SKOWHEGAN — The only senior on the Skowhegan Area High School boys basketball team, Isaac Witham smiled a smile he’s been waiting his entire high school basketball career to flash.

With Wednesday’s 61-44 win over Waterville in the Class A North preliminary round, Skowhegan is going to the regional quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center for the first time since 2010.

“Unbelievable feeling. As a freshman, we began working to get in, and it’s a reality now,” Witham said. “Everyone stepped up this game. Everyone. There’s not one teammate I have that didn’t step up tonight.”

No. 8 Skowhegan (10-9) will face No. 1 Hampden (18-0) at 9:30 p.m., Saturday. No. 9 Waterville ends the season at 5-14.

For Skowhegan, the win avenged an 18-point loss (63-45) at Waterville just 15 days ago.

“We were better prepared tonight. I did a poor job of preparing the boys the first time around. They were ready to play, Waterville was, they needed that game,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said.

In that regular-season meeting, Waterville’s inside game was dominant, and forward Justin Kornsey scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. In Wednesday’s rematch, the Indians held Kornsey to nine points and six boards.

“We really locked in on what they were doing and watched film hard,” Witham said. “They want to get it to 25 (Kornsey), the big guy, and we knew 12 (guard Devin Lebrun) was one of their offensive guys. We switched screens a little bit, front the post, and try to get (Kornsey) harder looks outside the paint.”

“It’s not going to work the second time. (Nadeau’s) a smart guy over there. He watches film,” Waterville coach Nick Pelotte said. “For us, I haven’t done a good enough job getting these guys to understand that, when they take something away on the initial action, they’re still leaving things open.”

Skowhegan never trailed, and scored the game’s first eight points. The Indians led 23-11 at the end of the first quarter, and the balanced scoring they exhibited early was a game-long trend. Four players scored in double digits for Skowhegan. Garrett McSweeney led the way with 19 points. Brendan Curran chipped in 15, while Witham had 13 and Cameron Barnes 12.

“When we’re patient, and we have good spacing, and we set a few screens, good things will happen. We’ve got enough guys who can put the ball in the basket. It’s just a matter of doing it,” Nadeau said.

Trailing 31-22 at the half, Waterville rallied to cut the deficit to 42-37 late in the third quarter. Lebrun scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter for the Purple Panthers.

“In the second half, we made a couple adjustments and got a couple scores early, but at the end of the day, we’re not a team that can really dig ourselves a hole and be able to fight back too quickly. We’re the kind of team, we need to start well, and we’ve had a problem starting in games well,” Pelotte said.

A pair of Kornsey free throws cut Skowhegan’s lead to 47-41 with 4:58 left in the game, but the Panthers got no closer. Skowhegan made 10 of 14 foul shots in the fourth quarter to pull away.

As Skowhegan increased its lead in the fourth quarter, the student section directly across the gym from the Indians bench got louder. Nadeau said his team fed off the crowd’s enthusiasm.

“Getting our crowd involved gave our boys some juice, some energy,” Nadeau said. “Hopefully that crowd shows up on Saturday.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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