OAKLAND — Messalonskee girls basketball coach Keith Derosby has seen defenses do some pretty creative things to try and shut down star players. Even so, it still makes his eyes pop out of his head when he sees three defenders drawn to a blue chipper with the ball in her hands.

“If someone’s going to send three guys at you, you figure at that point somebody’s got to be open, right?” Derosby said prior to the opening tip-off of Messalonskee’s double-overtime 69-65 loss to Erskine in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game Friday night.

Currently, Derosby has one of the state’s best girls basketball players in his employ.

Senior Gabrielle Wener began drawing attention from opposing teams as early as two years ago. Having already committed to NCAA Division I Monmouth University for next year, the attention on the 6-footer has only intensified.

Seeing stat lines from Wener like Friday night’s first half against Erskine (three points) or last Tuesday’s in a loss to Lawrence (seven points) might raise skeptical eyebrows. But Derosby cautions against looking simply for bloated statistics from his prime-time player.

“She had 9 or 10 rebounds, blocks, assists, rebounds, deflections — she still had a tremendous impact on that game,” Derosby said. “She gets that part of it. She understands that it’s more than just that final box score.”

Visiting Erskine tried to take Wener out of the game, opting to let her teammates try and win the game.

“We face-guarded her the whole night,” Erskine coach Bob Witts said of Wener. “We wanted to be up under her feet, to not give her the confidence to drive. Anytime it went into the post, the kid that made the pass into the post — our kid ws going to come double. We were going to let them shoot the three.

“If they shot the three and it went in, we’d tip our hat to them and get on the bus to go home.”

For most of the night, the job belonged solely to senior Alyssa Savage or sophomore Sarah Praul. Whether Wener brought the ball up the floor for Messalonskee, or camped out in the low post, she faced scrappy man-to-man defending.

Here’s where Wener’s game has grown: Though she only had those three points through the opening 16 minutes Friday, she also had three steals and three rebounds to help open space for others on the floor.

That effort paved the way to a 20-point second quarter for Messalonskee which gave the home team the lead going into halftime and en route to their second win of the season — before Erskine rallied late in regulation to win the game in overtime.

“She’s got a really good perception of the whole game,” Derosby said.

Derosby has experience with standout performers before.

In 2017, Miss Maine Basketball finalist Sophie Holmes helped carry the Eagles to an undefeated regular season and a Class A North regional championship. A point guard, Holmes could take over games willfully while also involving virtually every other player on the roster.

Wener has rounded into the same form, though not as easily given she isn’t always beginning every play with the ball in her hands.

“It’s tricky,” Derosby said. “I don’t know if it’s any easier this time, but it’s a balance of trying to help the athlete try and figure some of those (defenses) out. At the Division I level, (Gabrielle) is probably not going to see a lot of face-guarding and double and triple teams. You have to get them to trust their teammates a little bit, too, at times, and it also requires their teammates knowing how to get them open.”

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