The defending Class A North champion Hampden Academy girls basketball team had its hands full for three quarters against a gritty Messalonskee High School at the Hampden Academy gym on Monday night.
But the Broncos used their superior depth and relentless pressure defense to outscore the Eagles 19-4 in the fourth quarter en route to a 52-30 victory.
Hampden Academy improved to 5-0 while Messalonskee fell to 2-3.
The Broncos led just 33-26 after three periods but freshman guard Bella McLaughlin came off the bench to score the first two baskets of the fourth quarter and, after Messalonskee standout Gabrielle Wener responded with a layup, the hosts rattled off the next 15 points.
The weary Eagles shot just 1-for-8 from the floor over the final eight minutes and repeatedly turned the ball over.
Junior forward Megan Deans, the only non-senior starter for the Broncos, paced the winners with 15 points, six rebounds and two steals. Senior guard Alydia Brillant added 13 points, including 11 in the second half. She also had 10 rebounds. Sophomore Emma Haskell produced seven points off the bench along with three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Senior Amelia McLaughlin chipped in with five points, five rebounds and two assists and sister Bella added four points and three rebounds as did senior forward Sydney Hodgdon.
Monmouth University (N.J.)-bound Wener led Messalonskee with eight points and three rebounds. She is playing with a mask to protect an injured nose.
Her sophomore sister Grace had six points and three rebounds. Brooke Martin added five points with Shauna Clark and Jordan Devine contributing four apiece.
Devine also had five rebounds and Brianne Benecke grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go with two points.
Hampden Academy coach Nick Winchester thought his team’s defense and ability to control the tempo of the game were decisive factors.
The Broncos held Messalonskee to a 26.2 percent shooting percentage from the floor and also outrebounded their guests 34-27. HA shot 35.2 percent from the floor including a 47.4 percent showing in the fourth quarter.
“We always talk about it. If we push the ball all the time, good things happen for us,” Winchester said. “We’re deep enough to play eight or nine kids and that allows us to play a style of basketball that’s hard to defend. The strength of our team is its depth.
“It’s not easy to run constantly and play good defense. It takes a lot of conditioning. I loved the way the kids played. I’m proud of them,” Winchester said.
“We did a real good job executing our stuff,” said Brillant, who went 7-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. “Their legs were a little dead in the fourth quarter and we took advantage of that.”
“They put up a good fight but we realized we had to put it away in the fourth,” Deans said.
“[Deans] was phenomenal tonight,” said Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby. “She’s tough around the rim. She’s pretty smooth.”
In the first half, the Broncos used 7-0 and 6-0 runs to build a 23-14 halftime lead.
Haskell came off the bench with 3:31 left in the first quarter and scored seven points to supply the Broncos with a 13-6 lead after the first period.
She sliced across the paint and popped in a four-foot jumper to make it 8-4 and, after Gabrielle Wener scored off an offensive rebound, Haskell converted an offensive rebound and nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner off an Amelia McLaughlin pass.
The Broncos were holding a 17-12 lead in the second period after Messalonskee rattled off a 6-2 run before HA answered with six unanswered points as Ameilia McLaughlin fed Bella Soucy for an eight-foot jumper and Deans followed that with a four-footer from the baseline off a Haskell pass and then a layup after she stole an inbounds pass.
“Hampden was relentless on the offensive glass and we turned the ball over more than we wanted to,” Derosby said. “We couldn’t get the key stops at the right time in the fourth quarter and they just kept going.”