AUBURN – It was not as easy as their first meeting, but Craig Jipson was actually glad for it.

His Edward Little girls’ basketball team beat Gardiner by over 30 points in its first game but had to work a little harder Tuesday in 54-45 win.

“It was good to win this because they crept back within six,” said Jipson. “I give Gardiner all the credit in the world. Morse, Skowhegan and Brunswick were all tough games and games we weren’t able to pull out. I give my kids a lot of credit for that.”

EL couldn’t put away the Tigers after building the early lead. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Red Eddies burst ahead for good with a 12-2 run.

“Our team knows that every single game is going to be a battle,” said EL forward Kelsey Nicolas. “It doesn’t matter how high ranked a team is that we’re playing. We know every single time we need the ball, and every single possession is going to be a tough one. When a team starts getting up on us, we know we have to respond.”

Brittney French led EL (4-3) with 18 points, eight in the final quarter. Nicolas added 14 while Kirsten Prue and Allison Forgues chipped in 11 and seven, respectively.

Though EL has most of its roster active, many are still overcoming injuries or illness. Both French and Prue had mononucleosis in the preseason and are still not at full speed.

“They’re just not themselves,” said Jipson. “I watch them, and they’re just not at full health. That’s a testimony to French. She’s third or fourth in the league in scoring, and she’s not 100 percent.”

Abby Downs, Ashley Gaylord, Alyssa Levesque and Karen Leary are all overcoming injuries. So it wasn’t surprising that EL’s game had its ups and downs.

Though EL built a 12-4 lead in the opening quarter on a Forgues 3-pointer and steal by French, the Tigers hung close. Gardiner was led by Genny Garwood with 12 and Bryleigh Cook with 10. After the Tigers got as close as 20-18, free throws and a basket by Nicolas ended the half with EL up, 24-18.

EL then ran off six straight to start the third quarter, getting baskets from French and Nicolas and free throws from Prue. EL hit 21-of-25 free throws in the game.

EL let down late in the quarter and allowed the Tigers to rally with nine straight to end the third 39-33. A basket by Cook to start the quarter had the Tigers within four.

EL responded a second time and put Gardiner down for good. The Red Eddies increased the intensity defensively and hit six of their first seven shots in the quarter.

“We all work really tough on defense,” said Nicolas. “We know that working on defense definitely can give us ups for offense.”

French led the run with back-to-back baskets. After a Gardiner hoop, Katelyn St. Hilaire set up French for a score. Forgues followed with a jumper, and French scored on a fast break. St. Hilaire hit a jumper for eight straight points and a 14-point lead.

“Katie St. Hilaire had a couple of big steals, and she had a bit shot,” said Jipson. “That’s a kid that’s played a role. She’s improved a lot. I’m was really impressed by that. A lot of kids came up with big shots and big passes when they had to.”

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