Cox keys Edward Little past Windham

Cox (18 points, 15 rebounds) keys Edward Little past Windham

By Kalle Oakes

January 18, 2016

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AUBURN — It wasn’t long ago that the Edward Little boys’ basketball team bid “Auld Lang Syne” to the bumpy beginnings of the 2015-16 season.

The Red Eddies were struggling at 1-5, yes, but everyone in the starting five had a defined role, at least, except for captain and lone senior starter Austin Cox.

“He was probably our eighth man last year, and as recently as two weeks ago, and I’ve said it to Austin, we were like, ‘I don’t know. Is he going to be able to get it done?’ But he just kept working,” EL coach Mike Adams said.

Cox evolved from spiritual leader and complementary piece to multidimensional threat in a hurry. He racked up 18 points and 15 rebounds on Monday night, staking EL to a convincing 68-48 Class AA North victory over Windham.

Jarod Norcross Plourde led the Eddies with 22 points. Samatar Iman added 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

They’ve been the one-two punch all season, with Tyler Morin and C.J. Jipson’s distribution and aggressiveness setting a tone in the backcourt. It is no accident that the Eddies’ surge of six wins in seven games coincided with Cox coming out of his shell.

“A lot of hard work at practice, and a lot of hard rebounding drills. That’s been a key,” Cox said. “I’m getting a lot of shots up before and after practice.”

Cox scored six in the second quarter, including a pretty give-and-go with Plourde in the final minute. That, followed by a steal and 3-point play by Iman, sealed a 9-0 run to land EL a 31-22 halftime advantage.

He scored eight more to go with three assists in a tremendous third quarter, including a 3-point play via the offensive boards and a strike from beyond the arc.

“We talk a lot about grit, toughness and perseverance,” Adams said. “He waited his sophomore year and kept working and never said, ‘Oh, I’m not playing, so I shouldn’t work hard.’ He did it his junior year and he’s done it all this season.”

Led by Cox, EL completely dominated the glass. Included in the Eddies’ 50-27 overall disparity were 35 defensive rebounds, compared to only four second chances for Windham (6-7), all in the second half.

EL also kept Windham 3-point marksmen Nick Curtis and Mike Gilman under wraps. While 10 of the Eagles’ 16 field goals came from behind the line, they were scattered throughout the evening.

Windham’s run of seven consecutive points at the end of the first quarter, good for a brief 11-9 lead, represented its only back-to-back baskets.

“We closed out well,” Cox said. “We heard Gilman is having a good year. We kept him down. He still had quite a few, but he was quiet.”

Gilman finished with 15 points. Curtis added 14. They combined for seven 3s. Hunter Coffin, Kyle Kilfoil and Austin McGowan each hit one.

The Eagles shot 30 percent (16-for-53) from the field. After a sluggish 4-for-19 opening quarter, EL landed at a 53 percent clip.

“Gilman and Curtis, they can shoot, that’s for sure,” Adams said. “We tried to do some different things on them, and the guys responded very well on an off day for us offensively, where things weren’t clicking early on.”

Windham lurked within six points, 42-36, on a Curtis 3-pointer with 3:14 left in the third.

The next four hoops belonged to EL: Plourde’s 12-footer after offensive boards by Iman and Cox; Iman’s layup from Cox following another carom; Plourde from the baseline; and Cox’s 3-pointer courtesy of a skip pass from Plourde.

Buckets by Darby Shea (eight points) and Iman made it 55-38 at the end of three.

Morin (four points, nine rebounds, four assists) and Jipson (seven rebounds, six assists, two charges drawn) followed Cox’s relentless lead.

“We’ve been playing together for six, seven years, all the way up through,” Cox said. “We’ve got that team chemistry. We’re young, but last year we had one of the best teams in the state, and we practiced against them every day.”

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