FARMINGDALE – Ten games into a frustrating Mountain Valley Conference season, Hall-Dale High School hadn’t proven it could take command of a close boys’ basketball game. After Monday night’s collision with Mt. Abram at Penny Gymnasium, the Bulldogs still haven’t won a tight one.

That’s not such a bad thing. Hall-Dale so thoroughly dominated the first half that neither the third nor the fourth quarter harbored many meaningful minutes, and the Bulldogs rolled past the Roadrunners, 67-47.

Senior Eric Gagne scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half, including a four-point play with less than a second remaining that gave the Bulldogs a 38-15 halftime lead. Mt. Abram never whittled it to single digits.

“We were shooting the rock, making shots, moving the ball around,” Gagne said. “We have a new coach and a new system, and we’re finally starting to put it together.”

Hall-Dale (3-8) bears little more than a passing resemblance to the team that won conference, regional and state championships last winter. With three seniors and a junior scoring in double figures and shooting better than 50 percent from the field as a group, however, the next wave of Bulldogs showed Monday that they could catch fire and fulfill tournament aspirations of their own.

James Henderson added 13 points and 14 rebounds for Hall-Dale. Shane Abbott added 10 points and four assists, while Jay Skillings, the lone veteran starter, finished with 10 points and six boards to end Hall-Dale’s five-game losing streak.

“It’s long overdue,” said first-year head coach Tom Nadeau. “Every game was right there. We had a string of bad luck, and we haven’t really been at full strength all year with injuries and ineligibility. A lot of kids stepped up big time tonight. They were hungry.”

Mt. Abram, meanwhile, never found a rhythm in a game it sorely needed to begin its own playoff push. The Roadrunners shot 16-for-52 (31 percent) from the field.

With defensive standout Aaron Adams sidelined due to illness, the Roadrunners (5-6) left Gagne free to swish four relatively uncontested 3-pointers in the first half.

Jordan Norton led Mt. Abram with 17 points, all but three in catch-up mode after the break. Tyson Chase contributed 11.

“We battled back and gave them all we had in the second half. It was just one of those nights,” said Mt. Abram coach Corey Guilford. “We have Dirigo, Winthrop and Boothbay coming up. Those are big (Heal) points. We need to sneak one of those away.”

Hall-Dale probably won’t sneak up on anyone over the final three weeks. Teams will need to be vigilant of Gagne, who scored a dozen in the final 3:40 of the first half to punctuate a 22-4 closing run. His highlight reel ended with a 25-foot leaner that rattled in off the glass and drew a whistle, besides. Gagne added the free throw.

“I think we’ll make the tournament,” predicted Gagne. “Our other wins were by 8 or 10 points. We needed one like this.”

Mt. Abram’s closest approach was 59-45 with 3:45 left on a 3-point play by Chase. Henderson answered with hoops on Hall-Dale’s next two possessions.

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