WALDOBORO, Maine — Armed with a 16-point lead after the first quarter Tuesday night, the Medomak Valley boys basketball team felt nowhere near comfortable in its home opener — and with good reason.
But while that lead eventually disappeared, the Panthers displayed just enough late-game resilience to hold off Camden Hills of Rockport 63-60 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference clash of Midcoast rivals.
“There’s a lot of parity in our league, I think,” said Medomak Valley coach Nick DePatsy, whose team is now 2-0 with its victories by a combined five points. “Belfast only lost to Oceanside by five tonight, so you’ve got to come to play in this league. If you take a night off you’ll be in trouble, I don’t care who you play or where you play them.”
Camden Hills, an overtime winner over Waterville in its season opener last Friday, rallied to take modest leads during the second half and ultimately had possession in the final seconds with a chance to send the contest into overtime.
“We dug ourselves a hole and those are tough to come back from,” said Windjammers coach Jeff Hart. “I was pleased we got back in it, and we got some pretty good looks to tie it but just didn’t knock them down.
“We’ve got a long way to go and a lot to do to get better, but that’s the way our conference is. To me it’s who’s going to make the bigger strides from now until February but I like our upside. We’ve got a lot of ways to get better.”
Medomak Valley ultimately emerged with the win behind the inside strength of Ryan Ripley and John Murray and the timely scoring of senior guard Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet.
Ripley, a 6-foot-5-inch senior, scored 23 points on 11 of 14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, while Murray, a 6-8 senior, struggled offensively — scoring nine points on 4 of 17 shooting — but pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds.
Hendrickson-Belloguet finished with 19 points, hitting jumpers early in the contest and driving to the basket late in the game to help Medomak Valley fend off the Camden Hills comeback bid.
Junior forward Chandler Crans had 17 points and classmate Colin Morse added 14 points and eight rebounds for Camden Hills, and each got off an open shot from beyond the 3-point arc in a bid to tie the game in the final seconds.
Senior guard Connor Hart and junior guard Jayson Kuhn each added 12 points for the Windjammers, with Hart also contributing eight rebounds and five assists.
Medomak Valley dominated the first quarter as Hendrickson-Belloguet scored 10 points and Ripley had eight as the Panthers built a 24-8 lead.
“Early on everything was a set play for them, and we weren’t going to beat them doing that,” said coach Hart.
But with Medomak Valley’s guards experiencing foul trouble, Camden Hills amped up its defensive pressure and forced nine second-quarter turnovers by Medomak Valley — the Panthers had 28 for the game, compared to 18 for the Windjammers — while closing to within 30-25 at halftime.
“We had a bunch of turnovers in that quarter, and you have to credit them because that’s the way they play,” said DePatsy. “They got the tempo up more than we wanted it because we’re shorthanded right now with two seniors (Boone Olson and Kazu Tibbetts, both injured) out.”
The Windjammers took their first lead at 33-32 on a basket by Kuhn midway through the third quarter and held a 40-39 lead at the end of the period.
A 3-pointer by Morse with 5:04 left in the game gave Camden Hills its largest lead at 47-45, but Medomak Valley outscored the Windjammers 12-3 during the next three minutes, with Hendrickson-Belloguet scoring twice on drives through the lane, Ripley scoring twice from the paint and Murray adding a follow-up basket to help give the Panthers a 57-50 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Camden Hills made one final run of its own, with a 3-pointer from the right wing by Morse drawing the ‘Jammers within 62-60 with 18.9 seconds remaining.
Hendrickson-Belloguet made 1 of 2 from the free-throw line with 15.8 seconds left, leaving Camden Hills one final possession.
A 3-pointer by Morse bounced off the rim, then Crans got a second chance after an offensive rebound by Joe Chamberlain but couldn’t connect on his 3-point bid before the long rebound went out of bounds to Medomak Valley with 0.4 seconds to play.