AUGUSTA — Dirigo might have inspired Hall-Dale to send Sacopee Valley a thank-you card after Thursday night’s Western Class C boys’ basketball semifinal at Augusta Civic Center.
As in, hey guys, thanks a lot.
Probably was human nature more than the Hawks that brought out less than the best in the Cougars three evenings earlier, resulting in a victory with a margin of 31 points but lacking in style points.
The top-seeded, three-time defending regional champion Cougars had to, wanted to, were obsessed with, playing better. Pity the No. 4 Bulldogs for standing in the way and taking the brunt of a 90-31 shellacking.
“We were happy with how we played Monday, just not happy with our energy and things like that,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said of the Cougars‘ 68-37 quarterfinal win. “The biggest thing tonight was we shot the ball extremely well.”
And made sure that Hall-Dale did not.
Dirigo (19-1) forced 10 misses and nine turnovers before surrendering its first field goal. By that time, just over six minutes from the tap, it was 26-3.
Game over. Bring on No. 6 Old Orchard Beach in the only-half-surprising championship match at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
“Tonight we were so focused,” Dirigo center Cody St. Germain said. “We were fast breaking all over the place.“
Four starters hit double digits in little more than 15 minutes of action.
St. Germain led the Cougars with 20 points and eight rebounds. Caleb Turner chalked up 15 points and four steals. Josh Turbide and Ben Holmes each added 13 points, with Holmes tearing down eight rebounds and Turbide turning in four thefts.
“That was our major goal was to try and ball-hawk them as much as we could and force a lot of turnovers,” Turbide said.
Ben Crocker led Hall-Dale (13-7) with eight points. Dirigo shut out four Hall-Dale starters — Sam and Brad Shepherd, Tyler French and Ezra Jones — in the first half.
Turbide and Holmes each hit two 3-pointers in the opening stampede. Most of those shots were wide open, as were the frequent layups produced by the Cougars’ suffocating pressure.
“Our big focus was on defense, and you saw what happened,” Turbide said. “As soon as we hit that first shot, we knew it was going to be a good night.”
Hall-Dale harbored no answers for St. Germain posting up in the paint or Turner slashing through it. Each of them had six points in the first eight minutes.
Turner, Turbide, St. Germain, Holmes, T.J. Frost and Hunter Ross combined for Dirigo’s 10 steals in the period. That total fattened to 15 at the half, when Dirigo bolted to the locker room on the administrative end of a 51-13 schooling.
“Coach really stressed that we needed to start talking on defense more, because we hadn’t really been doing it against Sacopee or any other teams,” St. Germain said.
The Cougars relaxed the defensive clamps ever so slightly out of the break. Hall-Dale sank its first three shots after going 4-for-27 in the first half.
Showtime continued at the other end, however.
Dirigo pounded the ball inside to St. Germain on three consecutive successful possessions, highlighted by a beautiful baby hook. Turbide and Holmes each canned another from beyond the arc.
It was 76-26 when Magnusson removed his starters from the floor for the final time with six minutes to go. Thirteen different players scored for the Cougars.
Dirigo shot 57 percent from the field through the end of the third quarter and held Hall-Dale to 22 percent.
“Practices the past two days were very intense,” Turbide said. “Coach told us we needed to get back to our old ways. We can’t slack off.”