our transition game, which we hope gets us six-to-eight points a game.”

Lewiston’s third quarter run ended back-and-forth, foul-marred first half that saw eight lead changes and four ties. Lawrence never led by more than three. The Blue Devils, who went 8-for-13 from the free throw line in the first half and 5-for-7 from the field in the second quarter, led 27-23 at halftime.

Hampden, which eliminated Lewiston in last year’s semifinals, won the only regular season game with Lewiston, 51-33, on Jan. 13.

“We’re excited for it,” Farrar said. “They’re a great team. They are the model program in the state right now. I can’t speak for the whole state but I’d dare say that they probably are for the whole state. They’ve got a great coach and great players. We’ll have to play a really good game to have a chance to beat them.”

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