by Travis Lazarczyk Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — If you heard the celebration coming from the Mt. Blue boys basketball locker room after Friday’s 57-54 victory at Skowhegan, you would’ve thought the Cougars had just won a playoff game.

But when you’re coming off a 1-17 season, a win in the season opener is a big deal.

Mt. Blue High School’s Caleb Talbot (23) holds his hands in the air after scoring against Skowhegan Area High School in Skowhegan on Friday. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)

“We’ve been pushing ourselves since summer,” Mt. Blue senior James Anderson said. “We want to put Mt. Blue basketball back on the map.”

The Cougars never trailed and held off one Skowhegan rally after another. The Indians pulled within a point midway through the fourth quarter, and had the ball down two, 55-53, with 39 seconds left. Levi Obert missed a go-ahead 3-pointer attempt, and Marcus Christopher missed a putback that would’ve tied it. Anderson Cooly made a pair of foul shots with 19 seconds left to give the Cougars a four-point lead.

Skowhegan Area High School’s Marcus Christopher (4) drives the lane against Mt. Blue High School in Skowhegan on Friday. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)

“We had to keep our composure and play smart,” Anderson, who led Mt. Blue with 20 points, said.

Under first-year coach Travis Magnusson, the Cougars played with confidence and poise.

“We’re talking a lot about culture and playing as tough as we can,” Magnusson said.

Mt. Blue led by nine points midway through the third quarter before Skowhegan rallied. The Indians tied the game, 45–45, on a Christopher putback with 6:14 to play in the game. An Anderson 3-pointer just 12 seconds later gave the Cougars the lead for good.

Skowhegan Area High School’s Marcus Christopher (4) draws the foul from Mt. Blue High School’s Jackson Eustice (23) in Skowhegan on Friday. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)

“They played with a lot of emotion and we did not,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said. “I told our boys, we’ve got to match their intensity, and we did not do that enough.”

Defensively, the key for Mt. Blue was containing Christopher, Skowhegan’s leading scorer last season. Christopher led Skowhegan with 22 points, 15 coming in the second half.

Skowhegan Area High School’s Jimmy Reed (23) drives to the basket as Mt. Blue High School’s Garrett Reynolds (5) defends in Skowhegan on Friday. (Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel)
 
 
 

“We did a good job until the last five minutes on Christopher,” Magnusson said. “We haven’t been in this situation much.”

Randy Barker added 13 points for the Cougars, while Garrett Reynolds scored 11. Matush Prokop scored 10 points for Skowhegan, with Jimmy Reed adding eight.