FAIRFIELD — Edward Little tried to brace itself for the hostile crowd and devastating defense that awaited it at Lawrence’s Folsom Gym Friday night, but there was no way the Red Eddies could have prepared for a 16-2 deficit after the first quarter.
The unbeaten Eddies scratched and clawed their way back the game, but it was ultimately too big of a hill to climb. The Bulldogs dug in on defense again in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 67-53 win.
Xavier Lewis led Lawrence at both ends of the floor with 25 points and six steals. Lawrence (9-1), whose head coach, Mike McGee had to sit out the game after receiving two technicals in the previous game, forced a half-dozen turnovers in each of the bookend quarters and never trailed.
“Without our head coach, we wanted to get a win,” Lewis said. “We wanted to get it for our home crowd, too, and defend our court.”
“The kids really came out focused,” said Jason Pellerin, Lawrence’s acting head coach. “They had a great energy and a great intensity to them. It started in the JV game. I could see it in their eyes.”
Edward Little (8-1) converted just one of eight shot attempts in the first quarter and had difficulty with Lewis’ on-the-ball pressure on the perimeter. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Lewis and Nick Noiles (11 points) sent the Bulldogs on their way to the 14-point lead.
“I’ve talked about playing in this gym for 12 years, since I came to EL… and (the players) were excited about it,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said. “You just can’t really get into kids’ heads how hard (the Bulldogs) play defensively. We scored two points in the first quarter just by not taking care of the basketball. A big part of that was their defense. They took us out of everything we wanted to do.”
EL quickly trimmed the deficit to single-digits in the second quarter, thanks mostly to its production on out of bounds plays. A three-point play by Sean Ford (15 points, six rebounds) off an out of bounds play sparked a 16-5 run that pulled the Eddies within three with 1:46 left in the first half.
“Mike Adams is a good coach. He’s got a lot of tricky plays,” Pellerin said. “We talked about it all week long. We talked about sagging off. We talked about the switching. We just got caught maybe being a little over-aggressive up top, and then they just curled right off that and go to the hoop.”
“Basketball is a game of runs. We were ready for that,” Lewis said.
Spencer Carey (12 points) hit a jumper with one second left to send the Bulldogs into the locker room with a six-point lead. The Eddies battled back to within one (32-31) midway through the third quarter on a Nate Alexander free throw, but they never got closer. Lawrence had the lead back to six heading into the fourth.
Lewis took over from there, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter, He hit a 3-pointer to start the period and kick off a 10-4 run where Lawrence started to get some separation again. He drilled back-to-back jumpers to put the lead into double digits for good, then converted on a steal and layup to ice the game and send the Lawrence partisans who packed the gym into a frenzy.
“I had to step up tonight,” said Lewis, a transfer from Bangor. “It was a big game, plus I battled a little bit of a sickness, so it was a lot more mental toughness. We got it done out there. It was such a great team effort.”
Quin Leary led EL with 16 points and seven rebounds.