DIXFIELD – The Dirigo girls’ basketball team kept its composure down the stretch, and it all paid off in the end Friday night.

Three key free throws and a big rebound by senior Michelle Holmquist in the final minute of overtime gave the Cougars a 44-41 win against arch-rival Mountain Valley at DeFoe Gymnasium.

Defending Class C state champions Dirigo (14-2) was pushed to the limit by the scrappy Falcons.

Holmquist scored 17 points and had eight rebounds, but her nine free throws made the difference. The Cougars made 16 of 26 free throws in the game, including five of 10 in overtime.

“We tried to get in a (rhythm),” Holmquist said. “Mountain Valley has some good guards, and we needed to stop them from penetrating inside. We had to adjust our approach to the game because Mountain Valley came out really strong.”

Dirigo used a man-to-man defense against the Falcons and forced four turnovers down the stretch.

A pair of free throws by Katie Hutchinson (five points, four assists), and one by Abby Fenstermacher (seven points four assists) put the Cougars ahead 43-41. Holmquist grabbed a rebound off an Arsenault shot with 15.3 seconds left.

“I thought our kids kept their heads,” Dirigo coach Gavin Kane said, “especially at critical times in the fourth quarter and down the stretch in overtime in high pressure situations. Mountain Valley forced us away from what we like to do.”

Mountain Valley (7-9) was led by Kristen Arsenault with 17 points and 11 rebounds The Falcons led in the first game three weeks ago between the teams and led after three quarters in the rematch. A shot by Devon Allen bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.

Allen (nine points) sank two treys to give the Falcons a lead in the fourth quarter. Dirigo tied the score at 39 on a Holmquist free throw.

“We knew they would come out in a half-court trap to begin the second half,” Mountain Valley coach Wade McLaughlin said. “We weathered the storm, which we hadn’t done at our place and actually led after three quarters.”

Devon Allen Tanya Martin had buried a trey to put Mountain Valley up 23-17 in the second period. The Cougars stayed close on a Nikki Kaulback trey and a basket by Holly Knight (eight points).

“The switch on defense was a difference for us,” McLaughlin said. “We used a zone.”

The Falcons shot 41 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers. The score was tied or changed sides seven times in the final 10 minutes. Dirigo shot 30 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 12 times.

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