FAIRFIELD — Xavier Lewis played in Lawrence High’s Folsom Gym as a visitor, but Friday night’s game against Messalonskee was his first game on the court as a Bulldog. It didn’t take Lewis long to learn that Folsom is a nicer place when the Rowdies, Lawrence’s boisterous student section, are cheering for you rather than against you.
Lewis scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, helping Lawrence overcome a halftime deficit to take a 55-48 win over Messalonskee.
“It was exciting. It was a different experience. A different atmosphere. I enjoyed it,” Lewis, who played for Bangor last season, said.
Trailing 25-22 at the half, Lawrence took the lead for good on a Spencer Carey (19 points, 10 rebounds) free throw with 2 minutes, 1 second left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs forced 12 Messalonskee turnovers in the second half and opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run.
After a Lewis 3-pointer, Matt Saunders sank a layup with 4:21 left in the game, giving Lawrence (3-0) a 49-36 lead, its largest lead of the game.
Messalonskee (1-2) cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four points, 52-48, on a Jordon Holmes (22 points) 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, but Carey made one free and Lewis sank a pair in the closing seconds to seal the win.
“We came out flat in the first half. They brought it to us. The second half, we knew we had to come out and we did,” Lewis, who had 11 rebounds, said. “We stepped it up on D, we got a couple steals, pressured them and from there on out we were set.”
Much of the first half, particularly the second quarter, was played at a slower pace that favored Messalonskee. The Eagles played patient offense, finding the open shot on possession after possession.
“I think that was our goal coming in. We knew we were bigger. We had some size and so we tried to slow it down and take advantage of that, work ball screens and move it,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “When we got into the second half, we kind of fell in love with them getting up in tempo. They dictated and that’s the sign of a great team.”
Added Lawrence coach Mike McGee: “That’s what we said at halftime, they’re doing to us what we do to other teams. I’m proud of the way our kids played hard, but defensively we don’t have our legs. We’re no where near what we’ve got to be. Too many open shots, too many second shots. A poor effort defensively, but we hung in there and got the win.”
Lawrence led 36-34 after three quarters and the Bulldogs scored six points in the first 70 seconds of the fourth to push their lead to 42-34, to the delight of the loud Lawrence fans.
“Coach McGee gets them up, and they’re trapping and they’re running and jumping. They’re playing physical and it puts you in an uncomfortable environment. That’s the most hostile environment we’ve played in and the kids handled it well,” McLaughlin said.
Nick Mayo had nine points and eight rebounds for Messalonskee. Elijah Steele had eight rebounds and two blocks for the Eagles.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242