Eastern A boys’ quarterfinal: Fleming, Vikings conquer Rams

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AUGUSTA — In four seconds, Xavier Lewis scored almost as many baskets as he and his Bangor team had for the balance of the second half.

Oxford Hills’ eight-point lead was suddenly down to three, and a traveling call put the ball back in the Rams’ hands, with a chance to tie the game.

Lewis missed — barely — on their first chance. The ball went out of bounds off a Viking in the rebounding action with five seconds remaining. The Rams, after a timeout, had another shot.

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Or so it seemed.

Luke Davidson deflected the inbounds pass and Andrew Fleming alertly flipped the ball behind his back to the other end of the court as the seconds ticked down, preserving Oxford Hills’ 44-41 win in the Eastern A quarterfinals.

“I knew there was only a couple of seconds left, and I didn’t want Bangor to get the ball so I just threw it,” Fleming said.

The win was the sixth-seeded Vikings’ first quarterfinal victory since 2005, and their first ever at the Augusta Civic Center. They advance to the semifinals, where they will face No. 2 Brunswick at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Prior to Lewis’ five-point flurry, Oxford Hills (12-7) had held Bangor (13-6) to just three field goals in the first 15 minutes of the half.  That included a two-point third quarter. The drought extended into the fourth quarter as the Rams missed 11 shots in a row.

“In the first half, we thought that we made them work and work and work. So we didn’t really make an adjustments other than to talk a little bit more on screens,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “We figured they would do the same things they did, and they did, but they just got tired.”

Much of the Rams’ fatigue stemmed from trying to contain Fleming, who finished with game highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds.

“Andrew Fleming is the man. I’m telling you right now,” Graffam said. “He’s incredible for a sophomore, his presence on the floor.”

“You talk about the best sophomores in our league, he’s in the discussion of the top two or three,” Bangor coach Ed Kohtala said. “He just hurts you in so many ways. He’s a matchup problem.”

Bangor’s zone was no match for Fleming in the third quarter, when he went on a personal 7-0 run, shortly after Lewis scored Bangor’s only field goal of the period on its opening possession.

With the Rams up 28-22, Fleming sliced through the middle of the defense to rebound his miss from the top of the key and put it back in. Then came a pretty give-and-go with Dalton Rice. A free throw and a strong drive to the hoop made it 29-28 Oxford Hills with 4:06 left. Matt Beauchesne added a driving hoop of his own to put the Vikings up three heading into the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been working against a zone all week (in practice),” Fleming said. “We knew  with Bangor, they weren’t very deep, so we wanted to get to the line as much as we could and get their players in foul trouble, so we just emphasized (attacking the  basket).”

Fleming and Davidson (10 points) went to the rim frequently as the Vikings inflated their lead to 39-32 midway through the fourth.

With Lewis (21 points, seven steals) losing his touch and star guard Alex Campbell relegated to the bench by foul trouble, the Rams had few answers. Ben Hughes finally scored their first  field goal in over 11 minutes when he punched in a Lewis miss to make it 39-34.

Fleming and Lewis traded baskets, then both teams went cold again; Oxford Hills from the line, Bangor from the floor. Three free throws from Fleming made it 44-36 with a minute to go, but the Vikings missed six freebies in the final two minutes to open the door for Lewis to will the Rams back into the game.

In the first meeting between the teams in Paris, which Bangor won, 51-49, the  Rams combated the Vikings’ length by being aggressive, forcing the defense to commit and either foul or leave their 3-point shooters open.

“Last game, they hit threes on threes on threes on us, and we knew that we had to make sure that they could not get those open looks that they got last game,” Davidson said. “We practiced a lot getting over the top of screens and making sure they couldn’t get open threes.  But honestly, they had  a lot of good shots. They just didn’t get in.”

The 3s were falling early for Bangor. Lewis and Andrew Hillier combined to make three as the third-seeded Rams opened a 9-4 lead.

But they only made two more the rest of the game, and with center Connor Adams hobbled by a sprained knee suffered at the end of the regular season, Bangor had limited options inside.

The Rams compensated by getting to the line (6-for-7) in the second quarter and led by as much as nine. But a free throw and three-pointer by Ben Morton helped the Vikings cut the deficit to six by halftime.

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