GARDINER — The Messalonskee boys basketball team pulled out a satisfying victory against Gardiner on Thursday given the circumstances.

Down a starter and a reserve due to illness and injury, the Eagles relied on two of their veteran players to beat the Tigers 50-48 in a key Class A North matchup at John Bragoli Memorial Gymnasium.

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Eagles are 11-5 and in fourth place in the tournament standings. Gardiner fell to 7-9 but remains in the tournament picture in seventh place.

With guard Kyle LaFreniere (illness) and forward Jack Bernatchez (injury) missing from the lineup, the Eagles relied heavily on junior guard Nate Violette and senior center James Lathrop. Violette finished with 17 points while Lathrop added 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“It just shows we can play through adversity,” Violette said. “Kyle should be back next week and so should Jack, so we’re looking forward to that.”

The Eagles broke open a tight game late in the third quarter and opened a 36-29 lead when Violette scored a layup off an assist from Sawyer Michaud.

The Tigers battled back behind two of their three-point specialists — Liang-Zhi Lin and Hunter Chasse, who came off the bench. Lin canned 3s from each corner late in the third and Chasse drilled two from the left corner early in the fourth, the second tying the game at 43.

“Hunter Chasse and Zhi did what they do,and came in and hit the shots for us” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “But I’m disappointed in this game. We got out-hustled in the second half of the basketball game. They weren’t at 100 percent and we let them off the hook in our gym.”

Chasse made two free throws to tie the game at 45, but Lathrop and James Kouletsis hit back-to-back layups to make it 49-45. The Tigers drew to within a point on a free throw from Isaiah Magee and Jordan Lamb’s layup before Michaud’s free throw made it 50-48 with 41 seconds left. Gardiner eventually got the ball back with 15 seconds left and set up a final shot that never quite materialized.

“We were running one of our decoy sets that looked like were running a play at the top for Jordan and we were going to send the guard through after,” Cassidy said. “It just didn’t develop. They cheated on it and all we had to do was give it to the original guard.”

Lamb and Chasse each finished with 10 points while Ben Shaw added eight.

“Taylor Turner plays a huge role on D for us with guarding the other team’s best player inside,” Messalonskee coach Pete McLaughlin said. “I thought he did a tremendous job. He held (Lamb) to 10 points tonight. And Lathrop can be there from helpside and congest the lane even more for us.”

The Tigers led 12-8 at the end of one and 25-24 at the half when Shaw’s layup beat the buzzer.

Gardiner finishes the regular season at home against Skowhegan and at Oceanside while Messalonskee hosts Bangor and travels to Waterville.


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