Assistant coach Craig Jipson and senior guard Storm Jipson have played major defensive roles as Edward Little has reached its second Class AA state championship in three seasons. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Storm Jipson’s high school basketball tournament memories started long before he became a vital cog in Edward Little’s recent run of success.

Storm and his older siblings, sister Kaylee and brother CJ, grew up around the game. Their father, Craig, coached girls varsity basketball for 20 years, at Gray-New Gloucester, Oxford Hills and, for 12 years, Edward Little.

“I remember a lot of trips to the Augusta Civic Center, sitting in the top rows and always having either him come home really happy or really upset,” said Storm, now a starting senior guard.

“Having been through it myself now, I can understand why he was so emotionally invested,” he added.

The Jipsons hope to be on the happy side when they return home after Edward Little meets Thornton Academy on Saturday night (9 p.m., Cross Insurance Arena) for the Class AA state championship.

Regardless of the outcome, the state championship will not only be Storm’s final basketball game at Edward Little but also Craig’s final game as an assistant coach. He plans to step down after three years assisting coach Mike Adams and return to coaching girls basketball.

“It’s weird to know when your last practice is going to be,” Craig said. “But it’s been a really special ride these three years.”

After Kaylee, a standout guard on his 2016 Class AA North championship team, finished her senior season in 2017, Craig Jipson gave up the Edward Little girls job girls to join boys coach Mike Adams’ staff and coach Storm, who was a sophomore.

Even though the girls went on to win their first state championship in 2018 under former assistant and current head coach Chris Cifelli, Craig never regretted putting his family first.

“Missing so many of CJ’s games was hard,” Craig said. “The girls job was my dream job, and it was easier to give it up because I knew Chris would do such a great job with it, I’d missed so many of CJ’s games and I really wanted to see Storm play.”

CJ, who this season was an assistant coach at Saint Dominic Academy, also graduated in 2017.

The day Craig resigned as girls coach, Adams, a close friend, offered Craig the chance to watch Storm play from the bench as an assistant coach.

“Some people might be kind of intimidated to have somebody who’s as loud and opinionated as Craig,” Adams said. “I know he’s made me a better coach. He’s made me a better person. He’s made our team better. I don’t think we win a state championship without Craig Jipson on our staff.”

In one unforgettable night, the boys followed the girls’ first state title by ending their 72-year title drought against Scarborough with Storm coming off the bench and Craig at Adams’ side.

Edward Little’s Storm Jipson, right, and Jamaine Luizzo surround Windham’s Kaleb Cidre during the Class AA North semifinal last week. Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

“It was so incredible,” Craig said. “Those seniors that year provided so much leadership on that team and Storm got a lot of good playing time and the kids were great to him.”

“Winning sophomore year with him, his first state championship and my first state championship, I think that was really special,” Storm said. “I knew it was something he’d worked for for a really long time. I don’t think he’d change a thing, the losses with the girls, I don’t think he’d have it any other way than winning his first one and having us go through it all together.”

Craig Jipson’s expertise, and passion, is coaching defense. One reason Saturday’s game will be his last with the EL boys is he wants to get back into coaching the girls game, where pressing is more commonplace than it is in the boys game.

When they won the state title two years ago, the Edward Little boys were a formidable pressing team themselves with Wol Maiwen at the point of the press. They rarely pressed during their state championship tournament run, however, due to matchups, but Adams credits Craig with ensuring they didn’t lose their intensity or execution on defense.

“You win in the quarter-court, defensively and offensively,” Adams said. “What he did is he brought that pressing mentality (to the team’s quarter-court defense).”

“He’s a great defensive coach,” Adams added. “Nobody is more well-versed or well-traveled in terms of going to clinics or practices. If you ever think about doing anything on defense, he’s always, ‘Oh, I went to this college and talked to that coach and know how they do it,’ and he’s going to offer great insight on how to do it.”

Like their father, all three Jipson siblings brought a defense-first mentality to the court. Storm has had some big games offensively and scored arguably the biggest basket in EL’s 64-51 regional final win over Deering, but defense is where he’s made the biggest impact over his varsity career.

He was named the Class AA North Defensive Player of the Year, and his proud father is quick to cite Storm’s impressive defensive stats (126 deflections, 55 turnovers caused) over his offensive contributions.

“None of my children have been blessed with a lot of offensive talent, so you do what you can do to make your team better,” said Craig, who has also coached football for many years. “Storm’s able to use a lot of his energy at the defensive end. He chips in where he can chip in (on offense). He knows what is role is and he’s really happy about his role. He’s not pretending to be something he’s not.”

Thanks to the upbringing from his father and mother, Missy, Storm embodies that philosophy, but it also permeates the entire team, Storm said.

“Everyone has a role, everyone knows their role,” Storm said. “And the best part is everyone respects everyone else’s role. Everyone on the team knows what you bring to the table, and no one tries to do anything they can’t bring to the table. I think that’s why we work so well together.”

The Red Eddies might not mesh as well without Storm around, Adams said.

“Storm’s a winner. He just wants to win,” Adams said. “He pushes (his teammates) in practice, even though they’re his best friends. He challenges them, but he’s a good teammate. He doesn’t demean them. He’s positive and encouraging.”

Again, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in that regard. Storm is thankful that his father isn’t just emotionally invested in him but in the team that grew up with him.

“I think the best thing about (Craig as a coach), which some people may say is the worst thing but …, is he doesn’t take anything. He makes us give our all,” said Storm, who is still making his post-high school plans. “Every practice is the state championship. He expects the best from all of us and he makes us work for it.”

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