FAIRFIELD — Inside a loud Folsom Gym at Lawrence High School, the Messalonskee High School boys basketball team scratched a seven-year itch.
Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin did some research and found it had been seven years since the Eagles went into Folsom and won. So when Mesalonskee took a 58-50 win in front of the loudest crowd this side of the tournament, McLaughlin was elated.
“It’s sold out. People are standing all around. They thrive on that. Lawrence has done that for years. With (former coach) Mike McGee, with Jason (Pellerin) now. He’s got that same mentality,” McLaughlin said. “I think it was just matching their intensity. Being physical, forcing them into one posession, and just playing fundamental basketball.”
Messalonskee ends the regular season at 13-5, and will face Edward Little (11-7) in the Eastern Class A quarterfinals next Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Lawrence, now 8-10, will play a preliminary round game at Lewiston (8-10) on Wednesday.
Lawrence fed off the crowd early. The Bulldogs led 20-12 after a quarter and 28-19 midway through the second. That’s when the Eagles settled down. Messalonskee closed the second quarter with a 15-2 run to take a 34-30 halftime lead.
“That envirornment is so electrifying, when it’s pulsing through you. They’re high school kids. We recognize that. We settled into our routine, got used to the envirornment and played the game of basketball,” McLaughlin said.
A key was exploiting the mismatch that is the Eagles 6-foot-7 Nick Mayo, who scored 10 of his game-high 27 points in the second quarter.
“You’ve got get used to the crowd and the craziness. Once we mellowed out and played our game, we settled down,” Messalonskee senior Jordon Holmes said. “We were like, âO.K., Mayo has a mismatch. Let’s feed it to him.'”
“Nick’s very talented. He hit a lot of tough shots tonight,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “We tried to take away his post game and he stepped out and hit jumpers. Then we had to crowd him on his jumpers and he hit floaters.”
The Bulldogs regained the lead on a Taylor Slaney (17 points) basket with 3:02 left in the third, and 30 seconds later, Cole Robinson made a 3-pointer to push Lawrence’s lead to 43-39. Again, the Eagles went on a run, scoring nine straight points to take the lead.
A Slaney three tied the game at 48-48 with 5:47 left in the game, but Messalonskee held Lawrence to just two points the rest of the game.
Mayo had 15 rebounds to go with his 27 points, while Holmes scored nine points. Brad King scored 16 points for the Bulldogs, and Pellerin was glad to see his team play well after struggling at Bangor on Tuesday.
“We didn’t play well against Bangor, and we came out and played this game tonight. They understand that one game doesn’t lead to another. It’s the next 32 minutes,” Pellerin said.