OAKLAND — Two weeks ago, Messalonskee was reeling from a 36-point loss to Edward Little. Things have prospered for the Eagles since then.
“I think it was looking at that, finding our flaws, and then completely putting it out of our mind,” Messalonskee senior forward Mikayla Turner said. “Not looking at it every time we go to play, like, â€˜What if we have another game like that?’ It’s just accepting that we did not play a good game that night, they played a good game, and then moving on.”
In its first game of 2014, Messalonskee hooked up with Skowhegan in one of the most exciting games of the young season. The Eagles took the lead for good in the third quarter, and held on for a 47-41 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A girls basketball victory Friday night.
“Both teams, they know each other really well,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “Socially, they all play together, so there’s a whole different element to that rivalry.”
The teams combined to make 14 3-pointers in 35 attempts — an excellent 40 percent success rate. There were few turnovers (23 combined), an interesting strategy move by Derosby, and a late bid by Skowhegan’s Alanna Atkinson to produce a miracle comeback.
Skowhegan (5-2) held a 21-16 lead early in the second quarter when 6-footer Morgan Buker picked up her third foul. Buker had played solid post defense, rebounded well, and drew attention to open things up on the outside for Atkinson and Taylor Johnson from three-point range. With her out of the game, Messalonskee took the lead and settled for a 25-25 at the half.
Delaney Collier opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer for the Eagles (5-2), and Messalonskee pushed that lead to 32-27 when Derosby called timeout with 5:26 to play in the quarter. After the timeout, the Eagles held the ball for nearly 90 seconds as Skowhegan stayed in a zone.
“Coach (Bob) Witts, not having coached against him before, I didn’t really know his tendencies,” Derosby said. “We just wanted to see what he was going to do early. My coaching staff is great. They offered that suggestion right off. We figured that would be a good time to see if we could get them out of a rhythm.”
Messalonskee led by as much as 37-27, but the Indians rallied back behind Buker, cutting the deficit to 37-33 early in the fourth quarter. Messalonskee’s Abby Roberts then took her only shot of the game, and rattled in a 3-pointer from the left wing.
“She’s maybe taken six or seven shots — I think she’s only missed one all season,” Derosby said. “She’s a field hockey goalie, so she has that presence of mind to stay calm.”
With Turner (13 points, nine rebounds) and Kelsey Mayo (nine points, 12 rebounds) sweeping the boards, Messalonskee led 43-35 after a free throw by Kassi Michaud with 52 seconds left. Atkinson drained a three with 30 seconds left to keep Skowhegan alive, and after Michaud (12 points) made two more foul shots, Atkinson (16 points) buried another 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining to make it 45-41.
Things got even more hectic for Messalonskee when the Eagles threw away an inbounds pass, and Skowhegan had the ball with a chance to get within a basket. But a long jumper was off and Mayo grasped the rebound and made two foul shots for the win.
“I think our kids played hard to the end,” Witts said. “I think it was the first time this year where we were put in a position where we had to fight back from a little bit of a deficit. I thought our kids hung in there really well. They gave a solid effort, and this game will help us down the road.”