SKOWHEGAN — It wasn’t the 21-6 run to close out the game. It wasn’t Lawrence’s 35 percent success rate from 3-point range. It wasn’t even the Bulldogs’ clutch free throw shooting in crunch time.

No, what Lawrence coach John Donato pointed to after his a 46-38 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A victory over Skowhegan on Friday night was his team’s defensive effort.

“Once we started playing defense, their shots didn’t fall,” Donato said. “And once we went out and played defense, ours did fall.”

That defense held the Indians — who dropped their third straight contest after winning their first eight — to just six points and one field goal in the fourth quarter, which came on a 3-pointer from Emma Duffy, long after Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc had emptied his bench. After falling behind by as many as 11 points two minutes into the second half, Lawrence (7-5) answered.

And though more of the Bulldogs’ shots started falling, junior guard Camryn Caldwell agreed with her coach — that the offensive output was simply a product of what took place on the defensive end of the court.

“We’ve worked on coming back a lot, and it’s all defense, defense, defense,” said Caldwell, who scored a game-high 13 points. “If we can play defense, then our offense will come together. It’s a lot of pressure on the ball, which will keep us from falling behind.”

It was the strangest of turns in a game that had seen the Bulldogs go through a stretch at the end of the first half which was eerily similar to the one the Indians’ endured in the fourth quarter. After Brooklynn Lambert hit a short jumper in the paint with 3:16 to go in the second period, giving Lawrence its first lead of the night at 17-16, Skowhegan kicked things into high gear. Sydney Ames (10 points) made a layup in transition following a turnover to hand the lead back to the Indians. Lawrence turned the ball over again on its next possession, and Alyssa Everett turned that into a bucket and a 20-17 lead with 2:07 left until halftime.

Skowhegan closed the half out with a 9-2 run for a 22-17 advantage, one that looked all the better when Sydney Reed (eight points) and Ames each drained buckets from beyond the arc to built a 28-17 advantage early in the third.

From there, though, it was all Bulldogs.

“We took stupid shots,” LeBlanc said. “We decided we’re a little better than we are and decided we’d better shoot the ball from the perimeter and not attack the rim, which is what they’ve been asked to do. We relied too much on our outside shot, and we’re not at that level yet.”

“We were able to get the ball to our shooters,” Donato added. “That picked up our defense. We made a few good outside shots and made some good inside moves, and that picked our defense up. That helped us quite a bit.”

Hunter Mercier’s long three from the left wing tied the score at 32-32 with 5:58 to play, the first of her two threes in the final quarter. Mercier and Molly Folsom each scored six points in the period to help seal the win — Lawrence’s fourth win in its last six games.

For an inexperienced team coming into the season, a night like Friday’s might not have been possible just a few games into the year. But often confidence leads to success.

“We are 100 times better. Our team is clicking,” Caldwell said. “We’re coming together really well, and we’re working really harder in practice and getting a lot better as a team.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC