RICHMOND — Going into Tuesday’s game between Dirigo and Richmond, players, coaches and fans from both communities knew it was going to be a battle.
Neither team disappointed on the court, and the Bobcats outlasted the Cougars 68-62 in Mountain Valley Conference boys’ basketball action.
“This team showed a ton or resiliency tonight, very proud of these kids,” Richmond coach Phil Houdlette said.
Senior Zach Small registered a game-high 32 points and Matt Rines added 18 as the Bobcats improved to 8-2.
Cooper Chiasson led Dirigo with 16 points, followed by Jeremy St. Germain’s 12 and Isaac Cappen’s 11. The Cougars fell to 6-4.
Richmond opened the game building a 10-6 lead behind Small’s eight points, including 4-for-6 in his three trips to the line in the first eight minutes.
While Richmond was getting its points driving to the basket, Dirigo was creating a presence underneath, specifically with St. Germain. While Chiasson and Jacob Gaudin found the sophomore underneath for layups, the 6-foot-1 center also grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds and converted them to finish with eight first-quarter points. A 9-0 run to end the quarter put Dirigo ahead 15-10.
“I thought we got to the rim extremely well today,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “This year is the first we’ve been looking at Jeremy to score. We got him 12 touches in the first half, none in the second. I need to do a better job at making that happen.”
St. Germain raked in three more offensive rebounds, finishing the half with eight boards while scoring a team-high 12 points. Three-point baskets by Chase Clark and Cappen followed by a late hoop from St. Germain carried the visitors to a 30-30 tie at the break.
Each team looked to find an edge in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be this kind of atmosphere,” Magnusson said. “They do a nice job getting to the paint to create contact. We wanted to try to avoid that.”
“We really wanted to move the ball around in the second half,” Small said. “They came out in man (on defense) in the first half and then they went to a diamond and one, then a box on one, and a triangle two, so we really wanted to move it around because there were two or three guys open.”
“Offensively, we wanted to bring our four and five out to set some screens because they were double teaming Zach at the top in the first half. We wanted to force the ball to middle and spread the ball around little bit.”
Again, the third quarter saw four more lead changes between the two teams, that also included a couple of runs. While Richmond built a 39-36 lead midway through the quarter, Dirigo was not about to give up the fight.
A trio of treys by Luke Lueders, Clark and Chiasson paced a 9-0 run a put the Cougars ahead 45-39 with just over three minutes left in the quarter.
Even though Small scored 11 third-quarter points, Richmond still trailed 47-45 at the end of three quarters.
Despite being outrebounded to this point, things turned around for Richmond in the fourth.
Limiting St. Germain to only a pair of rebounds in the third quarter, it was Richmond’s Dan Stewart that worked hard to contain him.
“St. Germain has some legs on him. He’s a good leaper and obviously can finish,” said Houdlette. “We knew at halftime that we needed to block him out. Dan did an exceptional job on him in the second half. We told him to stick to him the whole second half.”
While Stewart grabbed three defensive boards in the third, the junior followed that up with four more in the fourth to finish with nine second half rebounds, 11 for the game.
“We just knew we had to keep him covered and keep him (St. Germain) off the glass,” Stewart said.
“Dan has been big for us this year. He’s rebounding where we need it the most,” Small said. “Last year we were outrebounded most of the time. This year it’s been a blessing to have him.”
The Cougars opened the fourth building their lead to as much as eight, getting seven more points from Chaisson, giving Dirigo a 56-48 lead with under six minutes remaining.
Richmond clawed back with a pair of Rines steals and a quiet eight fourth quarter points from the senior, including two 3-pointers, the second put the Bobcats ahead, 58-56.
Small put the home team ahead by three with a drive and hoop, but an Alex Gorham 3-pointer put Dirigo down, 60-59 with under two minutes.
Despite Dirigo’s efforts to limit Small’s opportunities by double teaming him, the senior still found ways to score.
After hitting a free throw, Small found Gorman underneath on a nice bounce pass to give the Bobcats 63-59 lead.
With 53 seconds remaining, Chiasson received a cut above his right eye that required immediate medical attention and had to leave the floor. He was bandaged up and returned to the floor moments later.
Gorman nailed another trey with 24 seconds left to cut the lead 65-62.
From there, Small and Stewart each free throw shots and Richmond pulled off a 68-62 win.
Richmond was 13-for-21 from the charity stripe while the Cougars only shot from the line five times, hitting four.
“Give Richmond credit for making adjustments and hitting their free throws. There is not a lot you can do when they go to the line 21 times to our four,” Magnusson said. “They have two of the better players in the league in Rines and Small and we knew we had to play our best basketball. These are two of the best teams in the league and it showed.”
“We hope to see these guys again. We’re pretty evenly matched and play a good hard game,” Chiasson added.