SKOWHEGAN — Late season games against tough opponents can help a basketball team get ready for the playoffs. With that in mind, Messalonskee High School girls basketball coach Keith Derosby was happy with his team’s effort in a 59-52 win Monday night.

“This is a really important stretch for us at the finish. That’s an excellent Skowhegan team. Getting this win in their gym means a lot,” Derosby said.

The victory gives Messalonskee (11-6) a regular season sweep over Skowhegan (13-4). Skowhegan entered the game as the No. 2 seed in Class A North, while Messalonskee was No. 3. The Messalonskee win flip-flopped the teams in the standings. Should each win a quarterfinal game in the tournament, they’ll meet for a third time.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times, and they’ve already beat us twice,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “We just want to be playing well. I think we played well at times tonight. I don’t mind losing as long as both teams play well.”

The Eagles took the lead for good late in the second quarter, closing the first half with a 9-2 run to take a 31-27 lead into the half. While Skowhegan pulled to within a point late in the third quarter, the Indians never retook the lead. Messalonskee went 10 for 17 at the line in the fourth quarter to maintain its edge.

Gabrielle Wener led Messalonskee with 13 points, while Emily Parent and Makayla Wilson each scored 11. Annie Cooke scored a game-high 20 points for Skowhegan, and Sydney Reed added 10 points for the Indians.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Parent came off the bench, and scored six of her 11 points from the free throw line in the final minute. Parent went 6 for 8 from the line.

“It is nerve-wracking, but you do have to step up and make some foul shots and the end of the game,” Parent said.

KEEPING COOL: The Eagles learned from their early season 62-57 win over Skowhegan. Keeping their composure, especially late in the game, was key, Derosby said.

“The first time we saw them, we were really jumpy. A credit to their defense, they’re really aggressive. But we learned, and we made some free throws down the stretch,” Derosby said.

Messalonskee also handled Skowhegan’s full court pressure well, and stayed patient on offense. Often, the Eagles were happy to pass the ball around the perimeter until somebody became open on a back door cut for an easy layup.

“We knew we were going to come out and press them. They just handled it very well. We couldn’t execute anything in the halfcourt and they were able to. They’re well-coached and took it to us, as far as I’m concerned,” LeBlanc said.

FOUL TROUBLE: Cooke picked up her second foul, on a charge, with 33 seconds left in the first quarter and sat the entire second. Cooke picked up her third foul, on another player control, with 5:59 left in the third quarter. Forty-three seconds later, Alyssa Everett was called for her fourth foul for Skowhegan.

“Kids are willing to put their body on the line, get in there and not be afraid to mix it up. Alyssa (Genness), Brooke Martin, Katie Seekins, even Ally (Turner), you have four kids who have at least five charges taken this season,” Derosby said.

The Indians were able to survive the foul trouble, and Messalonskee’s lead remained four points, 41-37, going to the fourth quarter. Cooke scored nine of her 20 points in the fourth.

“(Cooke) has a tendency to score in bunches, but we don’t execute enough with her. She should be scoring more, I feel,” LeBlanc said.

The foul trouble did help Messalonskee execute one of their points of emphasis, keeping Skowhegan off the boards. Cooke finished with six rebounds.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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