AUGUSTA — Edward Little girls coach Craig Jipson acknowledged he wanted nothing to do with Amanda Johnson and Skowhegan, at least in the early going of the Eastern A tournament.

“I told all of our coaches that I didn’t want to play Skowhegan in the first round,” he said. “You don’t want to come into this building and play a senior on a mission. And Amanda Johnson is on a mission.”

The second-seeded Red Eddies (16-3) did avoid No. 6 Skowhegan (12-7) in the quarterfinals, but the two will square off in the semifinals at the Augusta Civic Center at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Johnson scored 27 points, including five in overtime, to lift the Indians over No. 5 Mt. Blue 56-55 on Friday. Edward Little weathered a late rally to hold off No. 7 Hampden Academy, 60-50.

Now, the Red Eddies will turn their attention to Johnson, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North Player of the Year.

“She’s a great, great player,” Jipson said. “Skowhegan has a lot more tournament history than we do. (Skowhegan coach) Heath (Cowan) has won a lot of games in this building. I’d be a lot happier if they didn’t have Amanda Johnson.”

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The tournament presents plenty of challenges for teams.

Aside from the obvious — the opponent — the atmosphere and different court require an adjustment for many teams.

Not so for the Nokomis girls (18-0), the two-time defending Eastern B champs who open tournament play against Medomak Valley today.

“It won’t take us much time to settle in,” Nokomis coach Kori Dionne said. “It’ll be different for Medomak.”

The Panthers (13-6) returned just three players from a squad that reached the Eastern B final last season.

Nokomis, while graduating a few key players, returned a healthy core.

The teams will tip off at 9 this morning in the Bangor Auditorium.

“The tournament is a little bit different,” Dionne said. “The jitters can get into the game plan. We’re just excited it’s tourney time again.”

The Warriors tuned up for the tourney by scrimmaging Orono on Thursday night in Newport.

The Red Riots (15-3) are the top seed in Eastern C.

“We each ran a half of how we wanted to run things,” Dionne said. “It helped give us a different look.”

* * *

Madison boys coach Mike Packard says he’s pulling out all the stops to pump his Bulldogs up for the Class C tournament. First, he’s calling in junior high girls coach Jason Hartwell to give a motivational speech. Hartwell was part of the Valley High School juggernaught that won six straight state champioinships and over 100 games in a row from 1998-2003 and knows a lot about tournament pressure.

During today’s practice, Packard plans to play Bruce Springsteen bootleg tapes for the first 40 minutes or so while the team runs drills. It’s not especially evident whom Packard is trying to pump up since he’s a fan of The Boss, not necessarily his players.

“They choose their warm-up music, I choose the practice music,” Packard said. “I’m going to see (Springsteen) for the 26th time in March.”


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