BRUNSWICK — After going 2-16 a year ago, the only direction for the Brunswick girls’ basketball team to go was up.
The Dragons’ turnaround continued Thursday night as they used an aggressive defense to knock Messalonskee out of its comfort zone and cruise to a 61-39 win.
It was a big victory for Brunswick against a team it could face next month in the Eastern Class A tournament.
“We’re only going to see (Messalonskee) once (during the regular) season, and they’re going to win a lot of games,” Brunswick Coach Sam Farrell said. “Any time you can beat a team that’s going to win a lot of games, that’s good for you.”
The Dragons (8-2) snapped Messalonskee’s four-game winning streak.
“In some games, we’ve handled the press, and some games we haven’t, but their pressure was good against us,” Messalonskee Coach Keith Derosby said. “They’re athletic. They’re tough. They force you to do things that you know you’re not supposed to do.”
The game’s turning point came when Brunswick finished the second quarter with a 12-3 run to open 28-15 halftime lead.
“At the end of the second quarter, we got into foul trouble and they put on a run off that press,” Derosby said. “We couldn’t score and every turnover turned into a basket.”
Julia Champagne, who had 20 points and 10 steals for the Dragons, helped put the game out of reach when she sank consecutive 3-pointers at the start of the second half.
Lyse Henshaw made 10 of 11 free throws and finished with 18 points.
Kelsey Mayo, a 6-1 center, kept the Eagles (7-4) close in the early going. She scored their first 13 points, and the score was tied 13-13 with four minutes left in the first half.
Mayo finished with 23 points, but her teammates weren’t always able to get the ball to her because of Brunswick’s defense.
“When their pressure comes out and forces us out of our comfort zone, it makes it hard to get the ball to her,” Derosby said.
The Dragons use a 1-2-2 full-court zone press for the first time this season.
“We just opened it up so the girls could be aggressive and see the ball,” Farrell said. “When you see the ball and move as five (players), you make the floor a lot smaller.”
The Dragons, who have won six of their last seven, also kept the taller Eagles off the boards.
“We’re normally the smaller team and we’ve learned how to play against the bigger teams,” Champagne said. “We’ve got a lot of shooters and we drive hard, and I think we’ve been playing really good defense against the biggest teams, so we’re use to it.”