SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan boys basketball team was trying to work the ball inside, but when Messalonskee closed that option off, Colby Esty took the shot he had.

Esty’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Indians a two-point lead with 16 seconds left, then Esty blocked Dawson Charles’ 3-pointer as time expired to give Skowhegan a 56-54 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference win. Esty’s shot capped Skowhegan’s rally from a 13-point halftime deficit.

“We were looking for a layup, the easiest shot possible. It just happened that was a good look, and I took it, and I didn’t think twice about it,” Esty said.

With the win, Skowhegan is 10-7. Messalonskee is now 7-10.

“We were up one with 45 seconds left, and you’ve got to get stops there. That’s what great teams do,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said.

PERIMETER GAME: Messalonskee led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, making seven 3-pointers in the first half to build the double-digit lead.

“They hit some shots. They hit seven 3’s in the first half. They couldn’t miss. We talked about getting out and challenging those shots a little bit more,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said. “Our game plan the first half defensively was not a good one. They hit the shots. They made us pay.”

In the second half, Skowhegan challenged the Eagles on the perimeter more, holding Messalonskee to one three in the half, a shot by Matthew Parent that gave the Eagles a 54-53 lead with just over a minute to play. Skowhegan’s rally began in the third quarter, when the Indians were able to cut the deficit to three, 42-39.

“I thought our possessions were too quick. We tried to settle them down, but I think our juices were flowing a little bit to the point where, we felt like we were shooting the ball really well, and wanted to take some shots that I think we needed to execute a little bit more on and wait,” McLaughlin said.

Charles and Parent each scored 15 points for Messalonskee, while Chase Warren added 11 with 11 rebounds.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Skowhegan’s Marcus Christopher scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

“He’s been pretty good for us all year. Against bigs, against smalls. It doesn’t matter,” Nadeau said of Christopher. “He hasn’t played up to his potential the last few games, and I think he was hoping to make a statement tonight.”

Added Esty: “We’ve got size on them. Marcus is a great scorer around the rim. Anytime we can get him the ball, it’s always a good look.”

With Messalonskee’s 6-foot-5 center Cole Wood on the bench in foul trouble most of the game, Skowhegan was able to dominate in the paint. Wood picked up his fourth foul with 5:10 left in the third quarter. He returned with 5:55 left in the game, but by then Messalonskee’s lead had whittled from nine points to two. Wood fouled with 4:02 to play, and Cam Barnes (11 points) hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 47-47. With just under two minutes to play, Barnes hit a layup to give Skowhegan its first lead of the game, 51-49.

“(Wood) had two fouls in the first minute and a half, touch fouls. Then he basically picked up his third immediately (on returning to the game). Picks up his fourth immediately. In total he played three minutes, and he’s a guy that’s averaging three or four blocks and locks down the paint for us,” McLaughlin said

MUST-WIN GAME: The win jumped Skowhegan back to third place in the Class A North standings. The Indians close the regular season at rival Lawrence on Thursday. Messalonskee, the defending regional champion, now must beat Cony on Thursday to have a shot at the tournament. McLaughlin is looking at Thursday as a preliminary round game.

“Thursday’s a playoff game. We’re playing for our playoff life,” McLaughlin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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