FARMINGDALE — In its quest to nail down the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class C South boys’ basketball tournament, Dirigo made its final defensive stop of the MVC season like a team that has enjoyed that distinction before, oh, once or twice.

With Hall-Dale only a 3-pointer away from forcing overtime on Senior Night at raucous, packed Penny Gym on Thursday evening, the Cougars threw a double dose of Gavin at the Bulldogs’ ball-handler. Gavin Arsenault cemented his status as the top defensive player in the league by knocking the ball free. Gavin Hebert then hit the floor and swept the ball to Luke Lueders, who hit a breakaway layup at the buzzer to seal a 53-48 victory.

“Gavin Arsenault made a great defensive play, his hand in there, and then Gavin Hebert diving on that ball … That’s just a man’s play, right there,” Dirigo senior Riley Robinson said.

Robinson registered 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Dirigo (17-1), which leapfrogged Winthrop with the victory and sealed top billing in the bracket for the seventh time in 10 seasons.

The Cougars are defending regional champions and have won it five of the past seven years. They open that defense at 9:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, against an opponent to be determined. No. 11 Hall-Dale (11-7) will play a road game in the preliminary round next week.

“It’s always good to go one. Sometimes it’s harder to go one than it is to make a big run in the tournament, because it shows consistency throughout the year,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “I’m really proud of my team to have the year they had, to get the No. 1 seed against a lot of tough teams. It’s not like there were a lot of cupcakes.”


Hall-Dale, for example. Featuring three sophomores, two freshmen and a foreign exchange student in their regular rotation, the Bulldogs refused to bow after falling into a 15-3 hole.

Four different players scored during a 10-0 run that connected the second and third periods and brought Hall-Dale within two at 29-27. Dirigo stretched that lead back to double digits late in the third, then a dozen points with 6:42 remaining, only to see the Bulldogs battle back.

“There’s a lot of emotion on Senior Night. We didn’t come out with the rhythm that we wanted to. We spotted them 10 (points), I think,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “Then we started to play with a little more energy. We started to do some of the intangibles that make us good.”

Clay Swett added 15 points for Dirigo. Hebert had seven.

Freshman Ashtyn Abbott topped Hall-Dale with 10. Nate Mills, one of six Hall-Dale seniors, and Alec Byron, another ninth-grader, added seven apiece. Sophomore Jett Boyer drew much of defensive stopper Arsenault’s attention and finished with six.

Hall-Dale held Dirigo scoreless for more than three minutes while Mills, Abbott, Enrico Giunti and Josh Berberich scored consecutive baskets to make it 47-43 with 3:56 to go. Robinson, as is the habit that has earned him nearly 1,900 career points, broke the Cougars’ deep freeze with a 15-footer.


“We know we can play offense. You see a lot of teams play 2-3 (zone) against us,” Robinson said. “We know that’s what we’re going to get. We’ve just got to buckle down, play defense, mix it up a little, get all over the place, and rebound.”

Abbott answered with a hook shot in traffic, and Quinn Stebbins’ steal led to a 3-point try that could have cut the gap to one point. Hall-Dale grabbed the rebound, but Swett drew a key offensive foul.

On Dirigo’s ensuing possession, after Lueders dribbled through the Bulldogs’ trap, Hebert found Swett for an uncontested layup.

“That’s what we were really trying to do all game,” Swett said. “We didn’t do a great job of it at first, but once we settled down we got the ball inside. Working the ball inside-out against a zone, that’s how we break it.”

Hall-Dale took advantage of a Dirigo traveling violation and the missed front end of a 1-and-1 to have a puncher’s chance at the end.

Tyler Nadeau tucked a quick basket between those two sequences to get the Bulldogs within three. Byron picked up the defensive rebound that gave Hall-Dale its chance to tie, although with 20 seconds remaining, Dirigo was wary of multiple options.


“Nadeau got to the rim really well. We wanted to make sure they didn’t score quickly, and to keep guys in front of us,” Magnusson said.

“We got a little disorganized,” Ranslow said. “We had four shooters in the game. It broke down. They did a nice job defensively. I was thinking three all the way, to tie it.”

Robinson scored eight points in the first quarter and 16 in the half to put Dirigo in early control. Hall-Dale closed with a 6-0 run, halving the margin to 29-23 after Robinson departed with his second foul at the 1:39 mark.

Hall-Dale’s bench — which had a different look due to five seniors starting their home finale — scored 32 of the Bulldogs’ 48 points.

“They were definitely tough. They played well,” Swett said. “We knew it was going to be a tough place to play and a tough crowd. All credit to them.”

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