AUGUSTA — Mike Adams probably used up his quota of heart-quickening halftime speeches in the catacombs of Augusta Civic Center the past five years.
If not, well, surely he’d spent the leftovers on an up-and-down, on-and-off, relatively inexperienced 2011-12 team that might be responsible for what few grays are hidden in that there’s-no-way-he’s-40 coiffure.
So perhaps he tried this one for giggles.
Guys, we had a great game plan. You pretty much carried it out to the letter. Too bad not a darn bit of it worked. Now play harder, play smarter and go out and shock the world.
Or something like that.
“We kind of talked about how we can’t compare this team to any other team,” Adams said. “But we told them this year, you can be part of something special right here, with a comeback like this. We had nothing to lose.”
And the semifinals to gain.
EL awakened some ghosts in the rafters Saturday evening, and we aren’t talking about the one that is the Red Eddies’ peculiar mascot.
To paraphrase another infamous soliloquy from a successful hoop coach, Troy Barnies wasn’t walking through those giant, swinging doors. Corey Therriault, Bo Leary and Yusuf Iman weren’t on their way. No sign of the Philbrook brethen, Kyle and James, or Eric Prue or Ben Hartnett or Timmy Mains, either.
Those guys didn’t make one pass, one shot or one cameo appearance in the huddle Saturday. But if you didn’t feel their presence, you haven’t been paying attention the past six years.
In a comeback that defied logic and required multiple Red Eddies to excel in areas that had been deficiencies all year, seventh-seeded EL sent second-ranked rival Lewiston packing from the Eastern Class A quarterfinals, 60-52.
Lewiston scored the first six points, led by 15 midway through the second quarter and 11 at the half.
Sorry, but it felt like 40. It is almost impossible to explain to someone who stayed away how hollow the Eddies’ chances looked. EL wasn’t able to throw a Nerf ball into a six-square-foot toy box from six inches away.
Nobody knew. Nobody imagined Sean Ford, shut out in the first quarter and best known for his passing and rebounding contributions, morphing into Mr. Clutch.
After lone surviving 2010 and ‘11 star Quin Leary scored six straight points to will his team into contention, it was Ford who nailed a 3-pointer from so deep in the right corner that he could have turned around, reached out and high-fived the water cooler next to his team’s bench.
Later, he drove for a transition hoop, then went into an all-out, 84-foot sprint to block a Lewiston shot at the other end.
“That was as nice a play as this floor has seen for a while,” Adams said.
Ford, a junior who was along for the ride to EL‘s fourth consecutive Eastern Maine final a February ago, scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
“It’s one of the best games I’ve played in my life,” Ford said. “It’s a huge game. It’s a life experience to come here and actually play.”
Let’s not lose track of who scored the actual go-ahead-to-stay bucket. It was Ian Therriault, cashing in his own steal for his only two points of the game at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
When it was over, Therriault’s eyes reflected unmistakable, red-tinted emotion. Therriault’s brother, Corey, led his team into a state championship game.
Even a full season as starting point guard for a tournament team isn’t enough to escape that shadow. Now, for at least a few days, little brother gets to cast his own.
“To have only one starter back, people stepped up that all year have been working hard,” Therriault said. “The last couple years we’ve watched my brother, Bo, Jimbo, Yusuf, all come up and win. It’s easier to get more confidence coming in here when you’ve played here a lot.”
“They just said we’re not done. They’re kids who haven’t made those shots all year but have that ability to,” Adams added. “Shooters shoot. We tell them you have to make yourself available to be a shooter.”
Nate Alexander is the lone sophomore in the starting lineup. He was the only freshman given an opportunity to piggyback last year’s Bo Show all the way to a last-minute loss in the regional final.
He plays with more jittery zest than a hamster being fed all-day energy drink. And let’s just say he hasn’t gotten the shooter’s roll very often in his first year as a real-life Red Eddie.
Nor did he need one Saturday. On the possession after Ford’s sensational swat under the Lewiston basket, Omar Haji-Hersi spotted Alexander standing about two steps in front of the media table.
EL’s inexplicable four-point lead mushroomed into an insurmountable seven-point edge more quickly than you can say “coming of age.”
“I knew he trusted me enough to find me in the corner, and I knew I had to hit it,” Alexander said. “I had to. This is the sweetest thing. Words can’t describe how it feels to come in and beat your rival on a neutral court and move onto the next round.”
Ah, yes, the next round. Somebody would have to spoil the party and mention that.
Adams gets three full days to prepare for his mentor, Jim Bessey, and his loaded alma mater, Mt. Blue, in a Wednesday semifinal.
It reminded the coach ever so slightly of another watershed win in a non-final — Iman’s overtime buzzer-beater against Bangor here in the 2010 semis.
“This was as big as Yusuf’s shot, yeah. Because everything is relative,” Adams said. “And now we’re in the semifinals and funny things happen. You never know.”
Yes they do. And no we don’t.
Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected]