OAKLAND — Messalonskee’s defense of the program’s first Class A girls basketball state championship began, not with a bang, but with a thud Friday night.
The Eagles were held to just three third-quarter points and only two second-half field goals by a determined — if not surprised — visiting Hampden Academy squad, which parlayed a 23-3 third-quarter run into a 67-29 victory in the season opener for both.
Senior guard Marissa Gilpin led three Broncos in double figures with 17 points and seven rebounds, while junior center Bailey Donavan added 14 points and 12 rebounds in the kind of well-rounded outing last winter’s Eagles became accustomed to themselves.
“This is definitely a booster,” Gilpin said. “They have a lot of great players. We were pumped to start our season this way. We went into this game super nervous and we came out super confident.”
Hampden coach Nick Winchester admitted that he was surprised by how easily the Broncos were able to knock Messalonskee down.
“We did not see that coming at all,” Winchester said. “We’ve got a group of kids buying in and we’re very diverse in terms of being to play both in and out. … I’m telling you, I didn’t see this coming. I was very nervous about what the evening would bring. But the way these kids compete, anything is possible with this group.”
Neither team was especially proficient in any phase of the game in the first half, with Hampden nursing a 26-20 lead at the break. The game, to that point, had been a slog through poor shooting, early foul trouble and turnovers on both sides of the half-court stripe.
The third quarter, though, was a completely different story.
Hampden shot 8-of-13 in the third period (62 percent), forced Messalonskee into eight turnovers and limited the Eagles to just 1-of-9 shooting. Only once down the floor did Messalonskee grab an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive.
“Our main thing right now is defense,” Gilpin said. “We shut them down inside and took away the transition. In the first half, they had a couple of transition threes, and that was a nine-point swing. We tried to take that away.”
Gilpin and sophomore Alydia Brillant (11 points) made for a dangerous duo midway through the quarter, each knocking down a 3-pointer while Donavan provided a pair of inside buckets to build the Broncos’ largest lead to that point. By the time Gilpin hit from long distance with 2:35 remaining in the period, Hampden had itself a 42-23 advantage.
There were simply too many options for the Eagles to keep track of.