AUGUSTA – One top-seeded boys’ basketball team took a first-round beating in the regional tournament at Augusta Civic Center. An hour north in Bangor, another went down.

Dirigo High School avoided the curse with ample room to spare Monday night, leveling No. 9 Livermore Falls, 77-38, in a Western Class C quarterfinal clash of Mountain Valley Conference rivals.

Mike Holmquist directed the Cougars with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds. Josh Daley added 12 points and five assists. Thomas Knight tacked on 11, Spencer Berry nine and Colby Knapp seven to supplement Dirigo’s dominance. Six reserves hitched their wagons to the scoring parade, as well.

“I thought we were a little tentative at the start against their 1-3-1 zone,” said Dirigo coach Gavin Kane. “Once Mike started hitting some outside shots, it loosened that up a little.”

And relaxed his own team, too, ensuring that Dirigo never ran the risk of following fellow top seeds Edward Little and Maranacook into an early seat in the bleachers.

The Cougars (18-1) continue the quest of their first regional championship in 23 years at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 5 Traip.

“We got off to a slow start,” said Holmquist, “but then we started hustling more and trapping better.”

In a fitting finish to a quarterfinal round that aptly demonstrated the Grand Canyon between state title challengers Dirigo, Winthrop and Boothbay and the remainder of the field, the Cougars absolutely clobbered the fifth-best club in the 15-team MVC. During a dozen decisive minutes in the second and third periods, Dirigo went on a 44-10 rampage.

Frequent turnovers and foul trouble for Livermore Falls and rare misses by Dirigo added up to a 38-19 disparity at the half. Holmquist nearly outscored the Andies by himself, draining four 3-pointers on his way to 17 points.

Two of Livermore Falls’ senior starters, Mike Durrell and Mark O’Shea, departed early in the second quarter with three fouls apiece. Durrell fouled out with 3:10 remaining in the third period.

Davis Mercier, also playing in his final high school game, led the Andies (13-7) with 11 points. Durrell added eight.

“Based on what I’ve seen in the conference and in the tournament, (Dirigo is) probably the No. 1 team,” said Livermore Falls coach Randy Parenteau. “And with the foul trouble and the unforced turnovers, we just sort of got caught up and got out of control.”

Holmquist turned prolific playmaker in the third quarter, when he delivered six pretty passes to four different Cougars – Knapp, Daley, Berry and Adam Law – for uncontested hoops.

Of course, even the Dirigo shots that met with arm-flailing resistance typically hit their target. The Cougars nailed 8-of-11 in the first quarter and 9-of-11 in the third, connecting at a scorching 64 percent before the obligatory final eight minutes of playground ball.

None of which seemed to satisfy the Cougars, who remain hungry after a loss to Winthrop in last week’s MVC championship game.

“We came out kind of slacking,” said Knight. “I don’t know why. We didn’t start out on fire like we normally do.”

Livermore Falls missed only two shots in the opening quarter to stay within seven at 19-12. Durrell dropped two free throws with 5:51 remaining in the half to make it 21-14, but Dirigo rattled off the next 14 points to pull away.

Dirigo forced 17 turnovers in the first half and 30 in all.

“I felt we picked up our intensity, and that was a key in the second period,” said Kane.

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