AUGUSTA — Back on Jan. 6, Lewiston handed Hampden Academy its only loss of the season thanks in large part to a 21-2 start.
Hampden coach Russ Bartlett regretted not calling a timeout to stem the tide that night and the Broncos lost, 43-40.
So when Bartlett saw his team on the wrong end of a 7-2 score to start Monday night’s KVAC championship game at Cony High School, he took the time out, if only to alleviate the Broncos’ sense of deja vu.
“Last time, I just let us play through it,” Bartlett said. “Maybe I learned something.”
The Broncos regrouped during the timeout and took the lead by the end of the first quarter. But they couldn’t shake the pesky Blue Devils until the fourth quarter of a 51-45 victory.
Christian McCue scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and the Broncos’ big men controlled the paint in the second half to avenge their only blemish as they head into the Eastern A tournament with the No. 1 seed.
“We definitely wanted to send a statement,” said senior center Fred Knight.
The presence of the 6-foot-7 Knight (six points, eight rebounds) and 6-foot-5 Logan Poirier (six points, six rebounds, six blocks) shut down the paint and second chance opportunities for Lewiston in the second half.
“They finished a few shots, a couple of them we had our hands on the ball. I thought there were a couple, maybe three or four, that we got in the first half and they got in the second half and was maybe the difference,” said Lewiston coach Tim Farrar, who was named KVAC Co-Coach of the Year.
Zach Gilpin also had 14 points for the Broncos. Donne Agoussou and Steven Patrie (11 rebounds) had 10 points apiece to lead the Blue Devils.
Hampden (17-1) took the lead for good on a McCue hoop early in the third quarter. Poirier’s fourth block of the contest set up a Gilpin jumper that gave the Broncos a 32-27 lead.
Lewiston shot 50 percent in the third quarter and trailed by three heading into the fourth. Shawn Ricker found Luke Cote open underneath the hoop to make it 38-37 with a little over six minutes left, but that was as close as Lewiston would get.
Knight put back his own miss, Matt Palmer anticipated a pass on the wing and coasted in for the layup and Brian Fickett added a layup off the fast break to give Hampden its largest lead of the night to that point at 44-37 with 4:01 to go.
After owning the offensive glass (9-4) in the first half, the Devils (15-3) got just four offensive boards in the second half. They could have used more second chances, because the Broncos usually had a hand in their face or on the ball on their first chances. Lewiston shot just 4-for-15 in the fourth quarter.
“They were really getting in the paint and we just emphasized help defense,” Knight said.
Corbin Hyde (eight points, seven rebounds) gave the Blue Devils the early 7-2 advantage with a putback shortly after Knight went to the bench with his second foul.
“He’s such a factor defensive rebounding, that hurts us when he has to sit for a long stretch like that,” Bartlett said.
Hampden closed the quarter with a 9-0 run to take the lead, but the Devils again found plenty of room to operate in the paint. Agossou sliced through the lane to give the Devils their largest lead, 21-15.
But the Broncos, who struggled from the 3-point arc (2-for-13) despite having a number of open looks in the first half, got a trey from Gilpin to cut the deficit to one at halftime.
“In the first half, we got good shots. We didn’t shoot the ball well. But it’s not going to be easy to score against Lewiston. They guard really well,” Bartlett said. “I thought in the second half, establishing the post game early with Fred, we drew some fouls, so maybe we were a little bit the aggressor offensively.”
“They really have some guys that can fill it up,” said Farrar, whose team will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed.. “I think our toughness bothers them a little bit, where we get after it. I’m pretty happy with the way we’re competing. If we do that, we’ve got a chance to win three in a row like any other team in the tournament.”