AUGUSTA — It was the perfect spot for the Messalonskee boys basketball team to crumble. Cony was feeling it on its home floor, on a roll to start the second half, and threatening to put a Thursday night showdown between two Class A North contenders away.

And then the Eagles showed the difference a year can make.

Matt Parent scored 23 points, Jacob Perry scored 22 and Messalonskee scored its biggest victory of the young season, defeating region favorite Cony 76-66 in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A action.

Messalonskee, which took command for good with a 15-0 third-quarter run, improved to 4-0. Cony fell to 3-2.

“This was a big win. Coming in here last year we kind of came out flat, and they just demoralized us from there. They kept putting it on, no mercy,” Parent said. “Coming in this year, we knew we had to come in with a different mindset, and we did that. It held true throughout the whole game.”

A different mindset paid dividends after the Eagles found themselves in the same sort of spot. Messalonskee, which lost 73-52 in Cony’s gym last year, was in danger of seeing the same thing happen again as the Rams got six quick points from Simon McCormick (28 points) and two from Dakota Dearborn (13 points) to turn a 38-35 halftime lead into a 46-37 cushion early in the third.

The Eagles, who were rattled by Cony’s speed and intensity last year, weren’t fazed this time. Parker Cole answered with a basket, Perry hit a jumper and Noah Wood had a putback to make it a three-point game.

Cony’s offense continued to sputter and the Eagles continued to take advantage, with Perry adding four more points on a fadeaway jumper and then a fastbreak layup after a Tucker Charles rebound to put Messalonskee ahead 47-46.

“We just had this mentality, ‘We need to get this done,’ ” Perry said. “We needed to push forward.”

The Eagles weren’t done yet. Wood had a free throw and a jumper, and Charles got a floater to go before Cony coach T.J. Maines finally called a timeout to stop the bleeding with Messalonskee ahead 52-46 with 1:48 left in the third.

“When we haven’t played our best ball, we’ve come together and fought adversity and persevered through some of those challenges, and that’s I think the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team,” said coach Jay Dangler, whose team gave a sign of what was to come by rallying from a 31-24 deficit in the second quarter with an 8-0 run. “We return all of our key players. … We lose our composure in the first half of (this) game last year, and we held it together, we kept it together.”

Messalonskee also set the pace in transition — a difficult trick against Cony — and caught the Rams flat-footed on the fastbreak often in the second half.

“From Day 1, we came in first day of tryouts and said ‘We’re going to be a transition team this year,’ ” Dangler said.

Cony answered the run with a pair of Luke Briggs free throws, but a Parent floater, Wood three-point play and Perry jumper pushed the lead to 59-48 by the end of the third.

“I think we were plus six or seven in the third quarter, and then we had 13, 14 empty possessions,” Maines said. “For the third quarter, we were 19 possessions and scoring four baskets. It’s tough to win (that way).”

The Rams also got little production aside from Dearborn, who left after getting hurt going for a loose ball in the fourth quarter, and McCormick, who tried to rally Cony back in the fourth quarter. The dynamic guard scored six of Cony’s first eight points of the third quarter, the last two coming on a cut to the basket that made it 59-56 with just under six minutes to play, but Parent hit a 3-pointer, Perry had a layup and Parent got another to restore the lead to 10.

“They made the plays at the end, they were tougher than us tonight,” Maines said. “Credit to them, credit to Coach Dangler for having them ready to play against pressure. For a young coach, that was a great win for him. I thought they outplayed us and outcoached us.”

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