SKOWHEGAN — If you heard the celebration coming from the Mt. Blue boys basketball locker room after Friday’s 57-54 victory at Skowhegan, you would’ve thought the Cougars had just won a playoff game.

But when you’re coming off a 1-17 season, a win in the season opener is a big deal.

“We’ve been pushing ourselves since summer,” Mt. Blue senior James Anderson said. “We want to put Mt. Blue basketball back on the map.”

The Cougars never trailed and held off one Skowhegan rally after another. The Indians pulled within a point midway through the fourth quarter, and had the ball down two, 55-53, with 39 seconds left. Levi Obert missed a go-ahead 3-pointe attempt, and Marcus Christopher missed the putback that would’ve tied it. Anderson Cooly made a pair of foul shots with 19 seconds left to give the Cougars a four-point lead.

“We had to keep our composure and play smart,” Anderson, who led Mt. Blue with 20 points, said.

Under first-year coach Travis Magnusson, the Cougars played with confidence and poise.

“We’re talking a lot about culture and playing as tough as we can,” Magnusson said.

Mt. Blue led by nine points midway through the third quarter before Skowhegan rallied. The Indians tied the game, 45–45, on a Christopher putback with 6:14 to play in the game. An Anderson 3-pointer just 12 seconds later gave the Cougars the lead for good.

“They played with a lot of emotion and we did not,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said. “I told our boys, we’ve got to match their intensity, and we did not do that enough.”

Defensively, the key for Mt. Blue was containing Christopher, Skowhegan’s leading scorer last season. Christopher led Skowhegan with 22 points, 15 coming in the second half.

“We did a good job until the last five minutes on Christopher,” Magnusson said. “We haven’t been in this situation much.”

Randy Barker added 13 points for the Cougars, while Garrett Reynolds scored 11. Matush Prokop scored 10 points for Skowhegan, with Jimmy Reed adding eight.

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