AUGUSTA — The second game this season between Gardiner and Messalonskee unfolded much like the first one, which was great for Messalonskee and fatal for Gardiner.

Sophie Holmes scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Messalonskee girls basketball team to a 55-47 victory over No. 3 Gardiner in a Class A North semifinal Wednesday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Eagles (17-3) will face top-seeded Lawrence (20-0) in the regional final on Friday at 1:05 p.m.

McKenna Brodeur added 13 points and eight rebounds for Messalonskee. Lauren Chadwick led the Tigers (15-5) with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals, while Mary Toman added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Messalonskee won the previous meeting on its home floor, 55-47, on Jan. 28 thanks to a strong first quarter. The Eagles never quite put the Tigers away, but the fast start gave them enough cushion to hold on as Gardiner worked furiously to get back into the game.

The Eagles were at it again Wednesday, jumping out to a 19-9 lead thanks to three quick hoops from Lydia Dexter (six points, 10 rebounds) and nine first-quarter points from Holmes.

“I knew that the first couple of minutes of the game really determines the rest of play, so wanted to get some shots up early and try to get the lead as quick as we can,” Dexter said. “I thought we did a good job getting some points on the board early. My teammates set me up, I got some good passes and my shots were falling.”

“She did a nice job of moving without the ball and gaining space,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said of Dexter. “She’s got a nice shot. We see it every day. It’s nice to see them fall.”

Messalonskee shot 25-for-48 (52 percent) from the floor, but Holmes was virtually the only one hitting in their 5-for-14 second quarter. She made four of those field goals and the Eagles extended their lead slightly, 29-17, by halftime.

“When McKenna is inside it makes it a lot easier because the defense will collapse on her and it opens up a lot of the outside to get that open shot,” Holmes said. “McKenna’s really stepped up this year.”

“They came out calm and composed for the first half and we didn’t,” said Gardiner coach Mike Gray, whose team shot 19-for-63 (30 percent). “It wasn’t that we weren’t working hard, they just outworked us. They got every rebound. They got all of the loose balls and they were knocking down shots.”

Messalonskee led by as much as 18 in the third quarter and early in the fourth before Chadwick led an 8-0 Gardiner run with a 3-pointer and a layup that helped pull the Tigers within 10, 50-40, with 3:39 to go.

After the Eagles went back inside to Brodeur for a hoop, free throws by Toman and a 3-pointer by Leslie Stevens got the Tigers within seven with 1:07 to go but they didn’t score again.

“They have some good athletes on that team and we knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight. But I personally wasn’t expecting them to come back that strong in the fourth quarter,” Dexter said.

“They had some good aggressive play but we managed to stick with it.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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