Ibn Khalid (23) of Edward Little High School and Andrew Rent of Gorham compete for a loose ball during a game in Auburn earlier this season. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal File Photo)

Edward Little fans worried about attending both the girls’ and boys’ Class AA state championships on Friday making their wallets a little lighter can take heart. One ticket will get them in the door for both games.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and are available at the Edward Little High School athletic office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Admission is good for both games at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. 

The girls’ game against Gorham starts at 6 p.m. The boys’ game against Scarborough tips off at 9 p.m.

Tickets for all 10 state games are available at https://gofan.co/app/school/MPA.

Eddies planned on defense, then a title

The Edward Little boys’ always stingy defense peaked at just the right time this season, limiting Oxford Hills to 33 points in the AA North semifinals and Windham to 35 points in the regional final.

“That’s two games with really different game plans,” EL coach Mike Adams said, “… and they executed it really, really well. Hopefully, we can get one more.”

The Red Eddies focused on keeping the ball away from Oxford Hills forward Colton Carson in the semis, having Ibn Khalid face-guard him to keep the ball out of the hands of the Vikings’ offensive linchpin. 

Against Windham, the key was defending the prolific backcourt tandem of Nick Curtis and Mike Gilman. Khalid and Tyler Morin guarded them aggressively, but also got a lot of help from their teammates by switching off ball screens and limiting the openings for them on the perimeter.

EL’s defense will face another challenge in the state championship game against Scarborough. Not only does the Red Storm’s offense, led by 6-foot-7 South tournament MVP Nick Fiorillo, present problems, the Eddies will have to work to get points at the other end. The Red Storm limited Noble and Bonny Eagle to 31 and 35 points, respectively, in the first two rounds before allowing only 43 points against an explosive South Portland team to win its first regional championship.

“We know it gets tougher every game,” Adams said. 

With that in mind, the Eddies didn’t let themselves think too far ahead when the tournament started, Adams said. 

“We know how hard it is to get here,” he added. “Now we can think about that, and the fact that our girls’ program is in it, as well, makes it a little bit more special.”

Ready to return already

The Gray-New Gloucester and Rangeley girls may have fallen short in their respective title quests, but both teams can take solace in knowing that they have the pieces to take the next step this year.

The Patriots are only one year removed from winning their first Class B state championship, and in 2019 they could be going for another one. While they lost most of the core of the 2017 title squad after that season, the Patriots don’t graduate anybody from this year’s team that earned the No. 1 seed in B South before losing to eventual regional champion Lake Region.

Gray-NG will bring back two players that took the floor in the 2017 title game, and who were the leaders of this year’s team, in soon-to-be-senior guard Bri Jordan and forward Jordan Grant, who will still only be a junior next year. The rest of the new core gained significant tournament experience this year while playing at both the Portland Expo and Cross Insurance Arena.

The Rangeley Lakers will be in a similar spot next season, though they do graduate senior Natasha Haley, who won a Class D state championship two years as a sophomore. Head coach Heidi Deery’s squad will bring everyone else back, including a pair of eighth-graders in Emily Eastlack and Winnie LaRochelle who led the team in scoring in their regional final loss.

The Lakers’ chief Class D South rival, Vinalhaven, will be graduating all six players who took the floor in the regional final, opening the door for Rangeley to possibly take back the region next year.

Players made Ramblers’ pieces fit

Judging by percentages, Winthrop’s third consecutive trip to the C South final may have been the most unlikely.

Coach Todd MacArthur knew he had a junior class talented enough to make it a streak. But after replacing 80 percent of the starting lineup, including 1,000-point scorer Jacob Hickey, the Ramblers still had to adapt to new and greater responsibilities. 

Just like last year, Winthrop relied on hard-nosed defense and inside/outside balance to make its playoff push. But MacArthur noted the new pieces needed to fit. 

“We can talk about program system. We can talk about program philosophy. We can talk about program culture,” he said. “But ultimately, when this is all said and done, I can implement anything we want, it’s always about the kids because if they don’t buy in and they don’t do it together, they’re not going to have success.”

With just two seniors graduating and all of the all-junior starting lineup expected back next year, in addition to key reserves Jackson Ladd, Jevin Smith and Ryan Baird, the Ramblers will be in good position to make it four regional finals in a row next year. 

Not surprisingly, though, MacArthur will have a lot for them to work on during the offseason, including one perpetual thorn in their side that Hall-Dale exploited in its 51-37 win Saturday night.

“The Achilles heal of our team all year has been turnovers,” MacArthur said.

Young Falcons fly

Mountain Valley girls’ coach Ryan Casey asked his team how many had played on the court at the Portland Expo prior to last Tuesday’s Class B South quarterfinal loss to Poland.

The Falcons have been making yearly postseason trips to Portland, but none of the players on the 2017-18 roster had actually played in the games.

This season’s seniors played valuable roles for Mountain Valley. But so did the underclassmen, who make up more than half the roster as the Falcons went 11-8 despite losing its entire rotation to graduation the year before.

“We’ve asked freshmen and sophomores to do things that in Mountain Valley basketball we really haven’t had to do,” Casey said. “For them to be able to handle the emotional highs and lows and the successes and failure that come in a regular basketball season as 15-, 16-year-old kids, that was really impressive.”

That was especially true of freshman point guard Rylee Sevigny, who quickly became the focus of opposing defenses. Sevigny led the Mountain Valley Conference by making 84.3 percent of her free throws, while attempting the second most in the conference. She also ranked fourth in points (16.1 per game) and second in 3-pointers made per game (1.8), and was top-10 in steals and assists.

“I told her, I’ve coached a lot of point guards over the years, and she’s the first one that I’ve ever asked to do what I asked her to do, let alone being a 15-year-old,” Casey said.

He added: “Our complementary players did what their jobs were, what their roles were, but we really expected Rylee to do a lot. So she’s going to have quite a bit of mileage under those 15-year-old feet at the end of the season, and I think for the most part she handled it like a mature junior or senior, not as a freshman.”