PORTLAND – The Maine Red Claws might not make the NBA Development League playoffs but if they keep playing as they did Sunday, they’re going to have a say how the seedings turn out.

For the second consecutive home Sunday, the Red Claws shook up the top of the East Conference, this time beating the Iowa Energy 112-101 at the Portland Expo. The loss dropped the Energy into a first-place tie with idle Springfield; both are 22-16.

Morris Almond led the Red Claws with 29 points and Kenny Hayes had his second triple-double of the season, scoring 26 points with 12 rebounds (11 defensive) and 12 assists.

Last Sunday, the Claws beat Springfield as Hayes scored a team-record 52 points.

The Red Claws (17-24) never trailed, taking control with nine consecutive points to break an early 5-5 tie, and led by as much as 18. Iowa pulled within seven four times in the fourth quarter.

“We were still bitter from that game we lost (Saturday, a last-second 89-88 decision at Canton),” said Hayes. “It was a game we should have had. I’m just proud we kept our head up and came here and fought and came away with a win.

“We started from the jump. Everyone was focused, we were sharing the ball, playing defense and that’s all you can ask for.”

Maine is five games out of a playoff spot with nine games remaining.

“We have a razor-thin margin of error,” said Red Claws Coach Dave Leitao.

The Red Claws built their 18-point lead when Xavier Silas hit two foul shots with 10:04 remaining. Then Iowa turned up the defensive pressure and got back in the game. With Mike Efevberha scoring 10 of his 29 points in the fourth, the Energy got to within seven four times in the fourth.

The last came at 104-97 when Cartier Martin hit two foul shots with 2:03 left. That led to a wild sequence. After Hayes missed a shot, he stole the ball and went in for a layup, but his shot was blocked by Patrick Ewing Jr.

The Energy came back on a fast break, but Hamady N’Diaye blocked a layup by Ben Strong at the rim. Hayes, taking a pass from Courtney Pigram, hit a 3-pointer to make it 107-97.

The Energy came back, but N’Diaye blocked Brandon Ewing inside. That led to a foul shot by Hayes and the Red Claws were in firm control.

“I’m kind of familiar with things like that, end of the game situations with guys going to the rim, basically me defending,” said N’Diaye, who signed with the Red Claws on Feb. 27. “It’s just, that time, we need to make a stop and that’s the main thing I do — block shots and play good defense.

“When I do that at the end of a game, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

NOTES: DeShawn Sims, last year’s D-League Rookie of the Year making his home debut after joining the Red Claws last Tuesday, suffered a groin injury in the first half and did not play in the second … Deering High’s Class A boys’ basketball champions were honored at halftime.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH