OAKLAND — The fans were screaming, and the coaches were shouting to be heard above the fans. Amidst this chaos, Messalonskee had three chances to win in the final minute. So you could say the Skowhegan girls were exactly where they wanted to be.

“That’s the moments we like the best,” Skowhegan senior guard Amanda Johnson said. “We like working hard. We like getting rowdy. We have a lot of girls on our team who can get really rowdy like that — we got pretty good at it. I think that’s why we’re winning these close ones.”

The Indians went to the wire again Friday night, holding Messalonskee to two field goals in the second half to survive for a 35-34 victory in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A girls basketball thriller.

Skowhegan barely missed the playoffs last season, but improved to 5-1 with the victory. Two of those wins were by one point, and another was by two points.

“These games, last year, we never could pull them out,” Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said. “We didn’t have confidence in ourselves. But this year, there’s a different attitude. There wasn’t a panic out on the floor.”

The final minute was hectic, but neither team scored after Skowhegan’s Adriana Martineau made a free throw with 2:01 left in the game to give the Indians a 35-34 lead.

Messalonskee (5-1) had two possessions in the final 50 seconds. The Eagles lost the first one on a traveling call, but got the ball back on a turnover with 26 seconds to play. Messalonskee could not get a shot, and when Mary Badeen tried to pass the ball inside, Martineau knocked it out of bounds with 4.6 seconds left.

After the Eagles called timeout, Shelby Cutten inbounded to Megan Pelletier, who was quickly double-teamed. Pelletier passed to Kassie Michaud in the right corner, but Michaud’s 3-pointer was short.

Pelletier got that kind of unwanted attention all night. She was swarmed whenever she touched the ball within spitting distance of the basket, and finished the game with four points, 16 rebounds, and only eight field-goal attempts. Two of those shots were from 3-point range.

“She’s a great player, so we tried to build a fort around the basket,” Cowan said. “Whenever she got a touch, we tried to dig it out of there, or make her take a shot that was off-balance. She can make that three, but certainly, if we have our choices, we’ll have her take that one as opposed to the 1-footer.”

Skowhegan’s ability to remove Pelletier as a consistent offensive option let the Indians back into the game. The Eagles were rolling early, and when Badeen (14 points, eight rebounds) hit a long jumper and a 3-pointer, the Eagles led 22-11 with 3:12 left in the first half.

Incredibly, Messalonskee would not make another field goal until Cutten drained a 3-pointer from the corner on the first possession of the fourth quarter — more than 11 minutes later. The Eagles were 2 for 22 from the field in the second half.

Meanwhile, Johnson was able to get shots for Skowhegan, and finished 10 of 24 from the floor for 20 points. Chelsey Whittemore, who had six points on a 6-for-8 performance from the line, was the Indians’ second-high scorer.

The Eagles will surely face more defenses designed around Badeen and, especially, Pelletier. During the fourth quarter, when every point was crucial, each took only one shot, and that may have cost Messalonskee the game.

“I have complete confidence in all the other kids,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “Teams are doing a really good job focusing on those two, but you’re going to definitely need to find ways to get the ball into their hands a little bit. That’s one of the adjustments we’re looking to make — just to make sure that everybody’s getting good, quality looks at the basket.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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