If you want to know Peter McLaughlin the basketball coach — who on Friday coached the Messalonskee High School boys basketball team to its first regional championship with a 61-40 win over Oceanside — first look at McLaughlin the basketball player.

Former Lawrence High School coach Mike McGee coached McLaughlin in high school. Fifteen years ago, McLaughlin was a hard-working junior, doing the little things the Bulldogs needed. In a game against Messalonskee, Lawrence sharpshooter Trafton Teague set the school record for 3-pointers in a game. Over and over, Teague came off a fade screen set by McLaughlin to knock down his shot.

“The screen has to be perfect for that play to work. Pete would set it every time,” McGee said. “We were cracking up on the bench. My assistants were saying run it until (Messalonskee) figures it out.”

McLaughlin would set those screens, and rebound, and defend the opponent’s best player for the Bulldogs. Nobody should be surprised McLaughlin’s Eagles grinded through the Class A North tournament by playing superb defense.

“Pete was a dirt dog. He was a great leader,” McGee said. “I knew he’d be a great coach.”

This is McLaughlin’s seventh season at Messalonskee. In his first two seasons, the Eagles went a combined 8-28 and missed the tournament each season. Since then, Messalonskee has been a tournament regular. In each of the last four seasons, the Eagles have won at least 13 games.

The Eagles allowed an average of 48.6 points per game in the regular season, fourth-best in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. In three regional tournament games, Messalonskee allowed just 47 points per game. In a 53-46 quarterfinal win over Gardiner, Messalonskee held the Tigers to 14 points under their regular-season average. In Friday’s win over Oceanside, the Mariners were 21 points lower than their season average.

“I think it’s an amazing accomplishment for them. They worked so hard coming into this year because they knew what potential they had and it’s awesome to see them fulfill it,” Messalonskee alum Trevor Gettig said.

Gettig graduated in 2015 and got his first taste of McLaughlin as a sophomore, when he was promoted to the varsity team for the playoffs. Gettig’s first varsity practice was a “no-ball practice,” which is just a fancy way of saying the Eagles ran for an hour and a half. Gettig left the practice thinking, it’s going to be a long two more years.

“But he just wanted to show that we had to come to play every day. And that’s what he was so good at, getting us to shoe up every time and give all we had for each other,” Gettig said. “He bonds with every one of his players at a personal level so we always knew he was there for us.”

That was apparent after Friday’s win, when McLaughlin rattled off the names of players he coached over the previous six seasons. All owned a piece of Messalonskee’s success, he said.

“This has been a long time coming,” McLaughlin said. “Jordan Holmes, Nick Mayo, Travis Stacy, Elijah Steele, there’s a massive list of guys. Trevor Gettig, there’s a lot of guys who sacrificed. Jack Bernatchez, Sawyer Michaud. There’s huge names that have built this program to where it is now.”

Throughout tournament week, McLaughlin heard from quite a few former players, he said. There were messages on Facebook and Twitter. Text messages blew up McLaughin’s phone. He was told Steele watched the regional final in Boston, decked out in his Messalonskee gear.

“Every single one of them was pulling for us one way or another,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a lot of guys who have wanted this to happen who bled for Messalonskee and they’re a big reason why we’re here.”

McGee remembers a boy who played the game the right way. McLaughlin’s players know a man who coaches the game the right way, too.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @tLazarczykMTM

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