AUGUSTA — Nick Winchester prefers that you don’t mention what happened when Hampden Academy played Messalonskee during the regular season. The head coach of the top seed in the Class A North girls basketball tournament remembers quite well how the two games went down, and he’d rather the Eagles weren’t reminded of it.

“I do recall exactly, and I hate to talk about them too, too much,” Winchester said after Hampden beat Lawrence in the regional semifinals Wednesday. “Let’s just say, we won both, and I think from those games there are things that we could take that we could build on.”

The Broncos (18-2) served notice that a run through the region could be in the cards on the season’s opening night, blowing Messalonskee out by nearly 40 in Oakland — 67-29.

Hampden and No. 3 Messalonskee will meet at 7 Friday night at the Augusta Civic Center for the Class A North championship. The defending state champion Eagles (14-6) are making their third consecutive appearance in the regional final, but they’re not the same team that rolled to a perfect 22-0 season last winter.

They’re not even the same team they were when they last played Hampden, a 43-34 loss on the road, in early January. That was only Messalonskee’s eighth game of 18 in the regular season.

“Some kids were playing different roles early on than they’re playing now,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “Alyssa Genness is one who has just been lights-out in this tournament. We see those things on a daily basis.”


With the one-two, inside-outside punch of Miss Maine Basketball Sophie Holmes and McKenna Brodeur now playing at Franklin Pierce College and the University of Maine at Farmington, respectively, the Eagles have retooled for this run to the final. Instead of three standout individual performers, Derosby has relied on a host of role players to fill the holes needed behind the play of senior Ally Turner and sophomore Gabrielle Wener.

To Derosby’s credit, he made sure not to identify players’ roles for them ahead of time. He didn’t make the mistake of trying to fit the proverbial square pegs into round holes.

“Having kids you can put in for a minute here or there, or even longer stretches, is big,” Derosby said. “We don’t dictate to them. We kind of let them figure their roles out as they go. It’s more authentic if they know where they fit.”

The little things will matter Friday night.

Messalonskee averaged just 30 points per game against Hampden in its two meetings this season, more than 20 points off its scoring average (52.6) in its 16 other games during the regular season. The Eagles will have to find a way to get inside against Hampden’s 6-foot-3 center Bailey Donovan, both to get to the rim and to rip rebounds away from her.

Donovan — who posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting with Messalonskee — is one of five Broncos standing 5-foot-8 or taller, giving them a pronounced size advantage over just about every team in Class A North.


“We’re super-long as a group,” Winchester said. “We’re also really rugged. That helps you fight off screens, that helps you get through screens, it helps you with switches, it helps you when you get caught in the post. Our kids just play really well defensively, and they use that physicality to put themselves in good positions offensively.”

Where Messalonskee’s Turner and Wener can score in transition and from the perimeter, it will be up to Genness, Makayla Wilson, Katie Seekins and Brooke Martin — among others — to provide presence in the paint. That’s where Messalonskee hopes its tournament experience over the last couple of seasons will pay off.

“Ally and K.K. (Wilson) have had a lot of games (at the Augusta Civic Center),” Derosby said. “Gabrielle in the last two years has had a lot of games here, Alyssa Genness, too. They know that one shot makes a big difference, one possession on offense and one possession on defense and suddenly it’s a new game. I think it’s maturity and settling down and understanding that you can’t win it on one shot always.”

Still, there will be the tall task of beating a Hampden team that avoided a scare in the quarterfinals against upset-minded Gardiner and has rounded into form as the tournament week waged on.

Plus, there are those two regular-season games between the Broncos and Eagles that Winchester is reluctant to talk about.

“What’s the old adage? It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season,” Winchester said. “The thing about Messalonskee is that they’re tournament-tested. They’ve been through this run before, they’ve been all the way to states. This isn’t going to be a new environment for them. They’ll come out ready to play, but I think we match up well with them.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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