AUGUSTA — Matt Parent has never played a playoff game at the Augusta Civic Center. He’s hoping events like the Capital City Tip-Off in November will help him and the rest of the Messalonskee boys basketball team get there in February.

“It’s been disappointing both years. We’ve just been close,” said Parent, a junior. “This year we’re hoping to lock into (the playoffs), definitely. And then, just having preparation, having played here before in (holiday) tournaments, it’s good so that hopefully when we get there, we can make some noise.”

The tournament, for now, can wait. On Friday, nine teams were at the Civic Center going through preparations for the start of the season, including trying out rotations, working on team chemistry and knocking off whatever rust remains before the first countable games begin on Dec. 6.

“We’ve had four or five practices before this, so it’s a good chance to get out, play a couple of games and see what it looks like, instead of just playing against each other,” said new Messalonskee coach Jay Dangler, who was the JV coach last season. “Being the first year with this group, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do and who meshes well together.”

Thursday presented him with a chance to try out his plan for the Eagles this season. Dangler wants his team to push the pace on offense and play aggressive defense, and on the larger Civic Center floor, he had the perfect venue.

His team responded, too, forcing Hall-Dale into one turnover after another in an 81-51 win. Messalonskee also played Leavitt later in the day.

“We’re looking to play a little bit loose and have some fun and get after it,” Dangler said. “This is the biggest floor we’ll see pretty much throughout the season. … If we can run our lanes and we can stretch the floor vertically and horizontally and get the defensive stretch, I think it will benefit us on a floor like this. It showed today.”

The Eagles also spread the ball around against the Bulldogs — Parent and James Smith led the way with nine points apiece — and looked like a team that was ready for the season to start. On one particularly pretty sequence, Issac Violette got a rebound and zipped the ball upcourt to Nick Woodside, who bounced a pass behind his back to a trailing Mason Violette for the transition basket.

“We didn’t have any seniors last year so we were all young, and it’s mostly the same team this year,” Parent said. “We all know each other, we all know each other’s playing style.”

“The chemistry of this group is great,” Dangler said. “We’ve always had freshmen, sophomores playing bigger roles on the varsity team, and not playing with some of their buddies they grew up playing with. Now, we’re all together.”

Some of the teams at the Civic Center, however, were in the opposite position. Hall-Dale had one of the more experienced starting lineups in the area a season ago, but with players like Alec Byron, Ashtyn Abbott and Tim Cookson gone, the Bulldogs have to build a new core for this winter.

That process took a step forward Friday.

“We haven’t even been able to run five-on-five yet because we’ve got guys injured with some hangover injuries from the fall,” coach Chris Ranslow said. “Even the pre-existing guys are in different roles, so it’s brand-new for everybody, including Josh (Nadeau) and Pat (Rush), who are two starters from last year, but this year we’re going to ask them to do a lot of different things.

“Today was an opportunity after a tryptophan hangover to come out and knock some rust off, and kind of figure out where we’re at.”

Rush scored 21 points in the loss to Messalonskee. Hall-Dale also fell to Foxcroft Academy 65-37, though Ranslow said the results didn’t matter as much as how the team played on the floor.

“We’re not looking to polish or refine anything. We’re looking to build from the fundamental, basic mark,” he said. “I think today was good on a lot of different fronts. Frustrating to play some of the ways (that we did), but at the same there weren’t any Heal points out there today and there weren’t any trophies to win. As long as we learned something in a positive manner going forward, I think it was good for us.”

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