DIXFIELD — It was worth the wait for Dirigo.
The Cougars used their court time wisely, opening up the passing lanes and displaying a smothering defense as they ran away with a 65-41 win over Monmouth in a Mountain Valley Conference game at Defoe Gymnasium on Friday.
A foursome of players scored in double figures for Dirigo (3-0), led by Lauren Henderson with a game-high 16 points. Emma Lueders recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists as the Cougars remained unbeaten.
Both teams entered the game with concerns that needed to be addressed, but it was Dirigo that had all the answers. The fast-paced contest fed right into the Cougars’ strategy.
“We were able to rebound well and out let the ball,” said Dirigo coach Karen Magnusson, whose team played the first of three games in four days. “We were able to get to the open gaps. They ran hard and needed the breaks (between quarters) because they were tired. But, we had 21 assists on I believe 29 field goals, which shows pretty good passing.”
Monmouth (3-2) was looking to get back on track, but suffered its second-straight loss.
“It was our energy,” Lueders said. “When we scored we was high-fiving everyone. The bench was excited and so wasn’t the crowd.”
Dirigo hit the floor running with baskets by Rachel Knight (nine points) and Kelsey Hutchins (14 points). Lueders buried a three-pointer from the top of the key and Henderson scored three of the next four baskets, including a trey from the baseline. The Cougars led 35-14.
Monmouth proved to be its own worst enemy, missing eight of 10 shots and turning the ball over five times in the quarter. The Mustangs didn’t score until Jenna Davies made a basket, with 1:43 left in the first half.
“We missed shots and turned the ball over,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “The Dirigo defense is tough. We tried to get it going, but we couldn’t keep up with them and it forced us to make mistakes.”
The Cougars started every quarter on fire, making 13-straight shots, including four each in the first, third and fourth. They were able to capitalize on Monmouth miscues.
“We new that we couldn’t let up,” Hutchins said. “We had to come out strong because they had had a bad half and we could have had one also. We could get the ball in the paint and then kick it out and shot well.”
In the third quarter, Knight and Lueders each scored for a 40-20 lead. Monmouth quickly called a timeout and Haley West (14 points, eight rebounds) scored from in the paint. Caroline Bonnenfant had two baskets, but Dirigo pulled away on a fast break basket by Jessica Conant (11 points, five rebounds, four assists) and two baskets from Hutchins on offensive rebounds.
The Cougars shot 46 percent, made four of seven free throws, and turned the ball over 10 times, in the fast-paced game.
“Dirigo is a good team,” Wing said. “That’s why they are predicted as a top Class C team, and they showed it tonight.”