AUBURN – In a matter of moments, the KVAC Championship game was slipping away from the Edward Little Red Eddies.

Bangor had erased a deficit and had raced into the lead Saturday afternoon. After a Ram 3-pointer had everything going Bangor’s way, EL needed a response.

Kyle Philbrook’s 3-pointer not only provided that answer but gave the Red Eddies the right amount of lift to finish off the Rams in 47-41 win.

“It definitely changed momentum,” said Philbrook, a junior guard. “By then, we were down. They had just taken the lead. That 3-pointer gave us a little boost of energy. From there, it was all heart.”

Philbrook’s shot tied the game. Moments later, Troy Barnies put EL ahead for good, scoring on a rebound. Bangor never scored again as EL finished off the game with a 9-0 run.

“It’s huge,” said Philbrook of the KVAC title. “It’s the first KVAC Championship in school history. It might not ever be done again. You never know.”

EL (18-0) is the top-ranked team in Eastern A while Bangor (17-1) is second. So Saturday’s game was a potential preview of another championship game to come.

“We went in No. 1, but the consensus is that Bangor is the best team in the East,” said EL coach Mike Adams. “With their size and athleticism and a great coach like Coach Reed, that’s understandable.”

Troy Barnies led EL with 20 points while Philbrook finished with 15. Bangor’s post tandem of Alex Gallant and Ryan Weston did most of the damage for the Rams with 16 points each.

“I thought our guards came out and played really aggressively,” said Adams. “We said we had to do something to fight their size, and it had to be our quickness.”

Though the Rams spent much of the first half trying to climb out of an 8-0 hole, Bangor was within reach in the third. Six straight points by the Rams gave them the lead. A jumper by Josh Martin and a nifty drive by Mikhtar Sharif had EL up 35-32 entering the final quarter.

After a Barnies 3-pointer upped the lead to 38-32 to start the fourth, Bangor got a momentum swing. EL had the chance to increase the lead but missed a shot and committed a foul. Gallant scored on a tip of the missed free throw. Instead, Bangor was within four and embarking on a 9-0 run. With EL seemingly wearing down and not having the offensive consistency it had in the first half, the Rams were making their move.

“I think sometimes guys take time off on defense, but we couldn’t,” said Adams. “So we had to take plays off on offense. I think that’s what happened in the second half.”

Weston hit a turn-around shot, and Gallant scored to tie the game with 4:25 left. Jon McAllian hit a 3-pointer to give the Rams their largest lead of the game with 3:39 left.

“We needed it,” said Adams of Philbrook’s tying shot. “They had made a great run.”

Philbrook had emphasized to Barnies to feed the ball out of the paint quicker if he needed to, and advised guards to put themselves in the right position to shoot. Barnies and Philbrook each did their part.

“I threw it into Troy,” said Philbrook. “He did a nice job of turning and facing. He kicked it right back out to me. It felt good leaving my hands.”

On it’s next possession, Barnies scored off a Cam Leary miss underneath for the lead with 2:49 left. Bangor had two tries at getting the equalizer. A traveling call in the paint by Gallant nixed one chance with 1:35 left. Then after a McAllian missed, Weston had the rebound but lost it out of bounds with :20 left.

Philbrook hit two pairs of free throws to seal it.

“It definitely showed what we have to do in the playoffs,” said Philbrook. “Who knows, we might be down six with a minute left. We might have to come through and dig in real deep.”

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