SKOWHEGAN — Cole Pierce could barely wait for tip-off Friday afternoon.

Even on the first day of winter break, Pierce was up at 6:30 a.m. and headed off to the gym. The early rise and commitment to getting better paid off, as Pierce led the Skowhegan boys basketball team to a nearly flawless 56-42 win over Maine Central Institute in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference crossover. Pierce, one of three Indians in double figures, led all scorers with a game-high 17 points.

“I was ready for this game. I wanted this one, because we only play them once,” Pierce said. “They’re going to give us a lot of Heal points, so I wanted to be on my A-game for the guys.”

Tom Nadeau said it was just a matter of time for Pierce, who hit a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions early in the second quarter as part of a 15-2 run that built a 22-point lead — Skowhegan’s largest of the first half.

“He hasn’t had a chance to really get some shots off of late, but he was able to stick some shots today,” Nadeau said. “When he’s doing that, and guys are doing their jobs, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Senior guard Cam Barnes finished with 14 points for Skowhegan (3-2), while junior forward Marcus Christopher added 12 points and eight rebounds as part of a balanced floor for the Indians.

It was one of the better efforts of the young season for Skowhegan.

“We have me, Cam and Marcus, and we’re just trying to find each other’s roles,” Pierce said. “Usually, my role is to just spot up. Tonight, I was hitting.”

The same could not be said for MCI (2-2), which clearly failed to match Pierce’s zest for the game early on. The Huskies were in a deep hole from the outset, at one point watching as Skowhegan scored on nine of 12 trips down the court midway through the first half.

“They competed, and we didn’t,” MCI coach Josh Tardy said succinctly. “There’s no nights off in the KVAC.”

Sophomore Owen Williams scored nine points for MCI, which was held to only four first-quarter points and trailed by 15 — 29-14 — at halftime.

“If you’re going to be in this business, you have to chalk it up as 16- and 17-year olds some nights check in and sometimes they don’t,” Tardy said. “We talked about as a point of emphasis going forward, it’s OK not to execute and have a poor performance, but the one thing you can always control is the intensity.

“It doesn’t work if only three or four players on the floor are playing with intensity.”

Some fullcourt pressure by the Huskies did complicate matters for small stretches, most notably at the start of the third quarter. MCI pulled to within 10 points, 31-21, just 1:13 into the third period after Jose Ignacio Montes Valverde’s jumper from the foul line. A couple of Skowhegan turnovers against the press resulted in easy baskets, but it was too little too late for the visitors.

Christopher helped extend the Skowhegan lead later in the quarter to 39-22 with a coast-to-coast layup against a lax defense from MCI.

“The key for us was getting out in transtion, pushing the ball up the floor and getting open looks and getting the ball in the paint,” Barnes said. “We’ll take whatever the defense gives us and go from there.”

Pierce connected for a rare five-point play in the final minute of the period after driving to the hoop, making the basket and getting a foul called. He also drew a technical foul from Valverde, and made all three of his free throws to make it 46-26.

Barnes drove the final nail into the MCI coffin with a 3-pointer with 4:45 to play, and Nadeau emptied his bench with a 54-30 lead.

“We were patient. We tried to get a good shot, rather than ‘our shot,'” Nadeau said. “We’re still trying to be consistent.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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