BY RYAN McLAUGHLIN
OF THE NEWS STAFF
HAMPDEN — Cinderella could be wearing Purple and White this winter.
The Hampden Academy girls basketball team continues to get better every game, and the Broncos earned some big stripes Tuesday night.
Coach Chad Bradbury’s club built 14-point halftime lead, weathered a furious Messalonskee comeback and Katelyn DeRaps hit a pull-up jumper with a minute to play in overtime as the Broncos knocked off the defending regional Class A champions from Oakland 67-61.
Hampden (12-6) won its sixth consecutive game to close the regular season while the Eagles dip to 10-7.
The Broncos’ win also leapfrogs them into seventh place in Eastern Maine Class A — eight teams qualify for the postseason — and could keep Hampden out of a first-round matchup with top-ranked and undefeated Skowhegan.
“Winning this game, we hoped to steal that seventh spot and hopefully play the No. 2 team,” said Broncos junior guard Michaela Stephenson.
Right now, that team is Edward Little of Auburn, which is playing without one of the state’s top players in Kirsten Prue, who is out for the season with a foot injury.
Messalonskee rallied from a 33-19 halftime deficit behind Kaitlyn Deering, who poured in 19 of her game-high 27 points after halftime. Her layup with 57 seconds left in regulation gave the Eagles a one-point lead.
After Hampden’s Courtney Doyon drained a 3-pointer on the subsequent possession, Deering hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 32 seconds left to tie it at 59.
In overtime, Katie Bernatchez put Messalonskee up 61-59 with a one-handed floater in the lane and, after Ashley Danforth sank a free throw to bring the Broncos within one, DeRaps canned a jumper from the high left block to give HA a 62-61 lead.
The Broncos patiently worked the ball around the perimeter, and DeRaps emerged open and rose to the occasion.
“We wanted a really open shot or try to go in and get fouled,” said DeRaps. “We didn’t want to force anything because we wanted to get one of the last shots.”
DeRaps came up with a steal on Messalonskee’s next possession, and Doyon hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 64-61.
Messalonskee had a chance to draw closer with Deering at the line on its next possession, but she missed both foul shots, and Hampden’s Whitney Moore hauled down the rebound and sank her foul shots to ice the win.
“I think it was really crucial, not only did it put it ahead by two [possessions] but it kind of changed the momentum and it got everyone pumped up,” Moore said.
The Broncos had yet to beat anybody ahead of them in the Heal point standings, so their confidence will only be enhanced heading into the tournament.
“We needed a big win against a good team,” Bradbury said. “We’ve beaten everybody below us but we had yet to beat somebody above us, and that proves that we belong in the playoffs. These girls are ready.”
Hampden’s offense was balanced, with Helene Sherburne leading the way with 14 points, including a 4-for-7 effort from the perimeter, while Doyon had 12, DeRaps nine, Stephenson eight and Danforth seven.
The Broncos’ defense kept the normally sharpshooting Eagles from generating any open looks from the perimeter, as Messalonskee was 3-for-23 from beyond the arc.
“Last time we played them I think they had seven 3-pointers, so we made a point to always get up in their face, hands up, so they couldn’t get shots,” said Stephenson, who also had four steals.
It was all Hampden early on, as the Broncos closed the first half on a 20-5 run to take a 33-19 halftime lead.
Sherburne sparked that run with three 3-pointers, including one to beat the first-quarter buzzer, as the Broncos were 6-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half and 10-for-23 for the game.
Hampden also shot 6-for-8 from the foul line in overtime.
Hannah Dexter was the other Eagle in double figures with 17 points.