SKOWHEGAN — Right from the opening tip, Messalonskee’s offensive strategy was apparent. With a size advantage over Skowhegan, the Eagles were going to try to pound the ball into the low post as much as possible.

The strategy paid off for Messalonskee in the fourth quarter, when 6-foot-5 forward James Lathrop scored 16 of his game-high 23 points, helping the Eagles take a 48-42 win in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A matinee.

After a slow start, Lathrop heated up down the stretch. He accounted for all but three of Messalonskee’s points in the fourth quarter, with all coming either from shots in the low post or at the free throw line where Lathrop was 11 of 15 for the game.

“A lot of teams we play, they have equal size so it’s kind of a war. That was an advantage we knew we had, not only with James but with Taylor Turner and some of our other forwards,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “We were trying to get (Lathrop) as many looks as possible. I think he feels a little more comfortable on the perimeter, but when we have a mismatch like that, we want to exploit it.”

Skowhegan (6-6) took a 40-37 lead with just over three minutes to play on a Brendan Curran 3-pointer. Seconds later, Kyle LaFreniere hit a three for Messalonskee (9-3) to tie the game. With 2:02 to play, Lathrop gave the Eagles the lead for good with a layup.

“We knew they were small. Taylor and I and Jack Bernatchez, we all wanted to get into the post because we knew we had the size advantage over them,” Lathrop, who scored Messalonskee’s final six points from the foul line, said.

“Sometimes we just found ourselves out of position and they took advantage,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said.

The teams played a back and forth first half, with Messalonskee holding a 17-16 lead at the break. It appeared as if the Eagles would pull away when a Bernatchez layup pushed their lead to 29-20 with 3:15 left in the third quarter, but Skowhegan rallied. The Indians closed the quarter with an 11-0 run, taking the lead on a Curran (17 points) 3-pointer at the buzzer. Nadeau said the rally came from being patient offensively.

“(We were) just being aggressive, try to attack, hit guys that are open,” Neadeau said. “Execution at times was not very good tonight. We’ve got to do a better job at that, but their defense was part of that.”

The game saw five lead changes in the fourth quarter before Messalonskee took the lead for good with just over two minutes to play. Lathrop grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots to go with his strong offensive game.

“In that fourth quarter, I thought (Lathrop) played really, really well for struggling like he did early,” McLaughlin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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