WINTHROP — There have been plenty of new experiences for Winthrop in its inaugural unified basketball season and Tuesday the Ramblers added another when they hosted their first playoff game.

“(It was) super exciting. The kids were all super nervous,” Winthrop coach Joan Thompson said. “The big question was, ‘Is this our last game, coach?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, it could be,’ so that was their biggest thing.”

As it would turn out, the top-seeded Ramblers (4-1) guaranteed themselves at least one more game thanks to a 55-50 win over No. 8 Messalonskee (2-5) in the Eastern A quarterfinals.

Malcolm LaVallee led a balanced Winthrop scoring attack with 10 points, while Nathan Jewel and Ruth Burke each had eight points. Sage Thomas chipped in with seven points, while Dakota Burke and Dillion Coston each finished with six.

“Things played out exactly the way they were supposed to,” Thompson said. “The score was kept close, everybody got a chance to shoot.

“…It was exciting to the end. I think it was a great game and (Messalonskee coach) Mr. (Tommy) Hill is an awesome coach, so we kind of have the same kind of coaching ideals.”

Messalonskee was led by R.J. Preo’s game-high 16 points. Tyler Elkins added 12 for the Eagles, Shawn McIntyre finished with 10 and Tyler Ward chipped in with six. According to Hill, the experience with unified has been a very worthwhile endeavor for his team.

“We’ve just had a very positive time,” Hill said. “I think both our athletes and our partners have really come together and it’s been a positive experience for everyone.

“It’s just seeing the faces of the kids when they score the first time and just how excited they are, whether it’s a player on your team or the opposition. For some of these kids when they score it’s the highlight of their day. It’s just priceless.”

Elsewhere in Eastern A unified action Tuesday, No. 3 Hampden held off sixth-seeded Oak Hill 34-20 to advance to the semifinals. The Broncos will face No. 2 Lewiston — who topped No. 7 Edward Little 34-18 Tuesday — at 5 p.m. Thursday in Lewiston.

No. 5 Cony, meanwhile, fell by a single point, 35-34, at fourth-seeded Oceanside. The Mariners will travel to take on Winthrop at 4 p.m. Thursday with a trip to the regional finals on the line.

“We were very fortunate today. The Maine women’s basketball team came to watch and it was quite the festive atmosphere,” Cony coach Paul Vachon said. “We lost by one but we had many smiles and many laughs. It was just a fun, fun atmosphere.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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