READFIELD — Messalonskee and Maranacook/Winthrop are both headed to Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship games and high seeds in the playoffs in their respective classes, A and B. So both were eager to turn Tuesday’s season finale into an intense, physical dress rehearsal for the postseason.

Messalonskee scored three times in the fourth quarter to break a 4-4 tie and emerge with a 7-5 win at John Huard Field on the Kents Hill School campus.

“It’s always intense when we play Maranacook,” said junior attack Dylan Jones, who scored what proved to be the game-winner 2:28 into the fourth period. “We don’t get to see them very often, so when we do it’s a good show. It’s pretty important to us because they’re worth a lot of points, and the higher up we can get (in the Eastern A Heals) the better.”

Connor Smith led the Eagles (8-4) with a hat trick and an assist, while Austin Pelletier scored a pair of goals. Denver Cram had two goals and an assist for the Hawks (10-2).

Both goalies were outstanding in net. Elija Tuell made 24 saves for the Eagles, Isaiah Weston 24 stops for Maranacook/Winthrop.

“Both keepers were definitely on their game because they had plenty of opportunities and so did we,” Hawks coach Zach Stewart said. “Lacrosse is a game of momentum and we just couldn’t get that momentum on our side.”

“Their goalie played really well for them,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “We had a lot of chances in tight and they did, too. It was a tale of two goalies out there.”

The game got off to a bizarre start 52 seconds in after Caleb Chavarie opened the scoring for Messalonskee. Stewart asked for a stick check, and officials ruled Chavarie’s stick was too short. The goal stood, but Chavarie was assessed a three-minute penalty for playing with an illegal stick, which was removed from the game.

“I think over time the stick just kind of bent and creeped in like that. Then we had a couple of other penalties early that ruined our momentum. But the kids hung on,” Sheridan said.

The Hawks were unable to capitalize on that prolonged man advantage or a couple of more Messalonskee penalties in the period and found themselves in a 3-0 hole after Smith and Pelletier scored.

“To me, (the illegal stick penalty) was going to be the beginning of the end of the game for them because they have a three-minute, locked-in penalty and our man-up is lights out,” Stewart said. “But we got zero goals out of it.”

Ty Smith finally got Maranacook/Winthrop on the board with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Hawks didn’t immediately build on the momentum, as both Tuell and Weston starred for most of the second period. But James Canwell pulled them within one with 2:44 left and Cram tied it with 30 seconds left.

“Offensively, we didn’t click as well as we want to. We had a lot of dropped passes and a lot of turnovers,” Sheridan said. “But it’s to be expected on a wet surface. That affects things sometimes.”

Smith ended the Eagles’ 18-plus-minute scoring drought with 8:08 left in the third to put them back in front briefly, but Kyle Morand responded for the Hawks 39 seconds later and the teams went into the final quarter knotted at 4-4.

Jones gave Messalonskee the lead with an assist from Smith with 9:32 left, then returned the favor to Smith for an insurance goal with 5:59 remaining.

“Our team offense started to click and it looked good,” Jones said. “We started moving the ball around. I think we found our feet by the end of the game. We started putting some more points up on the board, which I think reflected how we usually play compared to how we started out the first three quarters.”

Cram pulled the Hawks back within a goal again with 5:39 left. But the Eagles responded immediately, winning the ensuing faceoff and making it a two-goal game to stay just 11 seconds later with Pelletier’s second goal.

Both teams will play in separate KVAC championship games on Saturday at Thomas College. Maranacook/Winthrop will take on Gardiner at 2 p.m. Messalonskee with face Brunswick at 4 p.m. After that, they will host quarterfinal games on June 10. Maranacook/Winthrop will be either the one or two seed in Eastern B. Messalonskee will be either the second or third seed in Eastern A.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33