AUGUSTA – When reality began to sink in, so did the need for determination.

With the prospect of an early exit staring at them in Tuesday’s Western C quarterfinal, the Dirigo girls’ basketball team produced its best efforts to survive in a 39-38 victory over Telstar.

“I knew we had to pull it through because this is my last year, and I didn’t want to end in the quarterfinal game,” said senior forward Holly Knight, who led the Cougars with 14 points and 12 rebounds. “So we played as hard as we could and pushed ourselves.”

The Cougars overcame a seven-point deficit in the third quarter and rallied from four points down in the fourth. The Cougars even had to make a defensive stand in the closing seconds as the Rebels had a crack at the game-winner as time expired. A shot by Bailey Davis fell short, and Shannon Daley secured the rebound to advance the Cougars to Thursday’s semifinal against Livermore Falls.

“I thought the kids were able to dig down deep and force up a tough shot at the very end,” said Dirigo coach Gavin Kane. “We persevered.”

Davis finished with a game-high 17 for the Rebels. The Rebels (13-7) had gotten within one on a Liz Rosenberg hoop with 1:11 left. Telstar had a crack at the winner after a Dirigo 10-second violation in the backcourt with 1:04 remaining. Though a Katie Hutchinson interception appeared to nix that opportunity, she was called for a travel with eight seconds left. The Rebels got the ball to Davis on the right side, but her shot was short.

“We were looking for that shot from Bailey,” said Telstar coach Kelly Dole. “We got a decent shot and almost had the rebound.”

The Cougars (16-3) tied the game with 3:48 left in the fourth when Katherine Gagne fed Michelle Holmquist inside with 3:48 left and then took the lead when Daley hustled for a loose ball and fed Knight. Knight was fouled and hit one free throw with 3:03 left. Dirigo ran the clock down and drew a foul on Knight with 1:30 left. She hit both for a 39-36 lead.

“It seemed like there was pressure, but I’ve been practicing free throws a lot lately,” said Knight. “I knew that I’d have to hit them when it counted.”

Telstar used a zone against Dirigo in the second regular-season loss and decide to utilize it again because the Rebels’ man-to-man defense had not been as successful in the first meeting. Dirigo struggled to get its offense going.

“I thought we were fairly tentative in that first half against it,” said Kane, who had told his kids to expect a zone from the Rebels.

Telstar opened up a 27-20 lead in the third quarter thanks to seven straight points from Davis, who had 10 points in that quarter. Dirigo got a jumper from Holmquist, who finished with 11. Then the Cougars finished the quarter with a hoop from Knight and a free throw by Hutchinson to get within 30-29.

“For the last week in practice, we talked about getting the lead,” said Dole. “Not having the lead the last time against Dirigo hurt us because they went into a stall. So we focused all week on getting that lead in this game.”

Telstar built a 34-30 lead early in the fourth on free throws by Davis and a basket by Kelsey Dole on a Jillian Kimball feed. Though Telstar handled Dirigo’s pressure for the most part, six turnovers helped the Cougar cause in the final quarter.

“There were two points in that second half where another basket by Telstar might have made things difficult in the ballgame,” said Kane. “I do give my kids credit for erasing those leads.”

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