OAKLAND — Messalonskee looked at the Heal points standings, the schedule and the opponent in the visitor’s locker room before Thursday night’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game against Gardiner and made getting off to a fast start its top priority.

The Eagles screamed out to an 8-0 lead then held off a couple of runs by the Tigers to pick up a 55-46 win in a game featuring two of the top four teams in Class A North.

McKenna Brodeur led Messalonskee (14-2) with 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Sophie Holmes added 14 points and 13 rebounds. Lauren Chadwick paced Gardiner (12-4) with 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals while Mary Toman chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Messalonskee never trailed after the 8-0 run out of the gate. Gardiner pulled within two early in the second quarter and trailed by five at the half. But the Eagles started the second half as energized as they did the first and went on an 8-1 run that kept the Tigers at a comfortable distance the rest of the night.

“That was pretty much what made the whole game,” Messalonskee senior forward Taylor Easler said of the fast starts. “They’re a really good team and they just keep pushing the whole game, so to get out on the right foot really helped us the whole game.”

“We know what a team like that can do (and) how efficient they can be,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “We haven’t played a lot of great first quarters the last couple of weeks, and we knew they’d had a tough schedule the last couple of weeks, so we knew we had to come out hot and then ride it out.”

The Eagles parlayed the quick start to a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Gardiner battled back to within 19-17 on a Leslie Stevens (10 points, seven rebounds) 3-pointer. But Messalonskee limited the Tigers to 5-for-32 shooting (16 percent) in the first half and led by five, 25-20, at halftime.

“They jumped on us early and we bounced back,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “I thought we were a little hesitant in the first half and passed up some open looks. With a team like that, if they’re going to be that aggressive, you can’t be passive. You’ve got to be just as aggressive at the other end.”

One of the reasons Messalonskee was able to hold off Gardiner was Easler’s defense on Chadwick, who was aggressive going to the basket early en route to 10 first-quarter points but was held to two points total in the second and fourth quarters.

“Taylor’s one of those kids, she doesn’t fill the stat sheet all the time but she’s been at it long enough that we’ve asked a lot of her over the last four years,” Derosby said. “She’ll go from guarding (Lawrence star center) Nia (Irving) to guarding a point guard and do it without questions. She’s just so smart.”

“I was just trying to contain her so that she wouldn’t be able to put up as many shots as she usually does,” said Easler, who fouled out with under a minute left. “I was trying to keep her off-balance. We needed to stop multiple people because they have a lot of people that can contribute, so it was a team effort all the way around.”

Brodeur scored in the paint to start the second half off for the Eagles. Easler followed with a layup off a fastbreak pass from Ally Turner and then a nice up-and-under move for another hoop to make it 31-20.

Gardiner cut the deficit to single digits a couple of times in the third, but a 9-0 Messalonskee run sparked by 3-pointers from Brodeur and Holmes early in the fourth put the Tigers away.

“We knew they were going to answer the call and try to hit us and we had to be ready for it,” Derosby said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.