Hutchinson cool in clutch

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DIXFIELD – Katie Hutchinson felt relaxed and confident on the free-throw line, and the Dirigo girls certainly needed those nerves of steel Tuesday night.

Hutchinson drained four free throws in the final 49.7 seconds, which proved to be the difference as the Cougars remained unbeaten with a 39-35 victory against Madison.

Dirigo (7-0) found itself trailing by one point after Briann Emery buried a 3-pointer with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Cougars quickly regrouped and scored seven of the final nine points.

“I felt confident,” Hutchinson said. “I’ve been making my free throws in practice, and I knew that we needed them to win.”

Dirigo made 15 of 20 free throws in the game, while Madison converted just two of six.

The Cougars traded turnovers, but baskets by Megan Russell and Carrie Jamison gave them a 35-32 lead. The Bulldogs had called a timeout with 1:12 left, but Russell stole the ball in the front court. Russell (10 points, six rebounds) alertly passed to Hutchinson (12 points, three assists) who drew a foul.

“We’ve been shooting the ball well,” Dirigo coach Gavin Kane said. “We feel that we can make our free throws. Down the stretch we wanted to limit Madison’s offensive possessions. Also, we needed to move the ball and burn time off the clock.”

Madison had 12 seconds left, but the Cougars pressed the ball with Katherine Gagne (seven rebounds), Nikki Kaulback and Shannon Daley. The Bulldogs were unable to get a shot off.

Madison was led by Margo Russell and Lacey Ashbrook with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“Madison is a good team,” Hutchinson said. “We knew that we had to deny Margo Russell from getting the ball in the post.”

Madison shot 36 percent from the floor. Dirigo used its trademark man-to-man defense against the Bulldogs and forced 25 turnovers. Dirigo shot 31 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 17 times.

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