BOX SCORE

Edward Little 71 Deering 59

D- 10 20 13 16- 59
EL- 16 20 14 21- 71

D- Houssein 8-0-18, Germain 3-4-10, Morrione 3-1-10, Anda 3-2-8, Langella 2-0-6, Kamalandua 2-1-5, Randall 1-0-2

EL- Creaser 10-2-25, Brown 1-7-10, Shea 2-6-10, Milks 4-0-9, Yorke 1-5-7, Jipson 2-1-5, Nichols 2-0-5

3-pointers:
D (7) Morrione 3, Houssein, Langella 2
EL (6) Creaser 3, Brown, Milks, Nichols 1

Turnovers:
D- 16
EL- 17

FTs
D: 8-15
EL: 21-31

AUBURN—Edward Little boys’ basketball coach Mike Adams calls his team “vanilla.”

He also adds that he likes vanilla.

And Saturday afternoon, the Red Eddies’ brand of vanilla was enough to defeat Deering in a showdown of one-loss, Class AA North contenders in a pivotal midseason contest.

The Rams took early leads of 3-0, 5-2 and 7-5, but Edward Little closed the first period on a high note, when in a sign of things to come, senior reserve Daniel Milks drained a 3-point shot just before the horn for a 16-10 advantage.

Despite being hindered by foul trouble, Deering hung tough in the second quarter, erasing an eight-point deficit and tying the game at 27-27 and 29-29 before the Red Eddies scored seven of the final eight points of the period and took a 36-30 lead to halftime after senior Max Creaser drained a 3 just before the horn.

The Rams kept pushing the boulder up the mountain in the third quarter, tying the game one final time at 39-39, but a 7-2 closing run by Edward Little, capped by yet again a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, this one from junior R.J. Nichols, made it 50-43 heading to the fourth period.

There, Deering never got closer than six points and the Red Eddies’ ability to execute the fundamentals as they do so well allowed them to pull away and prevail, 71-59.

Edward Little got a game-high 25 points from Creaser and 10 apiece from senior Austin Brown and sophomore John Shea as it won its eighth game in a row, improved to 9-1 and snapped the Rams’ seven-game win streak, dropping Deering to 8-2 in the process.

“We’re pretty vanilla, but I like vanilla,” Adams said. “There’s nothing really flashy about us, like the last couple years with Wol (Maiwen). We’re not draining 3s everywhere. We’re not high-flying. We’re kind of a 1980s high school basketball team. We run a lot of motion, a lot of high-low. We try to get the ball in the paint. Guys are unselfish. We pass and move. If you like basketball, I think we’re fun to watch.”

February comes early

Deering and Edward Little have established themselves as top contenders in Class AA North and big things could be in store for both squads.

The Rams started by winning at Oxford Hills, 84-60, then lost at South Portland, 74-62. After a 74-51 home win over Lewiston, the Rams downed host Windham, 60-43, rallied past visiting Bonny Eagle, the defending Class AA South champions, 65-61, beat visiting Cheverus (75-49), held on for a 50-49 win at Portland, their first over the Bulldogs at the Expo since 2006, then enjoyed home victories earlier this week over Scarborough (61-47) and Oxford Hills (72-65).

The Red Eddies, meanwhile, won their opener, 58-44, at home over Windham, then lost at Thornton Academy, 66-49. Edward Little bounced back to defeat visiting Cheverus (73-64), visiting Gorham (66-55), host Portland (55-48), visiting Bangor, the defending Class AA state champion (56-42), visiting Lewiston (72-47), host Bonny Eagle (63-47) and visiting Leavitt (73-50).

Last year, the host Red Eddies eked out a 63-61 home victory over the Rams.

Saturday, Deering sought its first win over Edward Little since Dec. 11, 2015 (76-62 in Auburn), but instead, in front of a boisterous crowd, the Red Eddies made it four straight in the series.

The Rams started fast, as senior Max Morrione hit a 3-pointer 26 seconds in.

Shea then made a free throw and the next time down, Shea made another foul shot, but a layup after a steal from senior Askar Houssein gave Deering a 5-2 advantage.

After Shea made yet another free throw, a putback from Creaser tied the game.

With 4:44 to go in the first period, two free throws from senior Loki Anda gave the Rams what proved to be their last lead.

Creaser set up Milks for a layup to tie it, then Brown was fouled on a 3-point shot and made all three subsequent free throws. Milks added two points on a putback for a 12-7 Edward Little lead.

After Morrione made a free throw for Deering, Shea answered with one for the hosts. Anda then set up senior Jesse Kamalandua for a layup, but just before the clock struck zero, Milks drained a long 3 for a 16-10 Red Eddies’ advantage.

“Daniel Milks had a huge first half,” Adams said. “He’s been playing with a lot of energy for us.”

The second quarter would be more of the same, as the pace increased.

A basket from Anda opened the frame, but senior Cam Yorke made two foul shots, then senior Storm Jipson drove for a layup and a 20-12 Red Eddies’ advantage.

Houssein countered with a driving layup, then Houssein fed senior Mike Randall for a layup, but Brown hit a long 3 to make it 23-16.

After Houssein scored on a runner, Shea set up Creaser for a layup, but Houssein drained a long 3, then Houssein found sophomore Nick Langella in transition for another 3 and the Rams were within one, 25-24.

“Nick is a good young player with a positive future,” said Deering coach Todd Wing. “Guys wait for their number to be called. His was and he stepped up.”

Creaser answered with a putback, but in transition, Houssein found Morrione alone in the corner and Morrione sank a 3 to forge a 27-27 tie.

Brown put the Red Eddies back on top with two free throws, but Anda tied the game with a putback.

With 1:37 to go in the half, Edward Little went back on top, as Milks drained a baseline jumper. Creaser added two foul shots and after Kamalandua answered with one for Deering, Creaser buried a 3 just before the halftime buzzer to give the Red Eddies momentum and a 36-30 lead.

“That was big to get the team ready for the second half,” Creaser said.

“We had to make sure we got the last shot of the quarter against a team like Deering because that can be the difference in the game,” Adams said. “I was happy with our ability to run the clock down and get the last shot.”

Creaser led all first half scorers with 11 points. Milks added nine off the bench and Brown had eight. The Rams were paced by nine points from Houssein and seven from Morrione.

Deering started the second half quickly, as senior Darryl Germain, who had been held scoreless in the first half, got an off-balance runner to drop and Houssein fed Anda for a soaring dunk, but Jipson momentarily stemmed the tide with a free throw.

With 5:04 to go in the third quarter, Houssein hit a runner to cut the deficit to one. After Creaser scored on a putback, Morrione buried a 3 to tie it, 39-39, with 4:18 left, but that would be the final tie of the contest.

Nineteen seconds later, a Creaser fadeaway jumper gave the Red Eddies the lead for good and Shea added a pair of free throws.

After Houssein made a layup for the Rams, off an inbounds set, Brown set up Shea for a layup and a 45-41 advantage.

“Shea’s a load,” said Wing. “We tried to prepare for him.”

A Germain foul shot pulled Deering within three, but Nichols hit a jumper and after a Germain free throw, Nichols hit a 3 from the corner just before the horn and Edward Little held a 50-43 lead.

“The story of the game was probably the 3s at the end of the quarters,” lamented Wing. “Edward Little’s a good team. They expose you the minute you break down. We’ve talked about that and today it came to light.”

The Red Eddies then fended off every Deering attempt at a comeback in the final stanza.

Yorke set up Creaser for a fastbreak layup to start the fourth and after Kamalandua made a reverse layup for the Rams, Brown found Shea off another inbounds set for a layup and a nine-point lead.

Langella made a 3 with 5:32 on the clock to make it 54-48, but Deering would get no closer.

Twenty-two seconds later, Creaser made a 3. Brown then added a foul shot to push the lead to double digits.

Houssein answered with a long 3-point shot, but after a steal, Brown found Jipson for a layup to make it 60-51.

A pair of Germain foul shots pulled Deering within seven, but Nichols found Creaser for a corner 3-point shot and that proved to be the backbreaker, as Creaser took a pass from Yorke and made a layup, Yorke sank two free throws and Brown made one for a commanding 68-53 advantage with 1:28 remaining.

After a Germain layup, Yorke made a free throw, then Yorke made a layup for the Red Eddies’ final points.

In the waning seconds, Germain made a layup and Houssein did the same, but that merely accounted for the 71-59 final score.

“We stuck with fundamentals and locked down on their athleticism and just played like we play,” Creaser said. “They’re a push-the-tempo team, so we tried to keep it together and not let them get ahead of us or make runs. It was pretty frustrating (early), but we had to stay together and we got it going.”

“Deering’s a very good team and this is a very good win for us,” Adams said. “They pose a lot of matchup problems for us. Loki has gotten a lot better from last year. Askar is phenomenal. Darryl is still very, very good. Marrione hit some big 3s.”

Creaser led all players with 25 points. He also had five rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Creaser is a good player,” Wing said. “He’s kind of a throwback. He’s got a good mid-range game and he’s good on the boards. You’ve got to always know where he is.”

Brown added 10 points and four rebounds, Shea had 10 points and seven boards.

“John a sophomore and he’s still learning,” Adams said. “He recognized that if he showed for the ball, it opened up our second and third options. Then we went with our cutting offense later in the game.”

Milks contributed nine points, Yorke seven (to go with four rebounds and three blocks) and Jipson and Nichols five apiece.

“Our strength is moving the ball,” said Creaser. “Anybody on our team can step up and score when we need them to. When we need someone to step up, they can.”

Edward Little had a 32-30 rebounding edge, overcame 17 turnovers and hit 21-of-31 free throws.

Deering was paced by 18 points from Houssein, who also had five assists and three steals.

Germain (seven rebounds) and Morrione were also in double figures with 10 points apiece. Anda added eight points (and a game-high 10 rebounds), Langella had six and Kamalandua five (to go with five rebounds).

“Jesse came in and played big minutes for us,” said Wing. “That’s something you have to have, developing for the end of the year.”

Randall, who was hindered all game by fouls, had two points.

“Mike is a warrior,” Wing said. “He’s playing on one foot. He twisted his ankle. We tried to get as much out of him as we good.”

The Rams turned the ball over 16 times and made just 8-of-15 free throws.

Much to accomplish

The teams will meet again Jan. 28 in Portland, but each squad has multiple challenges in the interim.

Edward Little is back in action Monday with a key test at Bangor.

“This gives us confidence, but we need to stick with it,” said Creaser.

“We have things to fine tune,” Adams said. “We still have to rebound better. The guys are working hard.”

Deering will play at Sanford Tuesday, then welcomes Windham Friday before returning to the Twin Cities Monday, Jan. 20, to meet Lewiston.

“You have to go through adversity, but so far, so good,” said Wing. “The good thing is that in AA North, we play each other twice now. We’ll take the film and we’ll learn from it and adjust. Obviously, we have some warts we have to remedy, but I’ll take this team to the end. Every team has a bump in the road and tonight was our bump, but we’ll be fine. We’re a team on the rise.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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