OAKLAND — For a young basketball team like the Messalonskee High School boys, Tuesday’s game against Erskine Academy was important. Not just because Messalonskee got the win in a 49-43 game, but because the Eagles showed signs of maturity in earning the victory.

Ahead by 10 points at halftime, Messalonskee saw the cushion slip away when Erskine took two brief leads in the fourth quarter.

But each time Messalonskee quickly came back. Chase Warren’s layup with 1:51 to play gave Messalonskee the lead for good and it stepped up defensively down the stretch, holding Erskine scoreless over the final 3:42 of the game.

Messalonskee improved to 3-3, while Erskine fell to 2-4.

“(Erskine) got a few too many open looks on the perimeter, but overall that was a pretty gusty performance by our guys,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said. “We executed when it mattered most.”

Gavin Blanchard’s putback with 6:15 to play gave Erskine a 39-38 lead, capping a rally from a 26-16 halftime deficit. That lead lasted just 61 seconds, until Messalonskee’s Matthew Parent made a baseline 3-pointer to give his team a 41-39 lead. With 3:42 left, Jack Jowett’s basket gave Erskine a 43-41 lead. A Cole Wood layup with 2:21 tied the game, and Warren’s basket 30 seconds later gave Messalonskee the lead for good. Messalonskee made four free throws down the stretch to seal it.

“Keeping our poise, talking on defense, that was really huge. We made great passes at the end, and made great cuts,” Warren, who led Messalonskee with 13 points, said.

Messalonskee led 16-7 after a quarter, as it shot well from 3-point range early, knocking down five threes in the first half. Erskine, meanwhile, struggled to find a shooting touch in the first half. After going 7 for 26 from the field in the first half, Erskine was 11 for 22 in the second. Erskine made five threes in the third quarter to cut Messalonskee’s lead to 38-35 entering the fourth.

“I thought we came out flat in the first half. They made shots and we didn’t,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “I thought we hustled much harder in the second half to make it a game, but we’re not good enough to not hustle for 32 minutes.”

Added McLaughlin: “The third quarter, I think I’d prefer to have that one back… I thought they did a really good job hiding their shooters behind our defenders and moving them around a little bit.”

In the second half, Messalonskee was able to get the ball inside more to big man Cole Wood, and exploit his size advantage. Wood finished with 11 points — eight in the second half — and 11 rebounds.

“Cole had an amazing game. He was a huge X factor in the game,” Warren said.

Jowett led Erskine with 19 points. Austin Dunn added 14 points for Erskine, including three third quarter 3-pointers.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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