PORTLAND - The Maine Red Claws (25-23) used a surge late in the fourth quarter to overcome the Erie BayHawks (23-23) in front of an electrified crowd in their last home game at the Portland Expo Building Thursday night, securing the 109-102 victory as they continue their push toward their first playoff appearance.
The Red Claws controlled the game early, winning the tip off and striking first with a Jermaine Taylor three point shot and a pair of Chris Wright free throws. The BayHawks charged back with an 11-0 run to take an early six point lead. Wright would provide the answer, however as Maine gained the lead back with nine straight points from Wright and six from Taylor on back to back three pointers. Erie traded baskets with the Red Claws, taking a 28-26 lead on a pair of Demonte Harper free throws on a foul at the buzzer. The BayHawks would open the second with jump shots from Keith Benson and Tirrell Baines that were answered by three pointers from Micah Downs and Omar Reed to tie the game at 32. Erie would rebuild their lead, pushing it to five on three different occasions throughout the quarter, but never more as the Red Claws found the answer to each run and closed out the quarter on a 12-3 run, led by Taylor and Curtis Jerrells, who converted a layup with three seconds remaining to give Maine a 51-48 edge heading into the intermission.
The Red Claws and BayHawks came out of the locker room firing, trading points back and forth, with the lead changing seven times in the opening minutes before Erie found the hot hand, going on a 14-1 run late in the quarter on Cory Higgins and Nick Covington's deep shooting. The Red Claws would not go away, however, cutting the 14 point Erie lead to 8 on a Jerrells three pointer, a Wright layup and a Wright three pointer at the buzzer to cut the BayHawks' lead to 83-75. Taylor opened the fourth quarter with a runner and Mark Tyndale buried a three pointer, followed by a Wright dunk to cut the Red Claws' deficit to four. Higgins and Harper knocked down a pair of three pointers around four points from Taylor before Jerrells connected on three consecutive three pointers as part of a 13-3 run that gave Maine a 97-94 lead. Erie would get the lead back down to one with 44 seconds left, but Taylor and Omar Reed each scored in the paint to push the lead back to five and the Red Claws made their free throws down the stretch to push the lead to 109-100.
Leading the BayHawks was Higgins, with 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Erie also got solid efforts from Harper (15), Covington (13), Erik Daniels (12) and Mustafa Shakur (11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds).
For Maine, Taylor led all scorers with 30 points while also grabbing five rebounds. Wright finished with 29 points and five assists. Rounding out the Red Claws top performances were Jerrells (18 points, five rebounds), Tyndale (nine points and seven rebounds), Downs (nine points) and Reed (eight points, five rebounds).
Maine will travel to Erie for their final two games of the season, the first on Friday, April 5 at 7:00 PM.