AUGUSTA — The Messalonskee boys basketball team hoped for a strong start Friday night against Edward Little in an Eastern A quarterfinal game.
Instead, the Eagles came out cold and a tad nervous, which made all the difference in a 67-51 loss to the Red Eddies.
Lew Jensen scored 20 points and Quin Leary added a double-double to lead No. 2 Edward Little, which jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back.
“We came out a little nervous,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said, “and they came out hot.”
Leary finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, including nine offensive, in a dominant performance. Sean Ford added 15 points while Nate Alexander chipped in with 11.
“It was the most complete game of the season for us,” EL coach Mike Adams said. “We took care of the ball and made our shots.”
EL (17-2) will play No. 3 Lawrence (15-4) in a regional semifinal game Wednesday.
No. 7 Messalonskee, which made its first trip to the Eastern A tournament in five years, finished 10-9.
Jordon Holmes led Messalonskee with 23 points. Elijah Steele had 12 points and Nick Mayo finished with nine points and eight rebounds for Messalonskee.
Despite the early exit, the Eagles enjoyed a dramatic turnaround from last season, in which they won just five games.
“For us to go from where we were to where we are now, it’s phenomenal,” McLaughlin said. “But that 13-0 run was a big hill to climb for us. We kept chipping away and chipping away but EL always responded.”
Messalonskee, which missed its first seven shots, trailed by as many as 16 in the second half before it stormed back at the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles used a 19-8 run to pull within 54-49 with about four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Holmes made three 3-pointer — including one from just inside half court at the third quarter buzzer — to spark the run.
“We knew we would push back,” he said. “It was guaranteed that we would make it a game. We knew we could play with them.”
The Eagles did, but the Eddies responded with a key run of their own to put the game away.
Leary sparked a 10-2 run with four points off offensive-rebound putbacks, and EL extended its lead to 62-49 with a little more than two minutes left.
“The game was all about runs,” McLaughlin said, “and they seemed to have an answer. We just ran out of time.”
Added Holmes: “We battled back. We made a run but then they went on a run. It was tough.”
Leary made six 3-pointers — two shy of matching an Eastern A single-game tournament record.
He made two in the opening two minutes and finished with four in the first quarter alone.
“It was a tough start,” Mayo said. “That kind of hurt us, but we battled back.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640