DIXFIELD – Katie Hutchinson and Megan Russell combined for 25 points to keep Dirigo unbeaten with a 43-33 victory over Mountain Valley at crowded DeFoe Gymnasium.

Mountain Valley had taken a 23-21 lead on a Venessa Cayer basket with 3:35 left in the third quarter. The lead quickly evaporated when the Cougars regained their composure.

Dirigo (8-0), No. 2 in Western Class C, scored 14 of the next 16 points to take a 35-25 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Cougars made 16 of 28 free throws in the game, including 9 of 12 by Hutchinson

“As much as we struggled in the game, we decided in the fourth quarter to spread the floor,” said Dirigo coach Gavin Kane.

Dirigo received a pair of free throws by Hutchinson and one by Russell (11 points, six rebounds, five steals) to lead 37-33. The Cougars shut the door by scoring the final seven points in the game.

“Megan Russell was a bright spot for us,” Kane said. “She hustled all over the court. It wasn’t nerves with us because I had spoken with the girls and they seemed loose. I think you have to credit Mountain Valley for playing so well, especially on the defensive end.”

Mountain Valley (3-5) refused to allow the Cougars room to breathe. Vanessa Cayer scored a game-high 15 points and guard Tanya Martin added nine.

Martin buried a 3-pointer to pull the Falcons within four with 4 minuters left. Kim Clark and Katlin Drury each played strong games.

“It has been our Achilles’ heel,” Mountain Valley coach Rich Allen said, alluding to 32 turnovers. “In the second half we went full-court man-to-man, and it worked because we had opportunities, but then we got in foul trouble and had to back off.”

Dirigo used its trademark man-to-man defense to pressure the Falcons and forced turnovers in the first half. Still, the Falcons went on a 7-2 run, including baskets by Cayer, Meagan Mansfield and Emily Child, to trail 17-12 at halftime.

Dirigo shot a dismal 34 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 13 times.

“I thought we did OK,” Allen said. “We weathered the storm in the first half. There is still six weeks left and I was impressed by the girls’ will to win tonight. Our goal is to make the playoffs.”

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