OAKLAND — Messalonskee girls basketball showed its giant-killer potential in last season’s Eastern A tournament. The Eagles knocked off Lawrence, then nearly beat an Oxford Hills team that went on to win the regional title.

This season’s Messalonskee team is a much different one, but it’s starting to show the same kind of resilience.

On Tuesday night, the Eagles were facing an undefeated Bangor team that had noticeable advantages in size and experience. Messalonskee sizzled early, and led by two at the half, but Bangor’s power was too much, and the Rams took a 63-51 victory.

“We’re going to build off this,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “We’ve been playing that way more consistently, as we gain confidence.”

The height difference between the teams was obvious in warmups, and carried out during the game. Bangor got rebounds from Cordelia Stewart (24 points, 12 rebounds), Mary Butler (12 points, 15 boards), Emily Gilmore (11 points, eight rebounds) and Katie Butler (eight points, eight rebounds). Messalonskee’s top rebounder was Sophie Holmes, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard.

Bangor’s resurgence is also a storyline. The Rams (6-0) went to the state final in the 2012-13 season, then finished 6-12 last season and missed out on the playoffs. Stewart missed last season due to injury.

“It’s good to have Cordelia back,” Mary Butler said. “I think that we have a positive mindset coming into this season. We’ve had success early on that we didn’t necessarily have last season, so I think we’ve used that momentum.”

Bangor had all the momentum once the game started, leading 10-2 in the first three minutes. Messalonskee (3-4) climbed back into the game and trailed 18-12 after one quarter.

The Eagles got almost all of their offense from Holmes and freshman Ally Turner, but those two were providing plenty of points. Holmes finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Turner added 20 points on only 11 field goal attempts. Turner opened the second quarter by driving for a layup and drilling a three, and then Taylor Easler ducked under Katie Butler for a layup.

Messalonskee, which had opened Saturday night’s win over Cony with a 22-0 run, ended up scoring the first 15 points of the second quarter to lead 27-18. Mary Butler was in foul trouble, and Bangor kept getting open 3-pointers against Messalonskee’s 2-3 zone. It took the Rams several minutes and a bunch of missed threes to remember that they built their early lead by going inside. Once the Rams switched strategies, Gilmore in particular was fierce underneath, and Messalonskee’s lead was down to 30-28 by halftime.

“Mary went out with a little foul trouble, and I had to put her back in the second, which I normally wouldn’t do,” first-year Bangor coach Joe Johnson said. “They were starting to run away with it, and we were taking bad shots — I don’t want to say bad shots, but taking threes when we should have been going back inside, like we did early in the game, and we did later in the game. Our size — that’s where our strength is.”

Turner and Holmes banged back-to-back threes to put Messalonskee ahead 36-33 in the third quarter, only to have Bangor respond with a 15-1 run. Stewart was 12 of 17 from the field, and it seemed whenever Bangor missed, a teammate was there with a rebound or putback.

“They’re skilled. They move the ball well. They’re huge,” Derosby said. “You just wear out after a little while.”

Leading 52-42, the Rams went into a stall with about five minutes left, and clinched the game at the line. Messalonskee did come up with the shot of the game, though, as Holmes swished a shot from about 30 feet out at the buzzer.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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