AUGUSTA — Edward Little junior Kaleb Main never lost faith in his ability to defend high-scoring Messalonskee guard Jordan Holmes, even after the Eagles’ senior drained two long 3-pointers in the first period of their quarterfinal matchup Monday morning.
“I was getting a little nervous there,” Main said. “But then I just stayed tight on him. It went well obviously.”
Main held Holmes to 15 points overall and gave the Red Eddies an added bonus by scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. His performance was among several factors that led No. 5 Edward Little to a 68-57 win against the No. 4 Eagles in Eastern Maine Class A action at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Red Eddies (12-7) advance to play top-seeded Hampden at the Civic Center on Wednesday while Messalonskee finishes at 13-6. The Eagles defeated the Eddies 63-52 during the regular season and made good on their game plan to limit Lew Jensen by holding the high-scoring junior to nine points. But after falling behind by 10 points in the second quarter, the Eagles never fully recovered.
“First-half turnovers hurt us quite a bit,” Messalonskee coach Pete McLaughlin said. “But I think it came down to what happened in the paint. They had 16 offensive rebounds. You just can’t do that. In a tournament game, you’ve got to lock it down.”
Messalonskee had the tallest player on the floor in 6-foot-7 junior Nick Mayo and as usual he delivered, scoring 23 points while hauling down 10 rebounds. But the Eddies were taller overall, led by 6-5 Andrew Middleton, the 6-4 Jensen and 6-2 Main.
“We’re long, we’re athletic,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said. “We not shooting the ball as well as I thought we would all year so we have to give ourselves more opportunities to score. (Today) we did it really well.”
Although Jensen struggled with his shooting in the first half and scored just two free throws, his teammates took up the slack. Middleton, a senior transfer from Leavitt, scored nine of his team-high 20 points in the first half despite going to the bench with his third foul in the second quarter.
“When Andrew plays like that, he can be a difference maker, ” Adams said. “Hitting jump shots, that makes teams have to play us.”
The Eddies led 28-20 at the half and ran the margin to 36-22 early in the third quarter when Luke Sterling broke free for a fast-break layup, Middleton hit a 3 from the left side and Jensen scored inside. Holmes, who hit two long 3s in the first quarter, didn’t score again until he converted a driving layup late in the third quarter.
“(Main) guarded him full-court the whole game,” Adams said. “He was all-conference defensively, he’s just a tough kid. He was the difference in the game, I thought.”
Main punctuated his performance with seven points in the fourth quarter which began with the Eddies in front 45-34. Main hit two layups, the second off a nice assist from Sterling, to put his team up 51-36. The Eagles drew to within nine (56-47) on a steal and layup from Holmes, but it was too little too late.