ORLANDO, Fla. — The HBA Ballers from North Carolina built an early double-digit lead and withstood a late comeback bid by the Maine Athletic Club 17-and-under team to score a 54-52 victory in the opening day of pool play Wednesday at the AAU Division I 11th-grade boys basketball national championship tournament.

Houlton’s Kyle Bouchard led MAC with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Mike McDevitt of Greely of Cumberland Center had 14 points and four rebounds and Andrew Cartwright of Nokomis of Newport added 10 points and three rebounds.

Hampden Academy’s Zach Gilpin chipped in with eight points and three rebounds while Bangor’s Xavier Lewis had six points and four rebounds and Andrew Middleton of Edward Little High School in Auburn also grabbed four rebounds.

MAC (0-1) next plays at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Josten’s Center against the South Central Florida Highlanders.

The HBA Ballers, led by 5-foot-5-inch guard Steve Robinson Jr., led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, then used a 9-2 run to open up a 24-14 lead midway through the second period before McDevitt and Lewis combined to outscore HBA 7-2 in the final two minutes of the first half to pull MAC within 30-23.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bouchard and Cartwright closed the gap to 32-29 midway through the third period, then MAC forged a 39-39 tie when Bouchard scored off a Lewis feed with 15 seconds left in the quarter.

That tie was short-lived, as Robinson hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to give HBA a 42-39 lead entering the final period.

But MAC stayed close, and took a 50-48 lead on a 3-pointer by Cartwright with 1:46 left in the game.

HBA regained the lead at 53-52 with 47 seconds left, then MAC had two turnovers in its next two possessions before the North Carolinians added an insurance free throw with seven seconds remaining.

MAC had one final chance, but a 3-point attempt by Cartwright from the corner was blocked as time expired.

Avatar photo

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...