SKOWHEGAN — When the Messalonskee girls basketball team graduated about two-thirds of its offense, it looked like the Eagles would have to scrap for every win they could get this season. That was reinforced when the Eagles lost two of their first three games, including back-to-back losses to Bangor and Lawrence by a combined 40 points.

A couple weeks later, it’s still clear Messalonskee will be scrapping for wins. But now it’s working, and the Eagles are one of the surprise teams in Eastern A.

Messalonskee won its third straight game Saturday afternoon by rallying in the fourth quarter to defeat Skowhegan. After scoring 27 points in the first three quarters, Messalonskee exploded for 29 in the fourth and went home with a 56-46 victory and a 4-2 record.

“I’m begging them not to give me a reason to be home during February vacation, and they’re doing it,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said.

The Eagles start three players who are 5-foot-2 or 5-3, and for most of the first three quarters, it looked like the team that was a little less sloppy would slither away with the win. Skowhegan missed its first seven foul shots and ended up 8 of 23 from the line, but Messalonskee’s lead was only 21-17 at the half.

That the Eagles had a lead at all at that point was mainly because of their bench. With four players carrying two fouls apiece, Derosby mixed and matched, and in particular, freshman Taylor Easler played well at point guard to help Messalonskee maintain its lead.

The Eagles still led 27-24 late in the third quarter, but after scuffling all afternoon, Skowhegan (2-4) put everything together and played sublimely for 62 seconds. Adriana Martineau (12 points) started a 9-0 run by diving on the floor for a steal that led to a three-point play by Desiree Brochu. Morgan Buker (12 points, 11 rebounds) got in the act with a layup off a fast break, and the Indians led 33-27 at the end of the third quarter.

Somehow, during the break between quarters, the life force that had Skowhegan playing near-perfect basketball transferred to Messalonskee. Delaney Collier hit a couple baskets. When Kelsey Mayo (18 points, 13 rebounds) wasn’t scoring, she was kicking the ball outside for open shots. Kassi Michaud scored 11 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter, including two big 3-pointers.

In just 4 minutes and 23 seconds, the Eagles scored 20 points, and led 47-40.

“We knew that if we could get more people touching the ball, it would create that kind of balance we were looking for,” Derosby said. “I think we forced a lot less that quarter.”

After committing one turnover in the third quarter, Skowhegan had 10 in the fourth. The Indians couldn’t keep pace with the Eagles, who made their first six field goals and sank 14 free throws in the quarter.

“We were just hustling back and trying to stay tight, and make sure they didn’t get anything,” Mayo said.

“It’s game six in the season,” Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said. “Hopefully we’ll be ready to work at it on Monday in practice, and get better.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

mdifilippo@centralmaine.com