AUGUSTA — There was one regular-season game to go. And the Cony boys basketball team wasn’t about to go into the postseason on a dud.

Simon McCormick scored 20 points, Dakota Dearborn added 15 and the Rams rode dominant second and third quarters to a 73-52 win over Messalonskee.

“I was proud of the effort. I was really happy with the seniors,” coach T.J. Maines said. “To be able to go out like that, that’s a tournament team, we played well, and our guys feel good about it.”

Cony finishes at 14-4 and in the top spot in the Class A North Heal points, while Messalonskee, which got 15 points from Matt Parent, finishes the regular season at 8-10. The Eagles were in sixth place coming in, but Medomak Valley, Skowhegan and Brewer were nipping at the Eagles’ heels. The top eight advance to the playoffs.

“We tried to dribble through pressure instead of making the extra pass, hitting the open guy and forcing that pressure to rotate,” Messalonskee coach Pete McLaughlin said. “When you try to dribble through Cony pressure, it doesn’t go very well.”

Messalonskee was down 12-8 but within striking distance after the first quarter, but the Rams found their rhythm in the second quarter. Cony hit five 3-pointers, with Kyle Douin, McCormick and Dearborn hitting three in a span of four deep attempts to turn a 13-12 lead into a 25-16 advantage.

“Our chemistry was off, we were playing new positions, so it was off to a kind of slow start,” McCormick said. “But we got our shooting back in a rhythm and our intensity just built up from there.”

Messalonskee narrowed a gap that reached 12 points to eight at 31-23, but Luke Briggs scored six of Cony’s last eight points to put the Rams ahead 40-29 at the break.

“I thought the first quarter and a half, I thought we were really good,” McLaughlin said. “I thought, tempo-wise, we were fine. We didn’t really have that many turnovers. There was a 7-0, 8-0 run going into halftime that kind of ballooned it out to 11.”

Cony’s defense wore down the Eagles in the third. The Rams scored the first six points and 15 of the first 17 for the period, and Cony outscored Messalonskee 26-5 in the third quarter to take a 66-34 lead into the fourth.

“Defensively, we were really good coming out of the half,” said Maines, who also got 10 points from Ian Bowers and seven from Bryan Stratton. “I thought we played some of the best defense we have all year. I thought we had active hands, we had good feet.”

“It’s just crazy out there,” said McCormick, who had three of Cony’s eight steals in the quarter, two of which led to breakaway baskets on back-to-back possessions. “It makes the defense play faster, makes it hectic, makes it feel like there are more guys than are actually out there on the court.”

“We had 25 turnovers, and our guards had most of them,” McLaughlin said. “Anytime you’re not completing possessions on rebounds — we had balls that were taken out of our hands — you can’t play that way against arguably the best team in our conference.”

McLaughlin agreed with McCormick’s assessment.

“It feels like there are about eight guys out there, running around,” he said. “Cony’s a great basketball team. They’re relentless.”

Tucker Charles added 10 points for Messalonskee. Mason and Isaac Violette had seven points apiece.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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