NEWPORT — Going into halftime, Keith Derosby had a problem any high school basketball coach would gladly take. His Messalonskee girls, the top-ranked team in the Class A North Heal point standings, had a 25-point lead at No. 2 Nokomis. Derosby’s Eagles just held the Warriors to 14 points in the first half, and his best player, senior guard Sophie Holmes, just made a 40-foot buzzer-beater to close the half, and looked as smooth as somebody shooting free throws on the playground while doing it.

So, what did Derosby say to the Eagles after such a dominating half?

“That we can play better,” Messalonskee forward McKenna Brodeur said. “Put the pedal to the gas and don’t stop.”

The showdown between the top two Class A teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference never materialized, as the undefeated Eagles cruised to a 74-37 win. Messalonskee improved to 14-0, while Nokomis fell to 11-3.

“We just need to make sure to play the four complete quarters. Nokomis isn’t in second because they lay down,” Derosby said. “We knew the first couple minutes of the third quarter would make a huge difference. If we want to reach the goal we want to reach, you’ve got to close them out and play those quarters.”

Messalonskee led 7-6 three minutes into the game before closing the first quarter with an 11-2 run. A 19-2 run to close the second quarter effectively put the game out of reach, 39-14.

“We came into this game knowing we had to show what we’re made of, really show how good we were. We wanted to prove as a team how well we can play together,” Messalonskee’s Ally Turner said. “We like to play fast but under control. We don’t want to be frantic, but a fast-paced kind of game is definitely when we’re best.”

The Eagles up-tempo style wore down the Warriors, who after the game’s first few minutes were unable to keep up. While Holmes led Messalonskee with 21 points (17 in the first half), five other Eagles scored at least eight points.

“I think they’re used to playing slower and setting up, but we really like to push the ball. It’s hard to keep up with our ball movement,” Turner, who scored nine points, said.

Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis said she expected the Eagles to force the tempo.

“I’m OK with it being up and down. That’s fine. But we just had some massive defensive breakdowns. That is not how we play defense at all,” she said. “We have to show up as a team to play. The mindset wasn’t there.”

Chelsea Crockett led Nokomis with nine points. Katie Seekins added 10 for Messalonskee.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM