LISBON FALLS – One might be able to surmise from the fact that the Dirigo boys’ basketball team will be heading into 2006 unbeaten that the Cougars are playing with a lot of confidence right now, especially after knocking off Lisbon, 58-55, Friday.

“We’ve developed a lot of confidence playing with each other,” said Dirigo senior center Chris Richards, who tallied 14 points and five rebounds off the bench. “In years past, we’ve had the same players. We just didn’t have the confidence. That attitude’s set in and it’s staying with us.”

The Cougars (6-0) turned up their defensive pressure and exploited foul trouble for the Greyhounds’ big men in the second half, then held off Lisbon’s last-gasp effort to tie it.

Lisbon’s Chris Brunick scored his only points of the game on a short jumper with 5.5 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Following a time out, Dirigo tried to inbound the ball against Lisbon’s full-court pressure, but it was tipped to the Greyhounds’ Maxx Hathaway. Hathaway took two dribbles out to the 3-point line to attempt a game-tying trey, and he got a clean look. But the shot fell short just before the final buzzer.

“The defensive intensity was much better in the second half,” said Dirigo coach Gavin Kane. “The rotations on our halfcourt trap and our fullcourt trap was much better. We just got after it a little bit harder.”

Dirigo forced 12 turnovers in the third quarter to battle back from a five-point halftime deficit and tie the game at 42 heading into the final period. Lisbon played the entire third without 6-foot-4 senior forward Levi Ervin (seven points), who was relegated to the bench with three fouls. Six-foot-six senior center Brendan McGivney (eight points, four blocks) soon joined him with his third, allowing Michael Holmquist (16 points, eight rebounds, four assists) to go to work inside and on the offensive glass as Dirigo closed the quarter with a 10-4 run.

“I felt if we were patient with (Ervin and McGivney) in the game, they would have no answer for us inside,” said Lisbon coach Doug Sautter. “Once they got into foul trouble, we had to slow it down a little bit and have some guys play big minutes that aren’t used to playing big minutes.”

That’s exactly what Dirigo wanted to happen. Kane’s pregame notes for his team emphasized attacking the Greyhounds inside.

“The first thing he had was Take it to their big men.’ Get them in foul trouble because they didn’t really have any size coming off the bench,” Richards said. “When their big men were all on the bench, that’s when we could take it to the hole and get some easy buckets.”

Dirigo did indeed pound the ball inside from the opening tip and drew two quick fouls on Ervin, yet Lisbon was the only team getting easy buckets early. With Mike Wilkins (18 points) leading the way, the Greyhounds jumped out to an 11-1 lead. The Cougars had five turnovers before their first field goal, and McGivney was making things difficult in the paint with three early blocks.

Holmquist hit back-to-back treys near the end of the first quarter to pull Dirigo within six. The Greyhounds regained their 10-point lead midway through the second quarter as Ervin started to get in the flow of the offense with back-to-back hoops off feeds from Brunick (six assists). Richards kept the Cougars within striking distance with some good work inside before Ervin drew his third foul and Spencer Berry (12 points, five steals) drilled a 3-pointer to spark an 11-6 Cougar run to end the half.

“I thought Chris Richards did a good job coming off the bench,” Kane said. “He’s struggled with a badly sprained ankle and these were his first significant minutes. He does a great job with his strength inside and using his body to create fouls on the Lisbon big guys.”

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