AUBURN — Edward Little started the new boys basketball season with most of the same starting lineup as last year, except there was a big difference at the center position. 

Wol Maiwen is gone, and sophomore John Shea manned the middle in a different, but still successful way, scoring a game-high 19 points in his first career start to pace the Red Eddies over Windham 58-44 in a Class AA North battle Friday night. 

“Yeah, I was (nervous),” Shea said. “But now that I got the first one under my belt, I think I’ll be good.” 

Shea scored just two points in the first quarter, but really got going in the second with eight points. The Eagles (0-1) tried to stop him multiple ways, and some worked better than others, but Shea broke through enough to help stake the Red Eddies (1-0) to a 27-20 halftime lead. 

“Shea’s an excellent player. He’s young and he’s just so good, footwork-wise, and just a big body that’s hard to get around, hard to get in front. So we were concentrating on him a lot because he’s just such a unique player in our league, with his size,” Windham coach Chad Pulkkinen said. “He’s a load to handle, and we had to do it by committee. And I thought we did a pretty good job holding him check, but definitely had some things that we can take away from there and do better next time.” 

Shea said he was “just using my body to my advantage.” 

There were times when his youth worked to his disadvantage, and he admitted to getting frustrated early in the game, but the four seniors who started alongside him “were really kind of keeping my head at the point where it needed to be. That’s what kept me mentally in the game.” 

Shea looked to keep it going out of the halftime by completing a three-point play on EL’s first possession, but he then picked up his third foul of the game two minutes in. He recovered mentally and finished with seven points in the third. 

“I thought he gave us a really good post presence,” Red Eddies coach Mike Adams said. “He had to adjust as the game went on because they spent a lot more defensive attention on him, fronting him in the post and face-guarding. So John learned a lot in one game about how to get higher in the post instead of staying too low.” 

The Red Eddies’ defense was on-point from the opening tip, holding the Eagles to just four points in the first quarter. All of the points came from junior reserve guard Dylan Gorman, who made a fast-break layup for Windham’s first points five minutes in, then a pair of free throws after an EL technical foul. 

“We said early in the preseason that that should be one of our identities of who we are, is a really tough and good defensive team. And I thought we were in the first quarter,” Adams said. “And then we kind of fell apart a little bit.” 

The Eagles pulled to within two points, 20-18, with less than three minutes to play in the second quarter on a Gorman 3-pointer, but the Red Eddies responded with a 7-0 run. Gorman was up to 10 points at halftime, matching Shea, but then was held scoreless in the second half. 

Sophomore reserve Will Mannette picked up the scoring with seven of his nine points in the third to try and keep Windham in it. But EL pulled out to a 42-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter and never looked back. 

“This is (Gorman’s and Mannette’s) first real varsity minutes, so it was good for them to get their feet wet with hitting some shots, and we need them to do that to help us in some of those stretches where we’re not scoring,” Pulkkinen said. 

The Windham starters were held to a combined 17 points in the game, including six by senior captain Chris Naylor and five for senior Ivan Kaffell, all in the second half. 

EL had three starters on the cusp on double-digit scoring, as Austin Brown, Storm Jipson and Max Creaser poured in nine apiece. The other starter, Cam Yorke, scored six. 

“I think it was definitely a big boost for our team today, getting this first (win),” Shea said. “A (double-digit) win is a big win for us, they’re not a bad team. We just can play a lot better than we did.” 


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