OAKLAND — Messalonskee isn’t the same team it was a year ago when it steamrolled its way to the Class A state championship, but the Eagles were a different kind of steamroller on Saturday as they made a statement about their identity this winter.

With a physical presence and pace that pushed Skowhegan faster than it has gone at any point this season, the Messalonskee girls built a big second-half cushion and held on in the end for a 62-57 win over the Indians in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference matchup between two of the top three teams in Class A North.

“Everyone wants to look at the score, but you really see what the girls are made of when you play one of the top teams and you’re able to go toe-to-toe and pull out that win,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “That shows you what your team’s made of. I’m proud.”

For the Eagles (7-3), who got 19 points from sophomore Gabrielle Wener and 13 more from senior point guard Ally Turner, it was about the little things against Skowhegan (8-3). Messalonskee defended well in the half-court, limited second-chance opportunities for the Indians and forced the visitors — who run without a deep bench to begin with — into foul trouble.

After falling behind by as many as 10 points — 48-38 with 2:33 remaining in the third quarter following a Wener layup in transition — Skowhegan was without leading scorer Annie Cooke (20 points) when they needed her most. Cooke fouled out with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter, after the Indians had whittled the Eagle lead down to 57-55.

It was a product of a frenzied second-half that watched the Indians pressure the ball all over the floor and the Eagles trying to find easy baskets at the other end.

It wasn’t always pretty but it was effective, at least for Messalonskee.

“It never does (help),” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “We have a tendency to compound our problems by fouling and that kind of stuff. It is what it is.”

After an electric, back-and-forth first half that saw the teams trade leads on five separate occasions, turnovers plagued Skowhegan after the break. A 38-31 halftime deficit was cut to five points when Sydney Ames (12 points) drove to the bucket for the Indians right off the inbounds play to begin the third quarter, but the possession was an outlier.

Skowhegan turned the ball over on five of its next seven possessions. Meanwhile, Wener drilled a three from the right corner for a portion of her eight third-quarter points.

“We would cause a turnover and then we’d give it right back,” LeBlanc said. “When you dig a hole, you can’t do that.”

Messalonskee found itself in need of doing little things down the stretch. When Emma Duffy connected on a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining in the game — off a great second-chance play by Alyssa Everett in the paint — it tied the game at 55-55.

“I wasn’t nervous, honestly,” Messalonskee junior Katie Seekins said. “We wanted to play confident and play as teammates.”

“We’ve never seen a team that traps and doubles that aggressively on rebounds, even on misses,” Derosby said of the Skowhegan comeback. “We can talk about it, we can explain it, but until you get into it, you really don’t know what you’re going to get. All credit to them, that took us off-guard.”

Seekins came up with a big rebound on a Lindsey Warren miss that would have tied the game again with under two minutes remaining. The Eagles then made five of eight free throws down the stretch to close it out.

“The kids are defining their (roles) as we go,” Derosby said. “They’re understanding where they can fit and what they can do.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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