AUGUSTA – It doesn’t matter if the setting is the Cumberland County Civic Center or the Augusta Civic Center, or whether the opponent is Portland or Hampden Academy – an undefeated record, the Class A quarterfinals, a defending champion and Edward Little don’t mix.

In 2000, the Bryan Lambert-led Red Eddies entered the Western A tournament with a spotless record, only to fall to defending state champion Portland in the quarterfinals. Saturday night, the top-seeded and unbeaten Eddies’ season ended abruptly again, this time at the hands of two-time defending Eastern Maine champion Hampden, 57-39.

Eighth-seeded Hampden (11-9) will face No.5 Messalonskee in the semifinals on Wednesday night. Edward Little finished its season 18-1.

Four Broncos scored in double figures, led by Dan McCue with 18 points. Antonio Juco added 14, Justin Brown 11 and Bradley Haase 10. Troy Barnies ended his historic career at EL with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Eric Prue and Kyle Philbrook added eight points apiece.

“I didn’t think that (experience would play a role) going in, but looking at it now, maybe,” said EL coach Mike Adams, whose team was making its first appearance in the Eastern Maine quarters. “We saw them play (in the prelims) against Lawrence, and they did a lot of the same things today that they did then. They just did it better.”

Hampden started to slowly slip away from the Eddies in the second quarter, then ran away and hid in the third, when EL scored just two points on 1-for-12 shooting.

Hampden showed more poise from the start. Trailing 12-11 early in the second quarter, the Broncos started attacking the basket with more authority and went on a 13-2 run to take the lead for good. Brown got it started with a hoop, followed by a McCue 3-pointer. A short time later, McCue found Brown for a short fadeaway jumper, then took it to the hole himself for two.

“I thought they were extremely aggressive (defensively), so we played open post, tried to use their aggressiveness against them and tried to back-cut and curl as much as possible to threaten the hoop,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett.

The Eddies were able to cut two points off the lead before halftime thanks to 3-pointers from Kyle Philbrook and Ben Hartnett sandwiched around hoops from Juco and Bradley Haase. But Hampden, using a diamond-and-one defense to shadow Barnies all over the floor, had clearly frustrated EL by keeping the University of Maine-bound big man from getting involved not only in the set offense, but on the offensive boards.

“We’ve seen diamond-and-ones before. We’ve done well against it,” Adams said. “Tonight, it’s not like we shot the ball awful. We just couldn’t get the looks we wanted. Our guards have always been quicker than everybody else, and today we just looked a step slow.”

There was no quick fix at halftime for the Eddies, either. They started settling for outside shots, and missed their first eight of the third quarter. Hampden, meanwhile, got 3-pointers from McCue and Juco and a pair of free throws by Farley to inflate the lead to 16. Barnies finally ended the drought with 3:21 to go in the period, but it only went downhill from there for the Eddies. They didn’t score for the rest of the quarter, and Juco added insult to injury by nailing a trey at the buzzer to make it 43-22.

All that was left was for Adams to console his stunned players after the game by trying to put things into perspective.

“There are places out there, whether it be Internet sites or posting rooms, that will say ‘See, I told you EL would choke,'” Adams said. “I say, look at where these kids came from four years ago at 2-16. These people that say EL choked have no clue what these guys did, what they committed to, whether it be hours in the weight room, hours shooting jump shots. Not one of them has a drug or alcohol or behavior issue in school. These are some of the best guys I’ve ever coached and been around.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.