OAKLAND — A young Hampden Academy boys basketball team grew up a little bit in Friday night’s game at Messalonskee, and that should worry the rest of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

Down 10 points in the first quarter, the Broncos rallied to take the lead by halftime, then held on throughout a back-and-forth second half, taking a 51-49 win. The Broncos started three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.

“We show our youth at times, with some poor decision making, but we found a way late in the game to make enough plays to win in a tough gym,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said.

Hampden took the lead for good, 48-47, on a John Wolfington basket with 1:44 to play. Kory Winch made a pair of free throws with 50 seconds left to push Hampden’s lead to three points, and Messalonskee’s Nathan Violette’s layup with 12 seconds left cut the lead to one.

With 6.9 seconds left, Ross Webb made the first of two foul shots for the Broncos, setting up the Eagles for the chance to win. Violette’s 3-point try at the buzzer went off the front of the rim.

“We had what we wanted at the end. We had a great look. I don’t think I could’ve drawn something up to get a better one. I thought it looked good coming out of (Violette’s) hand,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “We’re due for a big win, and tonight we let this one slip.”

Hampden improved to 11-1 while Messalonskee fell to 7-4.

The teams traded the lead eight times in the fourth quarter. While Hampden committed 18 turnovers through the first three quarters, the Broncos only turned the ball over once in the fourth. Conversely, Messalonskee made five turnovers in the final quarter, including key mistakes in the final two minutes.

“It came down to valued possessions. In a big game like that, place is going crazy, you’ve got to take care of possessions. Three out of our last five possessions, we had turnovers,” McLaughlin said.

Messalonskee came out firing. Trevor McCray’s layup with 2:11 left in the first quarter gave the Eagles a 16-6 lead. Star center Ian McIntyre picked up two early fouls, and Bartlett called timeout to settle his team down.

“I thought (Messalonskee’s) emotions were high at the start of the game. We talked about that. When we stepped on the floor, we needed to be ready for that, and I don’t think we were,” Bartlett said.

Added McIntyre: “Messalonskee has a great student section, a great crowd. When you come into a place like this, it’s really tough. We got a little punched in the face. This is their home court. They came in hard, ready to beat us.”

With McCray and Cole Wood, the Eagles did a nice job defending McIntyre throughout the game, pushing the junior away from the basket and out of his comfort zone. Still, McIntyre came up with key baskets when the Broncos needed him in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his team-high 16 points in the fourth.

Wood (10 points) and McCray (eight points) also contributed offensively.

“I think this is the best game our bigs have played,” McLaughlin said.

Hampden trailed 19-12 after one quarter, and held Messalonskee to three points in the second to take a 28-22 lead into halftime. The Eagles rallied in the third quarter, tying the game at 30-30 on a Violette (16 points) basket midway through the quarter. A Dawson Charles layup with 2:58 to go in the third gave Messalonskee back the lead, 34-33.

“I thought we had a heartbeat going into halftime. We came back in the third and played a great third quarter,” McLaughlin said.

Winch came off the bench to score 13 points for the Broncos. James Kouletsis added 11 points and nine rebounds for Messalonskee.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM