PORTLAND — He and his Edward Little Red Eddies may have won their second regional title in three years on Saturday, but, according to head coach Mike Adams, this one was a long time coming.

Top-seeded Edward Little shot 50 percent from three-point range and shut down explosive Deering senior guard Akar Houssein to earn its second trip to the state final in three years with a 64-51 victory over the third-seeded Rams in the Class AA North boys basketball final at Cross Insurance Arena.

Senior guard Austin Brown, who was named AA North tournament MVP, scored a game-high 20 points and led the Eddies’ defensive effort to limit Houssein to four points on four free throws after he poured in 29 points against Bangor in the regional semifinal.

R.J. Nichols added 13 points off the bench and Max Creaser chipped in with 12 points for Edward Little (19-2), which will face Thornton Academy (18-3) in next Saturday’s Class AA state championship (9 p.m. at Cross Insurance Arena). The Golden Trojans dealt South Portland its first loss of the season in the AA South final.

“It’s a really special group,” Adams said of the Red Eddies. “That group has been together since they were in second and third grade. They’re sick of me talking about it, but I brought it up again in pregame today.”

Darryl Germain led the Rams (15-6) with a game-high 22 points, while Loki Anda added 11 points.

Leading by five early in the fourth quarter, EL went on an 11-2 run, sparked by back-to-back hoops by Brown — a 3-pointer followed by a layup after Creaser emerged from a scramble for the ball and found Brown open underneath to make it 50-36 with 4:34 left.

Deering tried to make headway by sending the Eddies to the free throw line, but led by Brown, who scored seven of his nine points in the period from the line, EL converted 12 of 14 four shots to keep the Rams at a safe distance and clinch the Eddies’ third win of the season over the Rams.

Using a variety of zone and man-to-man defenses, Edward Little kept the wraps on Houssein throughout, with Brown drawing the assignment to guard him in man-to-man.

“Get a hand up, stay close to him and try to keep him in front,” Brown said of his game plan for guarding Houssein. “I mean, he’s the real deal, and really quick, so it’s tough.”

“Askar is a great, great player (and) Austin Brown stepped up because that’s what we needed,” Adams said.

The Red Eddies only trailed early in the first quarter, which is when they started finding their touch from 3-point range (9-for-18) behind a pair from Cam Yorke (eight points) and Nichols that gave them a 12-8 lead after one.

“We thought that (the triangle-and-two) would disrupt Edward Little,” Deering coach Todd Wing said. “They run their sets really well and we wanted to disrupt them a little bit. Yorke came in and, percentage-wise, he’s not one of their stronger shooters, but he knocked it down like he was one, and that’s what good teams do. Guys step up.”

“For a lot of the game, they were really man-marking two guys and the other three guys were playing zone,” Brown said. “We were just trying to find those seams in the zone and finding those guys that weren’t being man-marked.”

Brown and Creaser got in on the act from distance in the second quarter against the triangle-and-two zone, which the Rams employed successfully against Bangor in the semifinals and hoped would force Edward Litte’s shooters to beat them from the perimeter. Brown’s first trey gave the Eddies an eight-point lead, which they maintained at halftime, 26-18.

“A lot of that is my teammates getting me open and getting me involved,” Brown said. “I really just focus on defense, and they get me involved (in the offense).”

“We were expecting (Deering’s defense to be) kind of like what they did against Bangor,” Adams said. “We (thought) by using our paint a lot, that would open up other things, and through ball movement and player movement we were able to get open looks.”

Brown drained another 3-pointer, off of a Storm Jipson offensive rebound and kickout, to send the margin into double digits for the first time at the start of the second half. Germain scored six straight for the Rams to pull them within 32-27.

Anda’s layup made it 35-32 before Jipson’s only hoop of the game and a pair of Brown free throws sent Edward Little, playing in its fourth regional final in a row, into the fourth quarter with a 39-32 lead.


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