PARIS — In a physical rematch of a previous showdown this season, Oxford Hills pulled away in the third quarter and took home a 70-63 Class AA North boys basketball victory over Lewiston on Thursday.

Oxford Hills plays physically, it’s their identity.

“We’re always physical and we always think it’ll be a foul,” Oxford Hills senior Eli Soehren said. “We don’t play for fouls, but we play to be physical and if there’s a foul, there’s a foul.”

There were 63 free throws shot between the two teams, with Lewiston converting 19 of 27 and Oxford Hills making 23 for 36.

Oxford Hills (6-1) coach Scott Graffam was concerned at the beginning of the season because not many of the Vikings had prior experience at the varsity level. However, he said that through the first seven games the players have proven to be tough enough to compete in Class AA.

“Going into the season, we thought we had some depth, but not many kids have played Class AA basketball,” Graffam said. “The only AA games we played last year were two Edward Little games and two Lewiston games. Other than Isaiah (Oufiero) and Eli, who played two years ago, we didn’t know how they’d react. I am pleased with how we’ve grown into the AA level. We have good athletes and are tougher than we have been in a long time, physically and mentally. We are going to be even better a month from now.”

It was a close contest in the first half as neither team could pull away further than four points.

Eli Bigelow scored five points for the Blue Devils (4-3) to help keep the team tied with the Vikings at 12-12 at the end of the first quarter. Donovan Jackson helped out with three first-quarter assists and a layup that gave Lewiston a 10-6 advantage, the biggest lead of the first half for either team.

On the Oxford Hills side, it was a spread-out offensive attack with four players scoring, including Teigan Pelletier’s four points that led the Vikings in the first quarter.

Pelletier, who has had multiple games over 20 points, finished with 10 on Thursday, due in part to foul trouble. 

David Omasombo, who usually starts for Lewiston but came off the bench Thursday night, caught fire in the second quarter. The senior guard scored eight points in the second and almost had 10 but missed a breakaway layup. Thankfully for Lewiston, teammate Malik Foster came charging in and caught the offensive rebound and put it back in to give Lewiston a 24-22 lead with 2:36 left in the first half.

Foster later in the quarter caught a pass at the top of the three-point line and drove on his defender to the hoop, making the layup and earning the foul shot after. Foster missed but sprinted in for his own rebound and scored another layup that put Lewiston ahead 30-28 with 53 seconds left in the first half.

Cole Pulkkinen scored six points in the second quarter for the Vikings. As a team, Oxford Hills shot 5 for 10 at the free-throw line in the second quarter while Lewiston shot 3 for 6.

Lewiston held a 31-29 lead heading into the third quarter until Oxford Hills went on a big run to start the period. The Vikings scored 11 unanswered points to take a 40-31 lead with four minutes left in the third.

“We needed that third quarter to pull away from them,” Soehren said. “That’s what they did to us last game and we had to come back. Thankfully we came back for that 10-point run and we kept that lead throughout the game, and it was great.”

Soehren scored eight points for the Vikings in the third quarter and finished with a game-high of 20. 

“Eli does so much for us besides scoring,” Graffam said. “He handles the ball, he doesn’t throw it away. He’s the best decision-maker for our team, obviously as a quarterback who threw for 1,900 yards (in football). I thought that he did well, Colby Dillingham had a good third and Tanner Bickford, Lincoln Merrill and Jake Carson all give us stuff that may not show up on the stat sheet but help. Isaiah Oufiero is our best defender and can take a player out of the game for a while.”

Both teams committed eight fouls in the third quarter, slowing the pace down and forcing both teams to the free-throw line.

Oxford Hills outscored Lewiston 25-11 in the third quarter and finished the period with a 54-42 lead.

“I tried to tell them to keep plugging away, stay tough and keep playing with intensity,” Lewiston head coach Elgin Physic said. “I think our biggest struggle came right out of the third quarter, we struggled scoring out of the gate with poor execution. I think it was a combination of shots not falling but also executing what we do. We just didn’t execute like we should’ve. If we had executed, we’d have easier shots than what we put up.”

Lewiston and Oxford Hills were a lot more even for much of the fourth quarter as sophomore guard Yusuf Dakane scored 10 of his 14 points for the Blue Devils in the period and helped Lewiston outscore Oxford Hills 21-16. Omasombo led the Blue Devils with 17 points.

“I think we take away a lot of positives, but we need to get better at the little things, i.e., helping the helper, stepping into the pass, basic fundamental stuff,” Physic said.

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