AUGUSTA — It was a few weeks ago, on another Tuesday night deep in the heart of high school basketball season, and Messalonskee senior guard Nate Violette was handing out hugs like they were lollipops on a parade float on the Fourth of July.

“I hope you realize how rare that is,” his father was sure to point out in a quiet hallway a few minutes later. “He doesn’t even hug me.”

Violette had just finished torching Gardiner for 24 points and nine rebounds in a nearly heroic 32-minute effort. He was noticeably exhausted, partially dehydrated and absolutely euphoric. Told by head coach Pete McLaughlin that he had a reporter who wanted to talk to him about the performance, Violette was asked a simple question to break the ice: “How do you feel right now?”

Violette smiled, shook his head and said, “I feel like I just want to hug somebody.” And he did just that, embracing this very writer. In more than 20 years of sports journalism, it was a first.

“That’s Nate,” McLaughlin said, having watched the moment unfold. “He’s just a special kid.”

It was the type of moment that is a career for many high school athletes, a defining moment that you some day tell your buddies about over beers at the local bar after work. “That one night my senior year…”

But Violette made even that night pale in comparison to his efforts at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, when he scored 25 points and helped lead Messalonskee to a stunning, come-from-behind, overtime win over Skowhegan. Violette hit every big shot the Eagles needed — none bigger than the high, arching 3-pointer he splashed over the outstretched arm of a defender in the final minute of regulation to give his team the belief that nothing was impossible.

“This is it. If I want to live to see another day, if my teammates want to live another day, that shot has to go in,” Violette said. “I don’t know what to say. I just knew if I played the way I knew how to play, my teammates would feed off of that and know that, ‘Hey, if he can step it up, then we can step it up, too.’ ”

McLaughlin was right. Violette is a special kid.

Yet, he wasn’t the only special player on the floor during the Class A North boys and girls semifinals Wednesday. While games are won and lost, the performances on a big stage under white hot lights and thousands of rabid basketball fans are the ones that draw so many eyeballs, year after year, to these tournaments.

There was Cony’s Jordan Roddy, vomiting at halftime in the midst of a 24-point effort, and keeping the Rams going when it appeared the rest of his teammates had gone ice cold in the fourth quarter of a loss to Oceanside.

There was Messalonskee senior center McKenna Brodeur, a soft-spoken presence on the floor who is often overlooked while teams focus their efforts on the guard tandem of Sophie Holmes — a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist — and Ally Turner. Brodeur scored 16 points in a laugher against Hampden, a rout that only became a rout because Brodeur refused to let 6-foot-3 Bronco Bailey Donovan find any space in the paint.

There was Cameron Barnes, matching Violette shot for shot, 3-pointer for 3-pointer, as the Cinderella run for Skowhegan in this tournament refused to end with a whimper.

There was Nokomis junior Sidney Moore looking like she was made for the big stage, draining trey after trey as the Warriors advanced to the Class A North finals for the first time in 14 years.

There was Cony’s Taylor Heath, hobbling around on a bum ankle and refusing to give an inch while the Rams were fighting for their lives.

There was Messalonskee senior James Kouletsis, banking a shot off the glass as the final seconds of regulation fired off the clock, sending the Eagles to overtime after they trailed by five points with under two minutes remaining.

There are so many games, so many moments, in the course of a week at the ACC in February, most of them go by in a blur.

On one memorable Wednesday, however, too many of those moments to count will remain with us — and with the student-athletes who found it within themselves to pull them off — nearly forever.

It was special. And it’s OK if that type of unscripted drama makes you want to reach across the aisle and hug somebody.

Nate Violette will certainly approve.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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