FARMINGTON – Messalonskee coach Tom Hill’s jaw nearly hit the floor as reserve guard Josh Gilbert hoisted an awkward – but open – 3-point shot from the left side of the floor.

“I thought he was going to cry,” said Eagles’ center Eric Taylor.

“I was probably the most sure person in the building that he wasn’t going to shoot,” admitted Hill.

Gilbert’s shot – his only one of the game – swished through the net with 1:45 to play in what had been a tight basketball game to cap an 18-4 run through the fourth quarter, leading the Eagles to a 63-54 win over the Mt. Blue Cougars on Tuesday.

“Eric (Taylor) set a screen and I came off it, and I was expecting them to switch or hedge or something,” said Gilbert, “but I was open. I fired it up and hoped for the best.”

Orlando Holmes led all players with 19 points for the Eagles (3-0), while Taylor chipped in with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

“He’s relentless,” Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey said of Taylor. “That’s what created a lot of the fouls we took, too. That first and second and third time he goes up for the ball, people start getting off balance. He’s a great athlete.”

Messalonskee outrebounded the Cougars (3-1) 28-12.

“Even the smaller kids, they got in there, got dirty and got the ball,” said Hill.

The Eagles came out flying early, posting a 9-0 lead before many of the fans lining the bleachers had a chance to blink.

“When we got the early lead, we knew they’d come back strong at us,” said Taylor. “When they did, we responded well.”

It took until the third quarter, but Mt. Blue did eventually regain the lead with an 11-3 run. Messalonskee faced its largest deficit of the night – seven points – twice in that quarter.

But a Holmes trey at the end of the third made it 44-40 Mt. Blue and sparked the Eagles’ run in the final quarter.

Isaiah Brathwaite led the Cougars with 12 points, Jamie Sawyer had 11 and Mike Toothaker contributed 10 in the loss.


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