BOOTHBAY HARBOR — Dirigo’s defensive game plan Thursday night at Boothbay was concerned with slowing down the high-low game of Anthony DiMauro and John Hepburn.
After a first-half defensive clinic by the Cougars, those apprehensions proved justified.
DiMauro and Hepburn combined for 22 of their 38 points in the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks rallied for a 56-44 win over previously undefeated Dirigo in an MVC boys’ basketball showdown.
“They were doing lots of different things against us,” DiMauro said. “The second half we came out and got our transition game going.”
Boothbay (14-1) earned itself the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Western Class C tournament at the expense of four-time defending champion Dirigo (13-1).
The Cougars led 16-4 out of the chute, held a 22-16 advantage at the half and had slippery fingers on a 30-28 edge after three.
By that time, however, Boothbay had begun what would be a 25-6 run. And after shooting 4-for-18 from the field and committing 17 turnovers in the first half, the Seahawks were 17-for-23 after intermission, including a nearly perfect 11-of-13 in the fourth.
“I don’t think our defense failed us even in the second half. I think it was more our offense,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “We were very passive, very scared with the ball. We didn’t want to make plays. We kind of let them be on offense when we were on offense, and then they beat us up and down the court.”
DiMauro didn’t make his first field goal until a steal and coast-to-coast drive that put Boothbay in front 32-30 with 6:48 remaining. He finished with 20 points and five assists.
Hepburn had 18 points and 10 rebounds with Linc Simmons chipping in eight points and nine boards for Boothbay.
“The kids thought they were pretty good anyway. I didn’t think we were that good,” said Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham. “Now we know we can play. Now the pressure’s on.”
Freshman Riley Robinson led Dirigo with 17 points. Sophomore Kaine Hutchins added 10.
It was a defensive chess match throughout. Boothbay rolled out its patented 2-3 zone. Dirigo ran its smallest, quickest players at DiMauro and its biggest, strongest bodies at Hepburn in waves.
The Cougars won the battle of wills early. Hunter Ross, Tyler Frost and Travis Frost did yeoman work on DiMauro, who was shut out in the first quarter and held to six free throws in the second. Hepburn got into early foul trouble.
Seven points from Robinson and five from Travis Frost delivered the double-digit lead.
Then Dirigo’s offense sputtered during a 2-for-13 slump in the second period. Boothbay crawled back into it on the strength of DiMauro’s contested drives to the hoop and ensuing free throws, plus Simmons’ strength under the basket.
“I think we played as well as we can in the first quarter. We were as ready as we’ve been all year,” Magnusson said. “When they made that run, we kind of got that (anxious) look on our face. When they make their run we have to be tougher and fight through it a little bit more.”
Hutchins hit two 3-pointers out of the half to restore a 28-18 lead. The Cougars produced only one more field goal in the quarter.
DiMauro again was kept off the scoreboard, but the rest of Boothbay’s lineup all got into the act with baskets to begin the game-winning rally.
“We got a lot of steals,” Hepburn said.
Seven in the second half, in fact, including three by DiMauro.
Boothbay built the lead to nine before Robinson cut it to four on a 3-pointer with just over two minutes left. Robinson’s traditional 3-point play kept it at five, 49-44, with 1:31 to go, but the Seahawks closed it out with seven straight points.
Dirigo connected at a 31 percent clip from the field compared to Boothbay’s 51 percent.
“The zone made the difference, and they didn’t shoot well. Any defense can work if they don’t shoot well,” Pinkham said.
“They definitely played their style,” Magnusson added. “They got up and down. They kind of beat us at our style.”