AUGUSTA — With just two practices under its belt, the Messalonskee High School boys basketball team looked at Friday’s exhibition games at the Capital City Tip-Off tournament as more practices. The season isn’t even a week old yet, but improvement now can help get all teams back to the Augusta Civic Center for the tournament in February.

“You get your kids into the fundamentals of what you want to do, and it’s the third day of practice. No expectations coming in. We’re just trying to build on the two days we had,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said.

Messalonskee was one of nine boys basketball teams taking part in the all-day tournament at the Augusta Civic Center Friday. Games started on the hour, with two 20 minutes halves of running time to speed things along. The Eagles defeated defending Class C South champion Hall-Dale, 56-47, in their first game Friday afternoon. But now, just days into a new season, few teams are thinking of hoisting trophies. They’re thinking of getting better, one possession at a time. When the games count on Dec. 7, these moments will be key.

“Our team is really young this year. In a game like this, we’ve just got to find our identity as a team,” Messalonskee junior guard Tucker Charles said. “We have a bunch of guys who will play hard, and we have the skill to do some things. So the question is in these tournaments are we going to get the job done or not. I think we played really well today.”

Messalonskee has no seniors this season, McLaughlin said. Friday’s games (the Eagles were set to take on Gardiner a couple hours after finishing the Hall-Dale game) are a chance for young players to get a taste of leadership.

“You try to find leaders. We have a really tight knit group that has played a lot of basketball together. The locker room is a pretty friendly place right now,” McLaughlin said.

These exhibition games are about setting a work ethic. After just a few days of practice, few teams are going to have an offensive rhythm. While he saw his team shoot well in spurts against Hall-Dale, offense was the most important thing on McLaughlin’s mind Friday.

“Expecting your offense to be impeccable right now, it’s not going to be. It’s effort. It’s defensive intensity. It’s the little tiny things I think have to happen. You can shoot poorly, but you have to play hard defensively all the time,” McLaughlin said. “Our rotations, our communication, that’s what I was looking for. We’re doing some thing offensively this season we haven’t done before, so seeing how they were picking up those moments when they needed to, and I was really happy with how we played.”

Charles agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“I think we moved the ball well, and it’s the difference between finding the first open shot and the best open shot. That’s a big thing,” Charles said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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