OAKLAND — The Messalonskee High School boys basketball team decided to flip the script on Wednesday night.

Instead of a fast start and a one-man wrecking crew in the form of senior guard Nate Violette, the Eagles instead opted for a second-quarter onslaught and balanced guard play, rolling to a 14-point halftime lead and holding off Skowhegan Area High School by a 71-54 count in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game. Violette finished with 17 points — eight of them late in the final quarter from the foul line — as James Kouletsis scored 15 points to join six Messalonskee scorers to finish with at least six points in the win.

“Violette’s our top scorer and our best player. He usually scores a ton for us,” Kouletsis said. “When he’s struggling a little bit, the rest of us have to pick it back up. I don’t usually score a lot, but I guess I did all right tonight.”

Messalonskee (8-4) got off to a slow start and trailed after one period, but in the second quarter, the Eagles bench provided all the ignition they would need. A torrid opening two minutes in the quarter saw the teams trade baskets on five successive possessions, with Chase Warren (eight points) giving the Eagles the lead for good at 20-19 with a short jumper with just under five minutes remaining in the half.

From there, freshman Tucker Charles drilled a 3-pointer off an inbounds play from the left corner, touching off three straight trips down the floor ending in long balls for the Eagles. Kouletsis hit one from the top of the key and Dawson Charles, Tucker’s older brother, drained one from the right wing to make it 29-22 with 2:36 left.

“We were a little bit tight early,” Messalonskee coach Pete McLaughlin said. “I thought we were looking for our reads and our options out of our offense, but we were a little too fast. We just needed to settle in and get into our groove.”

Another Dawson Charles trey from the left corner and a Kouletsis steal turned into a layup to send Messalonskee into the break with a 38-24 advantage.

“It’s usually the opposite for us,” Kouletsis said. “We usually come out in the first quarter and we’re unreal, and then in the second quarter we lay low. Tonight, in the second quarter we started hitting some shots. We were just finding our stroke.”

“Defensive intensity led into our offensive transition and our movements, and that’s our game,” McLaughlin said.

Messalonskee poured in 29 points in a one-sided second quarter.

The offensive outburst was enough to neutralize an Indians team that had three scorers in double figures by game’s end, including Marcus Christopher (game-high 21 points) and 13-point efforts from both Garrett McSweeney and Cameron Barnes.

Skowhegan (6-6), which entered the night having won four of its previous five games, tried to claw back in the third quarter with strong play in the paint, but it had dug itself far too deep of a deficit at the half to come all the way back.

“We were just too inconsistent,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said. “You can’t let good teams get out in transition. You can’t let good teams get second-chance points. We didn’t get after it. When things started to go downhill, we didn’t respond.”

Helping nullify the Indians inside game was Griffin Tuttle (four blocks) and Violette (eight rebounds).

Kouletsis finished the night with seven rebounds, five steals and five assists in a 32-minute effort that was as complete as any on the court. He said it was imperative that, while Violette was struggling to find open looks, the rest of the Messalonskee guard contingent stepped up its collective play.

“We moved the ball a lot more,” Kouletsis said. “In the second quarter, we got more layups and that opened up the outside game for those guys to make some threes.”

“We’ve relied on Nathan Violette quite a bit this year,” McLaughlin said. “Sometimes, we’ve got to be in a situation where we can pick him up. That’s what team basketball is about, and that’s what we do here. I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC