Eastern A Boys’ Semifinal: Vikings drop Dragons in OT

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No. 6 Oxford Hills rallied to tie the game, then took control in overtime to earn its first regional final berth since 2005 with a 61-58 win over No. 2 Brunswick at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Vikings (12-7) will face unbeaten top seed Hampden Academy, the two-time defending Eastern A champion, Friday night at 8:30 p.m.

“We’ve never been here to play, so as far as we could go, that’s just a bonus at this point. We just kept working, working, working. Fight for today,” sophomore center Andrew Fleming said.

Fleming (21 points, 13 rebounds) led a Viking front line with Dalton Rice (21 points, three blocks) and Luke Davidson (10 points, 10 rebounds) that wouldn’t let Brunswick pull away.

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“Having three guys that are 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 down in the paint, that’s tough to guard,” Rice said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re always going to have a mismatch when you have three guys that are that size in the paint.”

Brunswick (14-6) led for all but about 32 seconds of regulation. After a sluggish first quarter in which Fleming drew two quick charging fouls, Oxford Hills hung within a possession for most of the final three quarters.

Down two in the final minute, the Vikings gave the ball to Fleming to tie it. He drove to the hoop, missed, and followed his shot, but got taken off the ball in the rebounding action.

Fortunately for Oxford Hills, Tyus Ripley was the man on the spot.

“He tried to grab the rebound and kind of got hit and lost the ball. I grabbed it and put it in,” Ripley said, making it sound easier than it actually could have been.

The Vikings tied up Brunswick for a jump ball and regained possession with a chance to win with three seconds left, but Fleming’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was short.

Elliot Boyd’s free throw gave Brunswick the lead to start overtime. Rice scored inside to put the Vikings on top to stay. Fleming made it a three-point lead with a baseline jumper, then Ripley chased down the loose ball on a missed 3-pointer and found Rice for an uncontested layup and an insurmountable 59-54 lead with 41 seconds left.

Gordon (10 first-quarter points) started off hot as Brunswick led by as much as 11 in the first quarter. Oxford Hills went on a 9-0 run and rallied to tie it late in the half. Three-pointers by Ryan Black and Derek Devereaux (11 points each) put the Dragons up six at halftime.

“Defensively, we got a hand up on the shooter pretty much every time,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “First half, we made a couple of mistakes and they buried the 3s on us. Second half, that didn’t happen.”

The Vikings played Gordon tighter in the second half, slowed the tempo and chipped away at the deficit, finally taking their first lead when Fleming found Rice on a backdoor baseline cut with 2:52 to go in the third.

“I’m always looking for (Rice and  Davidson) cutting,” Fleming said. “That’s my first look usually,unless I see someone wide open. I look to get them the ball because most of the time I get doubled and they can have easy lanes.”

Gordon answered Rice’s hoop with his only bucket of the third quarter and gave the Dragons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish until Ripley’s putback.

“I thought our advantage was a guard play and theirs was in post play, and I was really happy with the way we had things going for most of the game,” Brunswick coach Todd Hanson said. “Even when they slowed it down, I was really comfortable with our guys handling the ball. We were just a play or two away in that final minute or so.”

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