The faces had changed somewhat, but the result was nearly the same.

Edward Little eliminated Oxford Hills for the second year in a row in the Class AA North boys’ basketball semifinals with a 55-41 win Tuesday at Cross Insurance Arena.

The defending state champions secured their third consecutive regional final berth. EL, the No. 2 seed, will face top-seeded Bangor at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Wol Maiwen led EL (18-2) with 21 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Storm Jipson added a season-high 19 points, and Max Creaser scored 10 points.

Spencer Strong led No. 3 Oxford Hills (13-7) with 15 points.

Edward Little had beaten Oxford Hills twice during the regular season, by 15 and five points. The Red Eddies also won 55-33 in last year’s semifinals.

Leading by six points at the half, Edward Little used a 15-4 run to pull away in the third quarter.

Edward Little’s Wo Maiwen is all alone at the basket as he dunks. He finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“I think it all starts with defense,” Jipson said. “We were really defensive-minded. That sets the tone for the whole entire game.”

Maiwen gave the Red Eddies an early spark with a breakaway dunk off a pass from Jipson, who was saving a loose ball from going out of bounds along the sidelines near midcourt.

“I just tried to save it. I had no idea where (Maiwen) was,” Jipson said. “It was not a behind-the-back pass, it was a behind-the-back save. He does a great job running the floor. That’s big for momentum for us.”

“I thought he was going to throw it over the top,” Maiwen said. “I had to throw it down.”

Maiwen had four points, six rebounds and three blocks in the first quarter.

Perhaps due in part to Maiwen’s presence in the paint, Oxford Hills struggled in the first quarter, missing 14 of its first 15 shots. A Will Dieterich 3-pointer pulled the Vikings within 10-6 just before the quarter ended.

“I think being down low and being right there with my hands up in the lane plays with people a little bit, a mind game,” Maiwen said.

Maiwen limited Oxford Hills’ standout center, Colton Carson, to four points. Carson picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter.

“I thought we were really aggressive tonight,” Edward Little Coach Mike Adams said.”We have a lot of respect for Oxford Hills and Coach (Scott) Graffam. I don’t know if there is a player that has had as big of an improved year as Spencer has in a long time. He’s played so well against us. So we had to defend him, and Colton is one of the best three-sport athletes the state’s ever seen and is a winner, so we had to defend him.”

The Vikings shot 24.5 percent for the game, while the Red Eddies shot 45.7 percent.

“I say to my assistant coaches, ‘Why does this happen down here?’ Part of it, obviously, is EL’s defense,” Graffam said. “They’re a good team, a quality team, and you know they’re going to play hard. They didn’t do anything special to us. Maiwen makes a difference. You look over your shoulder. You’re worried about him blocking shots.”

Oxford Hills used a half-court trap to try to speed up Edward Little and force some turnovers, and had some success in the second quarter.

A Strong 3-pointer to start the second got the Vikings within a point, as did a Dieterich layup off a Strong assist later in the quarter. But the Red Eddies never relinquished the lead, getting a three-point play from Creaser and a Maiwen jumper to take a 21-15 lead into halftime.

“We saw it at least one other time,” Adams said of the half-court trap. “Coach Graffam is a really good defensive coach and he gets his kids to play very aggressively and physical, and that trap is a different look … that changed the flow a little bit. I think once we got the ball where we needed to or wanted to, we got some better looks off that.”

The Red Eddies made their first five shots of the second half. Even when they weren’t clicking, they ended up with points. A pass inside intended for Creaser deflected off his thigh and into the hands of Jipson, who caught it in stride off a bounce and laid it in for a 31-19 lead. Three consecutive free throws and another Jipson layup off a Cam Yorke feed made it 36-19.

“My team did a really good job getting me comfortable with all of those easy looks (and) great passing,” Jipson said. “It was all off cuts. They did a great job finding me (for) easy, comfortable shots.”


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