FAIRFIELD — Lawrence boys basketball coach Mike McGee is known for stressing defense, and with one of his protégés, Pete McLaughlin, guiding Messalonskee, you knew that a meeting between the rivals would be a low-scoring affair.

On Thursday, the original was just a little better, as Lawrence broke open a close game in the second half to pull away for a 42-27 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference win.

Lawrence is now 10-8 and prepares for the Eastern Maine Class A tournament. Messalonskee’s season ends at 6-12.

Messalonskee led 20-17 midway through the third quarter, but the Bulldogs closed the game on a 25-7 run. Lawrence took the lead for good on a Spencer Carey layup off a steal with three minutes left in the third, and the Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter on a 14-0 run to seal the win.

“I think we started to become patient. I said I wouldn’t say this anymore, but we’re young. We were a little nervous,” McGee said. “Once we started getting into our offense, being patient, and getting the ball inside, I thought that was the key.”

Added Lawrence senior Xaviere Scott, who had 12 points and eight rebounds: “(McGee) just said calm down, work the ball around, and defense was going to win it for us. And that’s what happened. We were getting tips and steals and that’s how we ended up winning.”

The Eagles committed 14 turnovers in the second half.

“Lawrence’s defense really stepped up. They increased their intensity, they were playing up our passing lanes, they weren’t allowing us to make our cuts,” McLaughlin said. “That’s what Coach McGee is all about. He’s got his guys playing their best basketball heading into the tournament.”

Lawrence led 14-8 midway through the second quarter, but Messalonskee scored eight straight points to take a brief lead. Carey (12 points) banked in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Lawrence a 17-16 halftime lead.

Andrew Wilson’s layup 30 seconds into the third quarter put Messalonskee back on top, and Keegan McPherson made a pair of foul shots to give the Eagles a 20-17 lead with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

Alex Leathers had eight rebounds for Lawrence, and Carey had four steals and a block. Luke Bartlett led Messalonskee with seven points and seven rebounds.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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