AUGUSTA — Buffalo Bills, 1991 to 1994. Boston Red Sox, 1919 to 2003. Chicago Cubs, 1909 ’til all our grandkids are in a nursing home.

Lovable losers in sports lore roll off the tongue. Still, an Edward Little basketball fan base that has bitten its bottom lip for decades upon decades probably doesn’t believe it takes a seat on the bench to anyone in that department.

Finally, at last, hurrah, hallelujah, the Red Eddies won their first girls’ hoop regional title in seven tries on Friday night, running away in the fourth quarter to seal a 49-34 victory over Oxford Hills in the Class AA North final at Augusta Civic Center.

That’s right. Oh-no-and-six. Cheryl Rich steered EL to the 1991 and ’92 Class A West finals, only to suffer consecutive losses to the Goliath of that period, Portland. Val Brown’s teams did the double-dip precisely a decade later and twice played a supporting role in the formative years of the Catherine McAuley dynasty.

Moving to the East/North playhouse at the Augusta Civic Center didn’t sweeten the fortunes for current coach Craig Jipson, whose Eddies fell to Cony in 2012 and Oxford Hills in 2014.

All this only scratches the varnished, 94-foot surface that provided the setting for the Eddies’ love-and-mostly-hate relationship with the fun and frolic of this February fishbowl. There were quarterfinal losses as a No. 2 seed in 1995 and 2010 and as No. 1 in 2013, and two-point semifinal defeats inflicted by Morse in 2009 and Bangor in 2015.

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Couple those bitter disappointments with the frustration of a boys’ program that won the North in 2009 and 2010 but hasn’t hoisted a state championship trophy since the year after World War II ended. Tears? Hugs? Selfies for days? Sighs of relief? You bet.

“It’s a different feeling, definitely a great feeling to be on the other side,” junior Jordyn Reynolds said after scoring 12 of her team-high 17 points in the second half. “Usually I was crying, and now it’s happy tears, tears of joy. It feels like a wonderful accomplishment. I can always say I was on the team that won it.”

Jipson, he of the inimitable, caffeinated style, couldn’t hide the frayed emotions, either.

They hit the boiling point after he sought out a postgame hug from his wife, Missy, and attempted to hold this overdue title underneath the blinding light of all that star-crossed history.

“She’s put up with a lot over the years, so it was pretty special,” the coach said. “Third time in five years. Seventh time for the program. It’s hard to win it. We’ve had a lot of great players. Val Brown and Tammy Paradie and Megan Myles. It’s hard to win a regional championship. Ask Hampden (boys).”

Hampden made it look easy while ruling Class A North with an iron fist, four and almost five years running, until Wednesday’s loss to eventual Oceanside. McAuley, the girls’ standard-bearer that has taken home 10 regional titles since the turn of the century, lost its semifinal this year, too.

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Never mind that nothing was easy in this inaugural Class AA campaign. No. 2 EL lost four games while running a regular-season gauntlet that included Oxford Hills, Bangor, Deering, Cheverus and resurgent rival Lewiston.

Scaling the mountain meant taking out its two closest neighbors, Lewiston and Oxford Hills, in Augusta. The quaintness of that quiniela wasn’t lost on EL senior Karli Stubbs, who scored 11 points against the Vikings.

“A couple of years ago it was the same team, the same game, and getting revenge as a team, it’s great,” Stubbs said. “They’re our second rivals. They know us as well as we know them. It’s always a great game against them.”

EL was a shadow of its usual self in that 54-34 loss to Oxford Hills to end Stubbs’ sophomore season.

The 2014 team was more explosive than the new champions, but the Vikings saw the Eddies all summer, two or three times every winter. They knew all the trade secrets to slow them to a sputter.

“We’ve had teams before that averaged 65 points per game for the season and then get here and score 32 points,” Jipson said. “It’s hard to always bring your offense to the civic center, but your defense is going to be here. I think this is such a great defensive team that it really helped this year’s group.”

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This time it was EL that held Oxford Hills to 33 percent shooting. It was EL that lured Oxford Hills’ center, Tianna Sugars, into foul difficulty to offset Reynolds and Emily Jacques’ troubles.

“It was kind of like déjà vu just coming back here and playing them, and then it was great to beat them,” Jacques said. “It’s better knowing the opponent. I’ve played against some of those girls since seventh grade.”

Oxford Hills also won a regional crown in 2008. Like EL, the Vikings were a frequent flier in the Class A tournament prior to their reassignment.

Separated by 25 to 30 minutes, depending on whether your GPS chooses Route 11 or Center Minot Hill, the old, friendly foes split two regular-season games, because, well, that’s what they do.

“Oxford Hills is such a great team. They’re so well-coached and they’re so disciplined,” Jipson said. “Their 2-3 zone is as good as any team in Maine. They’re an absolute class program.”

So is EL. Just make you call them a championship program now, too.

We all remember when the Red Sox, Denver Broncos and Golden State Warriors were lovable losers, after all. More recently they’ve made a habit of picking confetti out of their hair.

“We’ve been waiting for this forever and ever,” Stubbs said. “Being on teams in the past and seeing us not succeed, being successful is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @oaksie72 and like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kalleoakes.sj.


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