SKOWHEGAN — Midway through the third quarter Tuesday night, Mike LeBlanc called a timeout and gave his Skowhegan girls basketball team a fairly severe tongue-lashing. His main points of contention were his team’s lack of intensity on defense and poor teamwork at the offensive end of the floor.

As they’ve done all season long, the Indians responded.

Skowhegan came out of the stoppage with an 10-0 run to close out the quarter en route to a 70-45 win over Messalonskee in the penultimate Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game of the season for both teams. Led by senior Annie Cooke’s double-double and double-digit nights from both Jaycie Christopher and Alyssa Everett, Skowhegan improved to 17-0.

“That’s just a sign of them. I think they like to do that to me,” LeBlanc said of the pivotal timeout and message he delivered to his team. “I tell them that they don’t have to get me to yell at them to perform — they’re able to do it on their own. But they did respond well, and I was very happy with that.”

Cooke finished with a game-high 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, part of an inside duo with Everett that had another gear. Everett scored 18 points and collected eight rebounds of her own.

“We have a lot of energy,” Everett said of the big rebounding night. “We’re not very big, but we have to get in there with a lot of us and not just one of us.”

Gabrielle Wener’s 18 points paced Messalonskee (9-8). She scored the first 11 points of the game for the Eagles.

By the time her younger sister, Grace Wener, became the second Messalonskee player to finally crack the scoresheet with 3:44 left in the first half, Skowhegan had raced out to a 36-11 lead.

Messalonskee didn’t shoot particularly poorly. The problem for the Eagles was holding onto the ball against Skowhegan’s full-court pressure.

The visitors committed 14 first-half turnovers as the Indians opened the game on a 14-4 run over the first 4:15. They committed another 11 turnovers after halftime.

“It’s been a big thing for us is defensive intensity,” Cooke said. “We’ve been trying to get pumped up on the defensive end, and then our offense will just come off of our defense.”

“The hard part with them is that they’re smart enough to (recognize) that if one kid is late in your rotation, they capitalize on that,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said of Skowhegan’s press. “They’re able to turn you over even when it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a turnover. They’re long and athletic, and they’re able to sucker you into doing all the things you don’t want to do.”

At the other end of the floor, Skowhegan barely missed.

The Indians dropped five of their first six field goal attempts to build a 23-9 lead after the first period, and in the second, they came out and sank their first four attempts from the floor.

During those stretches, Cooke, Dunbar, Christopher (19 points), Mariah Dunbar and Sydney Reed all scored points.

“I think we played a lot of unselfish offense,” Everett said. “Honestly, it depends on the game and whoever shows up. We all work really good as a team, but every game somebody will be on. It’s not always the same person.”

Thanks to five straight points from Alyssa Genness to begin the second half, Messalonskee opened the third quarter with a brief 8-0 run. But then LeBlanc called the infamous timeout and Skowhegan never looked back.

“I think a couple of our kids took it a little personally,” LeBlanc said. “We had a rough practice (Monday) night. I got on them a little bit, and I challenged a couple of the kids today. They rose up to the occasion.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621
[email protected]
Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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