Edward Little’s C.J. Jipson looks to pass inside defended by Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson.

PARIS — Not much has separated Edward Little and Oxford Hills in two nail-biters this season. This time, the difference may have been Matt Fleming’s toe.

The Vikings thought Fleming’s basket with three seconds left tied them with the Red Eddies. But officials ruled his toe was on the 3-point line, resulting in a two-point bucket and Edward Little maintaining a one-point lead rather than the game being tied.

Oxford Hills disputed the call, but to no avail. Forced to foul, the Vikings put Samatar Iman on the line, and the senior coolly sunk both free throws with 1.4 seconds left.

After each team called a time out, the Red Eddies deflected Colton Carson’s long inbound pass and held on for a 58-55 win Wednesday night.

Iman and Jarod Norcross Plourde led EL (16-1) with 17 points apiece. Fleming finished with game highs in points (24) and rebounds (12), and Chris St. Pierre added 15 points for the Vikings (11-6).

“It was an unbelievable game by two really good teams whose kids know each other well,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “Kids just stepped up and made plays throughout the game. Fleming’s 3, well, two — he was on the line, you could see it — that was a big-time shot and he’s a big-time player. Then we stepped up and made free throws.”

“We can’t blame it on that one play,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “We couldn’t box them out. We couldn’t keep them off the backboard. It was like both teams couldn’t defensive rebound.”

The Vikings led by as much as six midway through the third quarter before Iman led a 10-3 EL run with a 3-pointer and a steal and assist to Wol Maiwen for a thunderous dunk that gave the Eddies the lead and momentum heading into the fourth quarter.

“That was one of the craziest dunks I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of dunks from him and that was crazy,” EL junior guard Tyler Morin said. “It got us really excited.”

A Darby Shea 3-pointer, a hoop from Iman and free throws by Norcross Plourde put the Eddies up, 54-50, with 3:52 left. 

Oxford Hills pulled back within one on a Carson free throw and an acrobatic reverse layup along the baseline by Fleming. Iman sank two more from the free-throw line to make it a three-point margin again before Fleming’s controversial shot.

Working against Oxford Hills’ 2-3 zone, the Eddies raced out to a 15-7 lead in the first quarter.

“Zones slowed us down a lot earlier in the year, and I thought today something clicked and we finally figured it out,” Adams said. “We moved the ball. It didn’t stick. And players moved. It was real better than it had been earlier in the year.”

“We practice it a lot because every team has been showing it to us lately,” Morin said. “We’ve just got to work the ball high-low. That’s what we were doing today, and it worked a lot of the time.”

Led by the 6-foot-5 Fleming and 6-4 Carson (eight rebounds), Oxford Hills’ length gave EL problems on the offensive boards as the Vikings chipped away at the deficit in the second quarter.

St. Pierre drilled three 3-pointers in the period, including back-to-back bombs that gave the Vikings their first lead. They took a 35-31 lead into halftime.

Bolstered by little-used 6-2 reserve Grant Hartley (six rebounds, four offensive), Norcorss Plourde (seven rebounds) and Iman (six rebounds), the Eddies leveled the battle on the boards in the second half.

“Grant Hartley, I don’t even know the last time he played, and he was huge tonight,” Adams said. “They were killing us on the boards. He came in and gave us some strength and took care of the basketball.”

Back on Dec. 13, the Red Eddies won the first game between the KVAC rivals in Auburn, 54-52. 

If they meet again in the Class AA North tournament, it will likely be in the title game, final Heal points pending. 

“We just told the kids that (EL’s) will to win was just a little bit better than ours,” Graffam said. “They were getting loose balls, getting extra rebounds, making the extra pass, making foul shots … It’s a fine line between championship teams and als0-ran team, and unfortunately for us, tonight we were an also-ran.” 

“But,” Graffam added, “I think that it says something to our toughness that EL has to play like that to beat us, because they’re very good. We’re not too far away.”

Edward Little’s Darby Shea goes up for a layup defended by Oxford Hills’ Spencer Strong.Oxford Hills’ head coach Scott Graffam yells instructions as Edward Little’s Samatar Iman works on Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson.Edward Little’s Tyler Morin drives into the lane between Oxford Hills’ Janek Luksza and Cole Verrier.Edward Little’s Jarod Norcrosse-Plourde and Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson go up for a rebound.

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