MONMOUTH — Dirigo forward Alyvia Perreault was in an awkward position when she caught a pass near the basket late in a Mountain Valley Conference girls basketball game Saturday.

But the senior figured it out and went up and slipped in the game-winning basket with 1.4 seconds left to hand the Cougars a 36-34 win over Monmouth Academy in a Class C South opener.

“The pass came in at a weird angle, so I was pretty nervous, actually,” the beaming Perreault, who finished with nine points, said. “I really didn’t have the best position. I was really under the hoop.

“I was either going to make it or get fouled and go to the line. So I was pretty confident.”

Monmouth was leading 34-31 until the Cougars moved within a point with 46.5 seconds left. The Mustangs had a chance to widen their lead, but missed three foul shots down the stretch with 17.0 seconds remaining. Dirigo’s Destiny Leclerc (nine points) hit one of two foul shots to tie the game at 34-34.

The Cougars got the ball back and Perreault maneuvered herself under the net, took the feed and deposited the game-winner.

“We ran the play, and my point guard ended up getting double-teamed and she was on the short side,” Dirigo coach Reggie Weston said. “There was going to be a screener kind of thing. She sets the first screen and the post player sets the screen and she was supposed to go around.

“She panicked, my guard panicked, she threw it down to Abby (Stevens), another senior who remembered the play, and she got Alyvia on the backside. So it ended up good for us because we got lucky …” 

The Cougars and Mustangs both began running the fast-break in the third quarter, with Monmouth sticking with a man-to-man defense. By the end of the third stanza, the Mustangs carved out a 28-23 lead and continued to set the pace well into the fourth quarter. Haley DeHahn scored a team-high 11 points for the Mustangs.

“It was a close one, that’s for sure,” Monmouth first-year coach Molly Menice said. “I think we had that little break at halftime so we had fresh legs. We really focused on working as a team and we had a few good things go for us, offensively, which drove our defense, and when those two things work together, it was easy to have high energy. Overall, we did pretty good on (man-to-man) so we stayed there.”

Weston said his Cougars were rusty had difficulty remembering plays.

“Defense needs to work harder,” Weston said. “I am not taking anything away from Monmouth because I thought they played very well. We are lucky to get by with this one today.”

Perreault pointed to Dirigo’s opening jitters before the Cougars went all out in the fourth quarter.

“We kind of came out pretty weak and had pre-game nerves. It was the first game of the season, so it was kind of expected,” Perreault said. “I feel if we would have come out with the intensity that we did in the fourth quarter, we would have had a much better game … and we would have been ahead the whole time.”

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