GARDINER — Spot an undefeated basketball team a double-digit lead right out of the gate and you’re going to be in for a long night.

The Skowhegan girls kicked things off on a 15-0 run and held host Gardiner to just two first-quarter points, cruising to a 48-24 win in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game Thursday night at Bragoli Gym. Three players hit double figures for Skowhegan, which improved to a perfect 12-0 on the season.

Freshman Jaycie Christoper led all scorers with a game-high 13 points, while Mariah Dunbar and Annie Cooke finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

“We knew we had to play fast. That’s how we do it usually, is just run everyone down, because we’re in good shape,” Cooke said. “We’re getting smarter.”

That proved big early advantage proved more than enough for Skowhegan — whose defense was nearly as impressive as its offense was. Gardiner (7-5) was held to single digits in three of the four periods and never scored more than the 10 points they managed in the second quarter.

Bailey Poore led the Tigers with 10 points.

Gardiner’s Anna Toman attempts to block Skowhegan’s Annie Cooke (21) during a game Thursday in Gardiner.

“That’s what they’ve been doing, they’ve been jumping teams early,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “We had a couple good possessions early, but we got frustrated and tentative on the other end once they made a shot or two.”

Skowhegan came out and made seven of its first 10 shots on the night in building a 19-2 lead after one period. The Indians ditched their typical run-and-gun style in favor of placing higher value on possessions, and it worked well.

“We have been working extremely hard on getting… our teammates open for better, easier shots, especially from the inside-out,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “It’s different for us. Usually, we’re trying to push the tempo, but we decided we need to value the ball a little bit more.”

Case in point: The team’s first possession of the game lasted nearly 90 seconds and ended with Dunbar’s 3-pointer from the left elbow.

“We’re doing a better job of being patient and not forcing shots,” Cooke said. “That’s a big part of our play.

“It’s a tough matchup for us,” Gray said. “We try to go man, and they’ve got three 5-11s in the lineup and we don’t. We try to go zone, and they’ve got the shooters in the corner. They were really disciplined in that offense. They’re good with the ball, they take care of the ball… There’s a reason that team’s undefeated. They’ve got so many good players, so many veteran players.”

Gardiner’s Jaycie Stevens dribbles around Skowhegan’s Emma Duffy during a game Thursday in Gardiner.

The Tigers tried to fight back in the second quarter, with Cooke and Alyssa Everett glued to the bench for stretches via early foul trouble, and outscored Skowhegan by a 10-7 count.

But the second half began in a similar vein to the first, with the Indians opening the period on a 7-0 run. Dunbar connected on two of her four treys in the quarter from the left corner as Skowhegan grabbed a 38-18 lead through 24 minutes.

“Coach has been on me to keep my head up and keep shooting, so I’ve tried my best,” Dunbar said. “We know that if we get it inside to Annie and she scores, they’ll collapse on her and she’ll kick it back out. We’ve got to keep our heads up as shooters and be ready.”

The Indians got busy on the glass in the second half, too. As a team, Skowhegan out-rebounded Gardiner 17-8 after the break, which led to some second-chance buckets and a comfortable lead.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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