OAKLAND — There aren’t a lot of ways to win basketball games by shooting 26 percent from the floor, but the Waterville girls struck on the right formula Tuesday night against Messalonskee.

The Purple Panthers led nearly wire-to-wire in posting a 35-31 victory in which they forced 26 turnovers while also holding Messalonskee star Gabrielle Wener to 16 points.

Waterville is 4-0 in Class B North while Messalonskee falls to 1-3 in Class A North play.

The win was the first for Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue in Oakland in his seven years at the helm.

“It’s a big deal because we work so hard,” said Sadie Garling, who led Waterville with 10 points. “Our coach he has some history with Messo and he really wanted it for us and we really wanted it for him.”

Rodrigue applied for the Messalonskee girls job several years ago before taking the position at Waterville.

“I thought toward the end we could have handled ourselves a little better,” Rodrigue said. “But certainly our game plan was executed to a T.”

That plan included applying full-court pressure against the Eagles which resulted in 16 first-half turnovers. Messalonskee took its only lead of the night late in the first half when Jordan Devine hit a layup and Wener converted a steal to make it 13-12. It was short-lived as Abigail Saucier hit a right-side jumper and Lindsay Giver followed with a free throw to make it 15-13 at the half.

Both teams return some veteran talent but are still adjusting to new point guards. The Panthers committed 17 turnovers of their own, including a couple down the stretch after they built a 31-21 lead.

“We have a lot of kids in different roles,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “We graduated two kids, five in the last year that have played a lot so there are kids changing into roles they’re not accustomed to.”

The Panthers led 24-21 entering the final quarter which they opened with seven straight — a Garling layup and a 3-pointer from Given, who followed that shot up with a layup over the 6-foot-2 Wener to make it 31-21. Sophomore Jada Murray grabbed her own rebound and hit a pair of free throws to make it 35-24 with 2:08 left, but the lead remained tenuous with Wener on the floor.

The junior converted seven of her points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of hoops in the final 24 seconds as the Panthers held on for the win.

Waterville got contributions from nine different players, nearly all of whom collapsed on Wener at one point or another. Junior Maddie Martin played a key role in keeping Waterville competitive on the boards with 10 rebounds.

“We’ve been asking her to be big and be tough in here and tonight it was really nice to see her step up and control the glass, especially on our defensive end,” Rodrigue said.

Wener grabbed 10 rebounds but was held to two 3-pointers while no one else on the floor for the Eagles scored more than five points.

“Other people have to be able to (score),” Derosby said. “They know that. The good thing was they recognized when Waterville went from a 2-3 (zone) to a box-and-one. The kids recognized that and made the adjustments but for them it’s learning to do those things around it.”


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