DIXFIELD – Beating rival Mountain Valley once earlier this season was a pretty big deal for the Dirigo Cougars. Beating them a second time in the same year, well, it would be an understatement to even say it was twice as nice.

The Cougars controlled the boards and the second half to pick up a 64-53 win over the Falcons in a sold out DeFoe Gymnasium.

Thomas Knight led four Dirigo starters in double figures with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Josh Daley and Mike Holmquist tallied 15 points apiece, and Colby Knapp added 12.

“We just went with the same (strategy) as the last time we played them,” said Daley, who added five assists. “We had to work on the defensive end, man-to-man, and keep pressure on them.”

On Jan. 5, the Cougars snapped the Falcons’ 67-game winning streak against conference foes by winning a 52-51 nail-biter. This time, they were able to pull away in the fourth quarter by shooting 13-for-20 from the foul line and holding Mountain Valley’s Andy Shorey to just seven second half points.

Shorey finished with a game-high 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. With him leading the way (eight points), the Falcons got off to a blazing start, shooting 8-for-11 from the field in the first quarter to take an 18-8 lead.

“Our coach kept saying that there’s peaks and valleys between two good teams,” Daley said. “We played through it.”

“We were a little tentative at the beginning,” Dirigo coach Gavin Kane said. “We came into the game with the idea that we were going to try to apply some pressure early to see if we could pick up the pace of the game. After about three minutes, I felt that we were too tentative in our traps and went back to old reliable – man-to-man.”

Dirigo (14-1) closed to within four by the end of the first, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Holmquist and Daley. Daley added another trey to open the second, but Shorey responded with a 3-point play and a jumper to make it 23-17. The Falcons star didn’t score again, however, until midway through the third quarter, which helped the Cougars take command.

“I thought after that first quarter, Tom (Knight) did a great job,” Kane said. “He worked extremely hard and played a lot of minutes for us. He made Andy work for anything that he got.”

“I wasn’t working very hard on the defensive end,” Knight said. “Coach got on me a little bit.”

Knight also scored six straight points late in the half to help the Cougars take the lead for good. Knapp’s buzzer-beater gave them a 33-29 lead going into the break.

“We played well at the beginning of the game, but we probably didn’t make as many smart decisions as we could have,” Falcons coach Dave Gerrish said. “We didn’t execute as well as we could have and they executed real well.”

A Holmquist 3 to start the third quarter made it a seven-point game and set the tone for the rest of the half. Mountain Valley rarely got closer than within a five or seven-point range. Owen Jones’ steal and lay-up with 6:10 left pulled them within three, but Mountain Valley started to get careless with the ball and Holmquist converted a three-point play that made it a seven-point game again.

The Cougars got in the bonus early in the quarter and then the double bonus with about three minutes left and were able to pull away. They also gave the Falcons few second opportunities, finishing with a 29-19 rebounding advantage, including 11-3 on the offensive boards.

“That was a key for us. We had that up on the chalk board before the game, that we needed to do a better job on the boards than we have been recently,” Kane said. “I thought we were very active on the glass tonight.”

Justin Staires finished with 11 points for the Falcons, while Jones added 10.


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