AUGUSTA, Maine — There’s nothing like having experienced guards at tournament time.
Senior James Kouletsis scored with three seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then backcourt mate and classmate Nathan Violette scored four of his team-high 25 points in the extra period as Messalonskee of Oakland outlasted Skowhegan 64-55 in a Class A North boys basketball semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday night.
The win advances coach Pete McLaughlin’s fifth-seeded Eagles (15-5) to Friday’s regional championship against defending champion Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston. The third-seeded Mariners defeated No. 7 Cony of Augusta 67-61 in Wednesday’s earlier semifinal.
Eighth seed Skowhegan, which won its preliminary-round game over Brewer in double overtime before stunning top-ranked and previously undefeated Medomak Valley of Waldoboro in the quarters, finishes its season with an 11-10 record.
Violette had five 3-pointers en route to his big offensive night, while Kouletsis and yet another guard, junior Chase Warren, each added 13 points for Messalonskee.
Skowhegan led for much of the contest behind the outside shooting of junior guard Cam Barnes, who hit six 3-pointers among his team-leading 27 points.
The Indians held a 48-43 advantage after a three-point play inside by Garrett McSweeney with 1:53 left in regulation, but Messalonskee’s Dawson Charles countered with a three-point play of his own with 47.1 seconds left.
McSweeney then made two free throws to give the Indians a 50-46 advantage before Violette lofted a high-arching 3-pointer over a defender from the left of the key to make it a one-point game with 33 seconds left.
Brendan Curran made 1 of 2 from the line to give Skowhegan a two-point edge with 18.1 seconds left, but after Messalonskee’s Griffin Tuttle missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 7.7 seconds to play the rebound bounced out of bounds off a Skowhegan player, giving the Eagles one more chance to tie or win in regulation.
After a Messalonskee timeout, Tuttle inbounded the ball from just to the left of his team’s basket to Kouletsis, who spun in the lane and notched the tying basket to send the game into a four-minute overtime.
The extra period belonged to Messalonskee from the second Skowhegan committed a backcourt violation after gaining possession of the opening tip.
Violette scored from the lane and Trevor McCray followed with a loose-ball layup as the Eagles took a quick four-point lead, and after two McSweeney free throws Chase Warren went 2-for-2 from the line for Messalonskee and Kouletsis added a reverse layup as the lead grew to 59-53.
Barnes stole the ball and made one from the line after being fouled with 1:09 to go, but Messalonskee made 5 of its last 6 free-throw tries to end Skowhegan’s Cinderalla bid.
McSweeney finished with 12 points for the Indians.