WATERVILLE — At halftime, Waterville boys basketball coach Nick Pelotte looked at Justin Kornsey — his premier post player — and wasn’t sure he liked what he saw.

“We tried to get Kornsey going early. Fortunately for us, he held up for the whole game,” Pelotte said. “We were a little bit concerned going into halftime. It looked like he was a little bit gassed. I told him at halftime ‘We’re going to go as far as you can take us, big man.'”

As it turned out, Pelotte didn’t need to worry. Kornsey continued his strong play for the entire game, scoring 10 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. That helped the Purple Panthers pull away in what was a close game for three quarters, taking a 63-45 win over Skowhegan.

Waterville improved to 5-10 while Skowhegan dropped to 6-8.

“We took care of the basketball, first and foremost. At times we’ve struggled with that aspect. We’ve had some close games and people bring the pressure at us, next thing you know the game gets tighter than we want,” Pelotte said. “The kids dealt with that a little better. They had their heads up, and they made (Skowhegan) pay a little bit for bringing the pressure.”

In building its game plan, Waterville followed the blueprint set by Messalonksee in a win over the Indians last week, pounding the ball inside.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors on this team. We’re very mature. We like to slow the game down. Our size was a big factor in the game. We saw what Messalonskee did inside, and just tried to come out here and do the same thing,” Kornsey said.

Even with Kornsey dominating the low post, and Adam Barre (12 points), Devon Begin (12 points) and Devin Lebrun driving the lane, this was a back and forth game for three quarters. Skowhegan led 23-22 at the half when Cam Barnes made a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer. After three quarters, Waterville led 40-37.

Skowhegan’s Isaac Witham made a pair of foul shots — the first for his 1,000th career point — with 7:36 to go in the game to cut Waterville’s lead to 42-39. A Witham 3-pointer with 5:44 to play made it 46-43 in favor of the Panthers, and that’s as close as the Indians would get. Waterville outscored Skowhegan 17-2 over the final five minutes to pull away. A Begin basket pushed the Panthers’ lead to 54-43 with 3:39 to play. After struggling at the line for much of the game, Waterville made 9 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter.

“On top of (Kornsey) making shots, we ran our sets really well. We set good screens. We passed him the ball when he was open, and the timing was good. I know Kornsey had 27 points, but a lot of guys had a hand in that. It was a total team effort,” Pelotte said.

Defensively, Waterville took advantage of its size advantage by playing tight in the paint, and limiting Skowhegan’s opportunities to drive.

“They’re attacking the rim every single play, so we’re just packing it in, trying to make things difficult for them,” Kornsey, who had 13 rebounds, said.

Witham had 25 points to lead Skowhegan, while Brendan Curran added eight.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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