Broncos hold off reigning state champ Messalonskee in overtime.
AUGUSTA — The magic that had carried the Messalonskee High School girls basketball team to a state championship last year made an appearance again Friday night. It brought the Eagles back in a Class A North final that appeared to be slipping away. It carried them through an airtight fourth quarter. And when that wasn’t enough, it took them into overtime, and the brink of even more heroics.
As it turned out, that magic had a limit. And in that overtime, it ran out for the defending champions.
The Eagles (14-7) went down, but not without a fight. Messalonskee fell behind by 12 points in the first half but rallied back, first taking a four-point fourth-quarter lead and then hitting a pair of shots down the stretch to hold off defeat.
But in overtime, the Broncos (19-2) had the answers. Messalonskee mustered only a pair of free throws, while Hampden eventually came through at the line to put the game away and earn its first trip to a state final since 2007.
“It was a game of runs, back and forth,” Broncos coach Nick Winchester said. “We were able to make the last one and hold on.”
Ally Turner led Messalonskee with 14 points, while Gabrielle Wener had 13 and Alyssa Genness had six.
Braylee Wildman scored 10 for Hampden, while Bailey Donovan — who battled foul trouble — had 11 points and Alydia Brillant had nine.
“It was a competitive game. It was fun to play,” Turner said. “They earned every basket they got. … It was an awesome game to play.”
“I’m proud. After an 0-2 start, I think a lot of people didn’t expect these girls to get here,” coach Keith Derosby said. “The girls stayed true to form, stuck together and stood by me.”
OVER IN OVERTIME: A dramatic rally brought Messalonskee to overtime. But the Eagles couldn’t maintain their pace.
The Eagles missed all five of their field goal attempts, turned the ball over twice and didn’t score after two Wener free throws made it 38-37 Broncos with 2:27 left. Hampden missed its first five free throws after that point but made three of its next four as the Eagles, who came up empty on all six possessions after the Wener free throws, had to keep fouling.
“I think it was a little bit of (running out of) gas, and a little bit of … knowing your margin of error on layups is pretty small,” Derosby, referring to the Broncos’ post tandem of Donovan (6-foot-3) and Sophia Narofsky (5-10). “We weren’t getting second and third chances.”
Messalonskee still had chances late, and was only down 39-37 with 59 seconds left, but Donovan blocked a Genness shot. Messalonskee saw its last chance slip away when Emily Parent attacked the basket down 40-37 but couldn’t convert, and Donovan grabbed the rebound with 2.1 seconds to go.
LATE HEROICS: Messalonskee had to pull together after seeing a 30-26 lead slip away in the fourth. The Eagles found a way to do it.
Messalonskee was down 33-30 when Wener pulled up from well behind the 3-point line and knocked down the shot, tying the score with 1:09 to play.
“We gave her enough space to catch and shoot,” Derosby said. “We hadn’t used it in a game yet, but we’d practiced it a few times.”
“Kay Kay looked a little surprised because I think when she kind of faked to go right, I don’t think she expected the defender to stay on that side,” Derosby said. “When she spun left, it was open. She’s been making those for quite a while now.”
COMEBACK: Messalonskee was down 19-7 with just over four minutes to go in the second quarter, but the Eagles gradually worked their way back. By halftime, they were down 19-15. They continued to climb back in the third, getting nine points from Turner and taking the lead at 27-26 on her spinning layup with 35 seconds left.
Turner said the rally was the poise from two long postseason runs paying off.
“Sometimes we get in these holes, but we really work hard as a team,” she said. “We pick it up defensively, we’re just trying to pick up the intensity.”
THE DONOVAN FACTOR: Messalonskee’s rally coincided with an early trip to the bench for Donovan, who picked up her third foul with 6:21 to go in the third, her fourth with 2:58 to go in the period and was on the bench when Messalonskee went in front.
She returned with 6:47 to play and Hampden down 28-26, and made an immediate impact as the Broncos came back. She finished with seven rebounds and three blocks in the limited minutes.
“She’s a shot-changer,” Derosby said. “Even if she doesn’t get a whole lot of blocks, she’s altering shots pretty regularly.”
Drew Bonifant — 621-5638