OAKLAND — Throughout Thursday’s game, the Messalonskee High School gym rocked. It was loud, it was intense, and in the end, it was a good-bye.

When Chase Warren’s fullcourt heave ricocheted off the backboard as time expired, Cony clinched a 53-50 win over Messalonskee. The loss meant the defending Class A North champs would finish on the outside of the tournament bubble.

“That’s been us all season long. Aside from a couple games against Hampden, we’ve been in every single game,” Messalonskee (7-11) coach Peter McLaughlin, his voice cracking, said. “Those guys, led by my seniors, gave me every single thing that they had, every day. I can’t second guess anything. We were in it until the very, very end.”

For Cony (13-5), it was the eighth straight win, and the Rams go into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the region.

“I feel like I’ve said this two years in a row now. Last year, we peaked at the same time, right at the end of the year,” Cony senior Jordan Roddy said.

Cony led 49-44 with a minute to play, before the Eagles tightened the game. Matthew Parent’s 3-pointer made it 49-47 with 37 seconds remaining. After a pair of Simon McCormick free throws pushed Cony’s lead to 51-47 with 19.2 seconds left, Chase Warren hit a three for Messalonskee to cut the Rams’ lead to one, 51-50, with 13 seconds left. McCormick sank two more foul shots to make it 53-50, and a Warren three attempt with five seconds left was short. Roddy missed a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds to play, setting up Warren’s desperate heave.

Warren scored a game-high 14 points for Messalonskee. Roddy and Brian Stratton each scored 12 points for the Rams.

“We’ve played really good basketball, and we didn’t want to go in (to the playoffs) on a losing note,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: McCormick scored nine points, but went 5 for 6 at the line in the fourth quarter, including 4 for 4 in the final 20 seconds as the Rams clung to the lead. McCormick had one miss wiped off the board when Messalonskee was called for a lane violation with 2:40 to play and Cony holding a slim 46-44 lead. With a second chance, McCormick hit the front end of the one-and-one to give the Rams a three-point cushion.

DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: Messalonskee led 28-25 at the half, and Maines said getting out on the Eagles shooters was a key in the second half.

“We didn’t let guys make shots that were uncontested. They hit four threes in the first half where we weren’t within four steps of the shooter, and that hurt us. The second half, they made a couple big ones at the end, but both were contested. Those were great shots,” Maines said.

Messalonskee finished with nine 3-pointers, with five players making at least one.

“We just had to grind on defense. They have some good players who played real hard. Sometimes our defense can get out of our hands. Playing that fullcourt press, you get tired sometimes,” Roddy said.

PRESSURE SITUATIONS: Cony’s fullcourt defensive pressure gives opponents fits, and helped contribute to 26 Messalonskee turnovers. That frantic pace is impossible to duplicate in practice, McLaughlin said.

“You can’t recreate it. Unfortunately with weather, we practiced it on Saturday because we weren’t sure about Monday. On Monday we practiced it again, but we’re focused on (Tuesday opponent) Skowhegan. Then weather (Wednesday), we don’t practice,” McLaughlin said. “I thought we settled in in the second quarter and started to make a run and doing things we wanted to do. When you have 26 turnovers in a game, it’s going to be hard to win. The thing is, we had that many turnovers and were still in the game.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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