AUGUSTA — You can come up with three or four reasons the Mt. Blue boys basketball team stopped Edward Little in the Eastern Maine Class A semifinals Wednesday night.

You could also come up with three or four reasons Edward Little almost won. It was that close.

In the end, the Cougars got some big plays from Blake Hart and Eric Berry down the stretch to post a 52-49 victory that puts them in Friday night’s regional championship game.

“As we said yesterday in practice, the team that can execute better on the offensive end is probably going to win,” Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey said. “In the end we did just a little bit better job than they did, not a whole lot better.”

The Cougars looked to have the game in hand when Hart hit Nick Hilton with a court-length pass for a layup coming out of a timeout. That made it 47-40 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left.

“We’ve had like four or five of those all year,” Hart said. “Nick Hilton was a wide receiver for our football team so it’s pretty easy to throw it to him.”

Edward Little senior Omar Haji-Hersi, who scored a game-high 23 points, answered with a pair of 3-pointers to cut the lead to 47-46 with 1:15 left. Mt. Blue held the ball looking for a foul but Berry found an opening for a layup to make it 49-46.

“That was his decision really not mine,” Bessey said. “Actually I would have pulled the ball back out but when they make them obviously it’s a whole lot better.”

The Cougars went up by six on Steven Yardley’s free throw with 14 seconds left, but the Eddies wouldn’t go away. Ian Therriault was fouled with 9.2 seconds left. He made the first, missed the second and Sean Ford put in the rebound to make it 52-49.

The Cougars turned the ball over with 5.5 seconds left, and suddenly the Eddies were a 3-pointer away from tying the game. They got the look they wanted but Quin Leary’s attempt from just to the left of the circle bounced off the front rim.

“It’s disappointing that it’s over but it was a great game,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said.

The Eddies spent most of the game denying Mt. Blue’s Cam Sennick the ball. The 6-foot-6 center who finished with 11 points was the victim of a number of different defenses, starting with a diamond-and-one.

“I just tried to suck as many people to me as I could,” Sennick said. “It opened up a lot of my teammates.”

Both Yardley (10 points) and Hart (12) hit a pair of 3s as the Cougars patiently passed the ball around the perimeter. The Eddies strung together eight strait points to take a 26-21 near the end of the first half, but Berry hit a free throw and senior reserve Chris Malone stuck a 3 from the right corner with two seconds left to make it 26-25 at intermission.

The Cougars went to an effective half-court trap in the second half, which disrupted EL’s offense and forced some key turnovers.

“It’s something that we’ve been very effective with and we actually saved it for the second half,” Bessey said. “It was good to us because we got some separation so we could make a few mistakes.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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