SKOWHEGAN — When Erskine Academy boys basketball coach Ben Willoughby needed one player to step up and take control of Friday night’s game at Skowhegan Area High School, he knew exactly which player to which to turn.
“Devin Duncan has played for me for three years, and I have confidence that when it gets to crunch time, he’s the guy whose hands I want the ball in,” Willoughby said. “With a couple minutes left, I told him I wanted the ball in his hands all the time, and I wanted him to be the one to take shots for us.”
A senior guard, Duncan scored Erskine’s final 14 points, helping the Eagles overcome an eight-point deficit to take a 56-53 win in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A play.
It was the first win of the season for Erskine (1-7). Skowhegan is also 1-7.
“The guys were getting kind of tired of getting pushed around,” Duncan, who scored a game-high 22 points, said. “We were supposed to win this game, so in the fourth quarter we just decided to do it.”
Added Willoughby: “We finally played with a sense of urgency.”
Duncan made a pair of free throws with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left to tie the game at 48-48. With 2:13 to play, Duncan made a 3-pointer from the right arc to give the Eagles a 51-48 cushion and the lead for good.
“It was definitely a good feeling to get the lead again,” Duncan, who went 11 for 12 at the line, said.
Duncan made five more foul shots in the game’s final 25 seconds to push Erskine’s lead to 56-50, and Skowhegan’s Issac Witham made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We lost our rhythm,” Skowhegan coach Dave Simpson said. “We were playing their tempo instead of playing how we got where we got.”
Until the fourth quarter, Skowhegan controlled most of the game. The Indians led by as many as nine points in the second quarter before the Eagles rallied to cut the deficit to 26-25 at the half. Erskine led for a total of 41 seconds in the third quarter, and Skowhegan closed the third with an 8-2 run to extend its lead to 44-36.
Throughout the first three quarters, Skowhegan’s 6-foot-4 center Taylor Bacon was a tough matchup for the Eagles. Bacon scored a team-high 19 points, all in the first three quarters, and scored 12 points off putbacks on offensive rebounds.
“We did a poor job of keeping (Bacon) outside of the paint, of making him catch the ball and face up. He killed us on the offensive glass. He’s a tough matchup. That’s a big, young man and he uses his size very well,” Willoughby said.
In the fourth, Erskine’s big men, including Caleb Rivera and Caleb McGuire, did a better job boxing out Bacon (13 rebounds) and keeping him out of the paint and that was a defensive key to Erskine’s comeback. Another key was defending Dequan Frost. The sophomore scored 18 points for the Indians, including three 3-pointers, but also was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Skowhegan started two sophomores and a freshman, and Simpson said this was one of his young team’s better efforts.
“They’re learning. That was a great game,” Simpson said.
McGuire had 12 points for the Eagles, while Rivera added 10.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242