RUMFORD — There is always the unexpected when rivals Mountain Valley and Dirigo battle each other
And why should this Monday night be any different in this girls’s basketball game at Puiia Gymnasium.
Dirigo maintained its composure down the stretch and made the proper adjustments, with point guard Emma Lueders directing the show. Kelsey Hutchins and Lauren Henderson each scored 12 points as the Cougars were relentless in a 43-34 triumph over Mountain Valley .
Mountain Valley (3-4), which had trailed by double digits in the first half, fought back and actually took a lead in the fourth quarter. Guard Julia Perry scored on a drive, Abby Parent put back an offensive rebound and Karen Flaherty made one of two free throws, giving the Falcons a 34-33 lead. It proved to be the last hurrah because it was the final points scored by Mountain Valley in the game.
Dirigo (6-0) kept pace behind four-straight free throws by Jessica Conant (nine points, 10 rebounds, four steals, two blocks). The Cougars were held without a field goal, until Henderson buried a trey from the baseline, with 2:08 left in the game.
“It was a matter of possessions down the stretch,” Dirigo coach Karen Magnusson said, while struggling to find her voice. “We had switched to a zone, because the girls were tired. It allowed them to relax.”
A major difference was the margin at the free-throw line. Dirigo made 14 of 16, while Mountain Valley made three of five. The Falcons missed eight shots and were one of three from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
“We show our youthfulness at times, but the girls are learning,” Mountain Valley coach Ryan Casey said.
The action changed in the third quarter, as the Falcons pulled to within two points on baskets by Liza White (seven rebounds) and Ashley Russell (12 points).
“We knew we had to come out with energy,” said Lueders, who had nine points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals. “This was a good test because Mountain Valley gave us all that we could handle. We knew that they wouldn’t let us, so we had to (match intensity).”
Mountain Valley trailed by one point following baskets by Sydney Petrie (seven rebounds), Russell and White. But the Cougars erupted for nine straight points on free throws by Conant, Hutchins and Lueders. A trey by Lueders gave the Cougars a 24-14 lead.
Mountain Valley responded with a Flaherty trey and a Parent basket to trail 24-19 at halftime.
“A key for us was being able to get rebounds and defensive stops at times,” Magnusson said. “I’m not saying we did that throughout the entire game, but we managed to do so when it counted, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Mountain Valley shot 39 percent, but was hindered by 30 turnovers. Dirigo shot 30 percent and had 18 turnovers in the game.