OAKLAND — Any list of the top boys basketball players in the state is going to feature Messalonksee’s 6-foot-8 Nick Mayo and Oxford Hills’ 6-6 Andrew Fleming near the top. On Friday night, the two stars met on the court for the first time this season.

After a sluggish start, Mayo and the Eagles earned the important 55-42 win. It was the sixth consecutive win for Messalonskee (9-4). Oxford Hills is now 7-6 in the tight Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A division.

“We keep this streak going. It helps in the long run,” said the Eastern Kentucky University-bound Mayo, who had 22 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and two steals.

Messalonskee spotted the Vikings an 11-point lead, and trailed 19-8 after one quarter. A 13-1 run to start the second quarter sparked the Eagles, who took their first lead since an early 3-0 cushion when Taylor Turner made a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second.

“I think it was a little of not playing for a week. It’s a big game, and we were trying to get a little bit too jazzed up,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “Our shot was a little off. It took us kind of refocusing, working on the fundamentals, and just doing what we do in practice every day. That’s working the ball inside-out, and having good movement, and playing really, really good defense.”

After Oxford Hills briefly re-took the lead, Messalonskee went on an 11-1 run to close the first half. Kyle LaFreniere hit four free throws for the Eagles, and Noah Caret sank a 3-pointer with one second left to give Messalonskee a 32-25 halftime lead.

“We just came out slow, and they were dictating at first. We had way too many turnovers, that was the main thing. Just taking care of the ball, that’s what we did well (after the first quarter). We limited turnovers, we executed on offense and defense,” Mayo said.

“They were a little tight (early), I thought. We didn’t play tight. Once they figured out how the game was going to go, they defended,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said.

After scoring 19 points in the first quarter, the Vikings scored just 22 points the rest of the game. Messalonskee made sure to always have a hand in Fleming’s face and played him tight. Fleming finished with 13 points.

“We know he’s a phenomenal basketball player, and when he starts getting hot, he doesn’t cool down very easily,” McLaughlin said of defending Fleming. “It was keeping him off balance, never giving him an open look and keep him as frustrated as we can. He had a couple runs here and there, but I’m proud of our guys.”

Oxford Hills’ plan to defend Mayo was to keep somebody in his face on the perimeter to keep him from getting a clean look at a three, and keep Fleming inside so Mayo couldn’t post up a smaller player.

“Early on it worked pretty well. But then Turner hit a three, and (Caret) hit a three, and when that happened we had to start extending,” Graffam said. “In the second half, we had some success with a 2-3 zone, only because they couldn’t hit an outside shot, but it did keep Mayo from getting every point he wanted.”

Added Mayo: “They did a mix of man and zone. Most teams are doing that. We were ready for that.”

The Vikings cut Messalonskee’s lead to five, 45-40, early in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles closed the game strong. With 1:59 to play, Mayo was fouled on a dunk, and sank the free throw to push the lead to 51-41.

Guard Blake Slicer led Oxford Hills with 17 points. Turner added 10 points and seven rebounds for Messalonskee. Nathan Violette scored nine points for the Eagles.

“It was a complete team effort from top to bottom,” McLaughlin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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