AUGUSTA, Maine — The Messalonskee of Oakland girls basketball team had a few things working against it during Wednesday’s Class A North semifinal against Skowhegan.

Sophomore forward Gabrielle Wener, who scored 28 points in the Eagles’ quarterfinal win over Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, was limited to one field goal and five points by Skowhegan’s Mariah Dunbar.

And free throws were sometimes an adventure as Messalonskee made just 15 of 27 from the line.

But the Eagles are the defending state champions, and that experience may have played a decisive role in their 52-49 survival of the Indians at the Augusta Civic Center.

“They didn’t panic,” said Messalonskee coach Keith DeRosby. “They knew that even when they were down three that one shot makes a big difference. One possession on offense, one possession on defense and suddenly it’s a new game.”

Senior point guard Ally Turner, the most experienced of the Eagles, led her team with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Katie Seekins and Alyssa Genness each added nine points.

Junior forward Annie Cooke led Skowhegan with 13 points despite being sidelined for much of the game with foul trouble. She scored 10 points in the first half to keep the Indians within 27-24 at the break but drew her fourth foul by the midpoint of the third quarter and sat out nearly eight minutes of play before returning.

“Getting her in foul trouble helped a lot because she’s so dynamic,” said DeRosby, whose third-ranked Eagles will face No. 1 Hampden Academy in Friday night’s regional final after defeating Skowhegan for the third time this winter.

Messalonskee (14-6) scored the game’s first six points and led by as many as eight after a fast-break 3-point play by Seekins off a Turner assist that made it 35-27 with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

Skowhegan (15-5) went on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 37-37 by the end of the third period, then took its first lead at 40-39 on a 3-pointer by Emma Duffy with 6:40 left in the game.

A layup by Sydney Ames gave the Indians a three-point edge before Wener scored her first points of the day, a 3-pointer from the right wing to tie the game at 42-42 with 4:58 left.

Skowhegan regained the lead on a drive by Everett, but a 3-pointer by Makayla Wilson restored Messalonskee to a 45-44 edge.

Neither team could pull away but while Skowhegan re-tied the game at 47-47 on a 3-pointer by Sydney Reed with 2:28 remaining, Messalonskee made enough late free throws — 4 of 9 over the final 2:06 — to preserve the victory.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...