PARIS — Oxford Hills has tragic, excessive experience at this.
The Vikings played a boys' basketball game Friday night through frayed emotions and tear-stained, sleep-deprived eyes.
It was good medicine for the moment, this 71-68 victory over Lewiston that might be as entertaining as any that will be played in Eastern Class A and the KVAC this winter.
"We had a good reason to win this game and we did it. We worked so hard," said Oxford Hills junior Luke Davidson, who erupted for a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. "It means so much to come out with a win. No one thought we could do it."
Oxford Hills opened its season two days after the drowning of 17-year-old Josh Wardwell. He was the fourth current or former student at the school to lose his life in a fatal accident in the past 15 months.
"That was an emotional win for us. He was one of our players' best friends," Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam. "We kind of dedicated that game to him."
Dedication describes it well, because even after Oxford Hills mounted a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Lewiston wouldn't let the issue rest until the final horn.
Donne Agossou drained a 3-pointer to bring the Blue Devils within two points at the 13-second mark.
Adam Poliquin became the fourth Lewiston player to foul out when he caught a piece of Ben Morton to stop the clock. Morton missed the first free throw but sank the second with 12 ticks remaining.
Lewiston found its hot hand one more time. Agossou's bid for the game-tying 3-pointer rattled in and out.
The Devils saved the ball from going out of bounds, but the horn sounded as they gave chase in hopes of one final heave.
"They're better than everybody thinks they are," Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said of Oxford Hills. "That's what we're going to try to do every night, and they just did it a little better than us tonight."
Neither team will be accused of taking the air out of the ball, in other words. Each ran constantly, substituted liberally and played full-court defense without fear of the resulting whistles.
There were seven lead changes in a wild first half — ending with Lewiston on top 34-33 — before Davidson dropped 12 points and Jake Plummer six more in a 22-7 Vikings third-period run.
"We knew we had that larger guys underneath and we got it underneath," Davidson said. "I don't want to put anything on me, but I made my shots tonight. We all did."
Oxford Hills was 8-for-13 from the field in that quarter while limiting Lewiston to 2-for-13.
The Vikings also got a boost from junior point guard Matt Beauchesne, who was able to stay on the court after missing the entire second quarter with three fouls.
"We've been working on pressing a lot, and I thought we could turn them over," Graffam said. "Obviously we fouled a lot, but in the second half they didn't make as many foul shots as they did in the first half."
Lewiston missed 10 of its 15 free throws after the break.
Agossou scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, nearly rescuing the Devils. The highlight was a fall-away from in front of his own bench that led to a 4-point play with 2:26 to go. Beauchesne fouled out on the play.
Two Josh Thomas free throws and a Steven Patrie layup capped an 8-0 run and cut Oxford Hills' lead to 66-65.
Ryan Godin (10 points) drained a free throw for a two-point lead.
Patrie was called for an offensive foul and then a technical at the other end. Godin hit the two free throws and Morton drained another after the resulting free possession for the Vikings.
"We didn't stay composed emotionally. The three technical fouls we got were crucial. They really were," Farrar said. "I hope the rest of the league takes notice, because (Oxford Hills is) going to do this every night and they don't care what the results are. If I'm a season ticket holder I'd be pretty happy I get to watch them eight more times this year."
Thomas added 16 points and Patrie 10 for Lewiston. The Vikings' Plummer finished with 12.