PORTLAND – Point guard Curtis Jerrells is one of the batch of Maine Red Claws players acquired recently as the team takes aim at the playoffs.
But that push for the postseason took a step back Friday night in a 91-87 loss to the Canton Charge before a sold-out crowd of 3,045 at the Portland Expo.
Jerrells, a point guard, looked ready to make a game-changing defensive play with 1:43 left. With Maine down 85-82, Canton guard Kyle Weaver drove in the lane where Jerrells waited, ready to take the charge.
Weaver bowled over Jerrells and the whistle came quickly — a blocking foul against Jerrells. He jumped to his feet, appeared ready to argue but trotted away.
“I felt like I was there,” Jerrells said of being in position for a charging call. “But the call was made. He can’t go back and change it.”
Weaver sank the two free throws and the Red Claws had to keep playing catch-up.
Maine got one chance to tie it. Down 88-85 with 32 seconds left, Micah Downs’ 3-point attempt was short.
Maine dropped to 21-19. The Red Claws not only fell three games behind first-place Canton (23-15) in the D-League East, but moved down to third in the division, behind Erie (21-18), which beat Springfield on Friday night.
Maine has 10 games remaining, including a Sunday home game against Canton, and Coach Mike Taylor thinks his team is going in the right direction.
“We’re happy where the team is at and how hard we played tonight,” he said. “We’ve got guys new to the system, learning about their teammates. We’ll work through it.”
Jerrells came off the bench and played 28 minutes at point guard despite just joining the team Thursday night. He kept the offense running.
And shooting guard Josh Selby, who also joined the team Thursday night, coming in a trade with Canton, scored 14 points.
“The two guys made a good first impression,” Taylor said.
DaJuan Summers led the team with 16 points.
Reserve Omar Reed had a double-double (14 points/10 rebounds). Downs also scored 14. Chris Wright added 11. Fab Melo blocked seven shots and grabbed six rebounds.
“There is a lot of talent there,” Canton Coach Alex Jensen said. “It’s hard (with new players). They have to find their roles.
“That’s going to be a much different team on Sunday as they add in the new guys.”
After Downs’ miss near the end, the Charge missed a shot with seven seconds left but the ball was batted out to Kyle Gibson of Canton. He was fouled and sank a free throw for a commanding 89-85 lead.
NOTES: The Red Claws continued their trading spree, acquiring Jerrells from the Sioux Falls Skyforce for post player Chris Ayer. Jerrells, 25, who had European and D-League experience, is one of the four players obtained in the last two weeks, with Selby, Mark Tyndale and Gabe Pruitt.
Ayer was once a regular but hadn’t played the past two games because of Maine’s depth in the post. The Red Claws will be signing autographs at 4 p.m. today at the Maine Mall. Sunday’s game is at 1 p.m.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: