SKOWHEGAN — Messalonskee and Skowhegan are both trying to win Eastern A girls basketball games with players who don’t have much varsity experience. Skowhegan, especially, compensates for that with scrappiness, and the Indians led Messalonskee by two at halftime on Tuesday afternoon.

But Skowhegan couldn’t quite match Messalonskee’s quick-strike firepower yet, and the Indians also don’t have anyone like Sophie Holmes. The Messalonskee sophomore had 12 points and four steals in the third quarter alone, which was when the Eagles pulled away for a 43-32 victory.

“Sometimes when you get an inexperienced team and things aren’t going the way you want them to, (you) have a tendency to hang your head and kind of lose a little faith in what you’re doing.” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “So (at halftime) we just kind of reiterated how we want to play, and just brought some things to light.”

“It’s a new group, so we’re going to work together, and play together, and see who’s good at what, try to use that to our advantage,” said Holmes, who finished with 25 points (9-of-17 shooting), eight rebounds and 10 steals.

Messalonskee (4-4) harassed Skowhegan’s ball-handlers by using a full-court press for most of the game. That led to 30 Skowhegan turnovers, including 17 in the first half. But Messalonskee was also thrown off by Skowhegan’s defense. The Eagles couldn’t get points by fast breaking, and Derosby thought they shot a little too quickly out of their sets. Ultimately, the Indians held a 19-17 lead at the half thanks to Eliza Bedard’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“Part of it was their zone,” Derosby said. “We kind of let it slow us down a little bit more than we wanted, and then when we got slow, we got sloppy. That’s all a testament to their defense. We talked about patience and ball movement, and we were still coming down and one pass, one shot — forcing. When we score in transition or take our time, we get the looks we want. It’s just being patient enough on the offensive end.”

The other big factor in Skowhegan’s lead was Noah Stevens, a senior forward. Stevens not only seemed to know where rebounds were headed, she attacked them with more ferocity than anyone on the court. Stevens finished the game with 18 rebounds, while the next highest player in the game had eight.

“Stevens played really big inside for them,” Derosby said. “She was a tough matchup for us all night. She just seems to always get her hands on the ball.”

In the third quarter, Messalonskee found the best strategy to keep Stevens from piling up the rebounds — the Eagles made their shots. Holmes knocked down two 3-pointers and Ally Turner (nine points) made one. After trailing 21-17, the Eagles ended the third quarter on a 20-2 run to lead 37-23. Messalonskee shot 8-for-15 in the third quarter and 5-for-29 the rest of the game.

“I was OK with the way we played,” Skowhegan coach Bob Witts said. “I thought we made them work for everything they got. It’s just that third quarter killed us.”

Coming off that 20-2 run, Skowhegan held Messalonskee scoreless for the first 6 minutes, 53 seconds of the fourth quarter. But the Indians still did not get closer than 37-30. Cailee Manzer led the Indians with eight points and Stevens had six, but it especially hurt that Tracey Swanson played limited minutes and fouled out with 5:41 to play in the game.

The top nine teams in Eastern A make the playoffs and Skowhegan (2-4) is 10th, just behind Mt. Ararat. The Indians face Mt. Ararat on Friday, and Witts said that’s the kind of game Skowhegan has to win to be in the playoff picture.

“That’s one thing I’ll say about this group of kids: They play really hard,” Witts said. “They come to practice and work. It’s just that when a kid doesn’t have any varsity experience, they’re basically learning on the job. We will be better as the year goes along, let’s put it that way. We still have some of the tougher teams to play, but we have a lot of teams still to play that are sort of like us. So they’re the games we need to win.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo