OAKLAND — As we head into the second half of the season, we know a few things about the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division. We know the Lawrence High School boys basketball team is going to play hard for the entire game, and can rally from double digit deficits to win. We know when Messalonskee needs a big basket, the Eagles are going to get the ball inside to 6-foot-7 big man Nick Mayo.
Those things we know collided on Monday night, but it was Mayo’s inside presence that helped Messalonskee hold off a furious Lawrence rally and take a 65-62 home win in front of a packed gym.
“That rivalry is intense, and that environment is one that you want every high school kid to experience. The crowd was rocking,” Messalonskee head coach Pete McLaughlin said.
Messalonskee (8-3) led by as many as 16 early in the third quarter, and led 48-38 going into the fourth. Lawrence, which has comeback wins over Cony and Lewiston on its resume, didn’t flinch. When Seth Powers hit a layup off a pass from Cole Robinson, the Bulldogs tied the game, 56-56, with 2:47 to play.
“I’m just real lucky. I coach outstanding kids. The kids stick together. The chemistry is outstanding,” Lawrence head coach Jason Pellerin said. “They just believe. We never get satisfied. It’s just a real credit to these kids.”
The teams traded baskets, and Powers, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, scored to knot it at 58-58 with 1:43 to go.
“Seth is an outstanding athlete. He’s just really coming around for us. He’s starting to play with a certain amount of confidence,” Pellerin said.
Ryan Erskine hit a pair of free throws with 1:19 left to give the Eagles the lead for good. After a Lawrence turnover, Taylor Turner made a foul shot to push Messalonskee’s lead to 61-58. While Powers was able to hit two shots in the final minute for Lawrence, Turner and Jordon Holmes each made to free throws in the final 22 seconds to keep the Eagles on top.
“It came down to turnovers. We turned the ball over way too much,” Mayo, who grabbed 13 rebounds, said. Mayo scored five of his team-high 19 points in the final four minutes.
“(Lawrence) picked up their intensity. We turned the ball over a bit, and we weren’t taking care of business. We slowed it down. We called a timeout, and talked about getting the big man (Mayo) the ball and letting him take over the game,” McLaughlin said.
Added Pellerin: “We just wanted to make (Mayo) work every possession. We wanted to try and deny him the ball whenever we could. He’s a great athlete. He’s just phenomenal, and we did all we could.”
Messalonskee played without starting forward Jordan Carson, who was out sick. McLaughlin called Carson Messalonskee’s bull in a china shop, and his absence meant Turner, a sophomore, and Eric Van Der Karr, saw more minutes. Turner scored 13 points off the bench, while Van Der Karr grabbed five rebounds.
“(Carson’s) scrappy. He gets the boards and putbacks, but Eric came in and did a good job,” Mayo said.
Brad King scored a game-high 21 points for Lawrence and had eight rebounds.