OAKLAND — Minutes after helping the Mt. Blue High School boys basketball team to a 63-58 win at Messalonskee, senior guard Garrett Reynolds thought about what has changed for the Cougars this season. Coming off a string of losing seasons, Mt. Blue is now 6-2 and among the top teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A standings.

For Reynolds, the answer was simple.

“Everything’s different. Chemistry with my teammates, our coach, the effort we put forward… It’s fun to be a part of,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds scored a game-high 24 points, with 18 in the second half, to help the Cougars hold off the Eagles.

Mt. Blue (6-2) and Messalonskee (4-3) are arguably the two most improved boys basketball teams in the KVAC A division. On Friday night, they showed why. There were six ties in the second half, as neither team ceded anything.

“You get bodies flying everywhere, and it comes down to three or four plays at the end that are the difference between winning and losing,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said.

Down 61-58 with six seconds left, Messalonskee had an open baseline three look for Matthew Parent out of a timeout. The shot was off, the Mt. Blue’s James Anderson sank a pair of free throws with under a second left to clinch the win. Parent’s shot was exactly was McLaughlin wanted.

“Matty is an incredible 3-point shooter. He’s shooting almost 40 percent for the year. He hits that shot on a consistent basis in practice,” McLaughlin said. “He had an incredible look. I told him to keep his head up, and next time he has that opportunity, he’ll put it in the bottom of the net. No doubt about it.”

Messalonskee has an earlier chance to tie. Down 59-56 with 1:24 to play, Tucker Charles made a layup, but missed the free throw with his and-1 opportunity. With 24 seconds left, Anderson made two foul shots to push the Cougar lead to three, 61-58.

“We had chances. That’s all you can ask for in basketball. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t,” McLaughlin said.

Defending Messalonskee’s guards, like Charles, Parent and Tysen Paz, was key, Mt. Blue coach Travis Magnusson said. While the Cougars did a good job defending the perimeter, that opened chances in the paint for the Eagles, where Noah Wood scored 14 points.

“I know they’re a little bit young, but they are so skilled,” Magnusson said of Messalonskee. “Their guards are really tough. We were so focused on the guards, the big guys hurt us down the stretch. That’s just a really good team.”

The Cougars trailed for all but the final second of the first half, taking a 25-24 lead into the break when Hunter Donald scored on a putback as time expired. Donald’s go-ahead layup was just one of numerous second chance baskets for Mt. Blue, which grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the first half. Mt. Blue finished with a 47-35 advantage on the glass, with 18 offensive rebounds.

“The first quarter we did not rebound well. They were killing us on the boards. We talked about how we had to be tougher,” Magnusson said. “All our starters had foul trouble at one point or another. Guys came off the bench, whether it was two minutes, one minute, and helped us in spots.”

Mt. Blue led by as much as six points early in the fourth quarter, before the Eagles rallied to tie.

Anderson had 18 points and 13 boards for Mt. Blue (6-2). Charles led the Eagles (4-3) with 17 points.

Messalonskee lost starting forward Parker Cole to a wrist injury early in the first quarter. McLaughlin said early indications are the injury is a sprain, and Cole should not miss much time.

“It drastically changes our game plan. Injuries happen. Any time you lose a top three option scorer, he’s averaging 8-9 points per game right now. He’s a guy who logs about 25 minutes per game,” McLaughlin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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