AUGUSTA – What if?

After the disappointing overtime loss, the Dirigo Cougars couldn’t help but wonder. What if they hadn’t let the lead slip away? What if they hadn’t turned the ball over in key moments? What if they didn’t get into foul trouble? What if they got another chance at Hall-Dale?

The MVC championship game was one that got away for the defending Class C state champs, but it could serve as a precursor to today’s regional final at the Augusta Civic Center.

“I thought we played pretty good basketball in the MVC championship game,” said Dirigo coach Gavin Kane. “I think the girls will come into the Western Maine final with confidence and feel they have the ability to beat Hall-Dale if we put together a solid effort.”

When second-ranked Dirigo (17-3) meets the top-seeded Bulldogs (19-1) at 7:05 tonight, it will be the third meeting between the two.

Hall-Dale won the regular season matchup, 39-33, and won the MVC game at the ACC in overtime, 54-51.

“We’re really excited,” said senior forward Christina Chow. “We’re thinking right now that the third time is the charm. We’ll definitely be ready for them.”

It is the third straight year Dirigo plays the Bulldogs in the regional final. The Cougars won their 11th straight regional title last year with a 43-32 win.

Dirigo held Hall-Dale’s duo of 1,000-point threats Cailyn Laflin and Chelsey Dionne to just 24 points total and completely frustrated the Bulldog backcourt with tenacious defense.

Only Calais can boast three victories over Dirigo in the last decade, and those took a span of five years.

“It’s a different situation for us than coming in as the No. 1 seed in the past,” said Kane. “I really feel the pressure is on Hall-Dale. They were the preseason favorites.

“They had the best record during the regular season. We can go into the ballgame realizing that the pressure is more on their shoulders than it is on ours.”

Though the Bulldogs were favorites to claim the title and end Dirigo’s reign, the Cougars fully expect to challenge those expectations.

“We can win anything if we put our minds to it,” said junior forward Shannon Daley.

“It will take 100 percent from everyone, not just individually but together.”

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