The opening stages of the Friday night, Dec. 15 early-season high school boys basketball showdown between longstanding Midcosat athletic rivals Camden Hills and Medomak Valley had the makings of a blowout victory for the host Windjammers.

However, the Panthers, who finished 18-0 in the regular season last year before they graduated a wealth of talented seniors, have a similar makeup, if not as much talent or experience as their predecessors, this season.

Their competitive fire burns just as brightly, as they proved over the final three quarters of the contest.

After they rallied to take the lead in the second quarter, the Panthers broke a 54-54 with an 8-0 run in the fourth stanza — and hit their free throws down the stretch — to emerge with a 78-68 victory.

Click for photos from this game.

Watch video below.

The Panthers have started the season 2-1, while the Windjammers are 1-2.

On Friday, Camden Hills jumped to a 15-5 lead before Medomak Valley rallied late in the opening stanza, to leave the hosts with a 15-13 edge after the first eight minutes.

The Panthers then prowled to a 42-33 halftime edge before the Windjammers went on the offensive, which left the visitors with a slim 54-51 advantage after three quarters.

Brent Stewart keyed the Medomak Valley attack with a 23-point performance — and was a sizzling 7-of-8 (87 percent) from the foul line in the fourth quarter — while Josh Goldrup, who was paramount to the Panthers’ second-quarter comeback, added 16.

Also those who chipped in on offense for the visitors were Gabe Allaire with nine points, Nathan Emerson, eight; Ryan Creamer, six; Alec Coughlin, five; Ethan Spear, four; Chris Bowman, three; and Brandon Starr and Jordan Powell, two.

For Camden Hills, Noah Heidorn tossed in 22 points, while Ionut Lodge netted 13; John Curtin, 11; Mike McGeady, nine; Mike Kremin, six; Daniel Peabody, five; and Ethan Ford, two.

The Panthers finished 22-of-31 (71 percent) from the foul line — including 11-of-14 (79 percent) in the fourth quarter — while the Windjammers were 18-of-36 (50 percent).

"I thought everyone contributed at different times in the game," said Panther coach Nick DePatsy. "It was a good game. Both teams played hard. We rebounded very well, and our execution was better."

The game matched two of the most respected, successful and experienced coaches in Maine high school basketball history in DePatsy and Windjammer coach Jeff Hart, who has a bundle of state championships to his credit.

On Friday, Lodge canned a 3-pointer with 7:40 to go in regulation to knot the score at 54-54 for Camden Hills, but Medomak Valley went on an 8-0 run and maintained that cushion over the game’s waning minutes.

Peabody, one of Camden Hills’ big men at 6 feet 6 inches, fouled out with 6:27 to go — and Goldrup converted a free throw — to give Medomak Valley back the lead.

Stewart followed with two more foul shots and later netted a 3-pointer from the top of the key — followed by a short-range jumper by Allaire — to put the visitors in front 62-54.

Medomak Valley connected on its free throws down the stretch as Camden Hills would get no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Camden Hills coach Hart said, "[This was an] absolutely horrible job by me having my team ready to play."

The Windjammers looked to be in midseason form in the opening minutes of the contest as Peabody opened the game with a three-point play — and added another hoop moments later after Stewart got the Panthers on the board — as the hosts took an early 5-2 lead.

Camden Hills then went on an 8-1 run off a pair of treys from McGeady and a nice move on the block by Heidorn to give it a 13-3 lead — and the hosts maintained that 10-point advantage moments later at 15-5 — but Medomak Valley scored the final eight points of the quarter, which began a 24-5 run that spanned into the second stanza, as the Panthers took control of the contest.

DePatsy credited the Panthers in-game turnaround to players who turned up the intensity on their halfcourt, man-to-man defense and boxing out on Windjammer shots.

"We were nervous early and started playing harder," DePatsy said.

And that was enough to help Medomak Valley notch a second victory in three games early in the season.