OAKLAND — If opening night is a preview of the season to come, fans of the Messalonskee High School boys basketball team have something to look forward to.

On Friday night, against rival Lawrence, the Eagles got out and ran. That transition offense helped Messalonskee build a 12-point halftime lead, on the way to a 62-49 win in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A season opener for both teams.

“At the beginning of every practice, we start out with a transition drill to get the ball moving. That’s a core part of our offense. That was really evident when we play,” said Messalonskee senior guard Nate Violette, who scored a team-high 21 points.

“I think we play better in open space. This preseason we did,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin added. “Lawrence, obviously, is a really great defensive team. When we got into transition, we got some open seams in their defense, and we could take advantage.”

The Eagles started moving right from the opening tip. Passing the ball well, Messalonskee repeatedly found the right man open for a shot. Messalonskee led 34-22 at the half, and scored two quick baskets to open the third quarter. By the end of the third, the Eagles had pushed the lead to 21 points, 50-29.

“They passed the ball up the court well and beat us back. That really hurt us in the first half, and right out of the bat they get two more transition buckets coming out of halftime. It made it tough,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “When you’re hitting a lot of shots, it makes a lot of things look very easy, and they made things look very easy.”

Messalonskee showed some scoring depth, particularly in the third quarter, when Violette sat for more than five minutes after picking up his third foul. Senior guard James Kouletsis started a 10-2 Eagles run with a 3-pointer, and Chase Warren nailed a three during the run as well.

“(Violette’s) our top scorer, no doubt about it, but we have other guys who can hit shots, and we showed it during that stretch,” said Kouletsis, who scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

Added Violette: “That shows we’re a great team all together. We have pieces and we’ll put it all together as the season goes.”

Messalonskee led by as much as 24 points — early in the fourth quarter — but the Bulldogs rallied to tighten the score. Senior Mason Cooper scored eight of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter for Lawrence. The only returning starter for the Bulldogs, Cooper was the lone Lawrence player in double figures.

“We’re relatively inexperienced and you don’t have a lot of time to grow up in high school basketball, so we’ve got to grow up quick. I’ve got really good kids that play hard and don’t know how to give up,” Pellerin said. “We’ve got to know how to play a 32-minute game. I’m not sure we put in a 32-minute effort.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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