During his freshman year, Charlie Houghton led Dirigo in scoring with 15 points per game. As a sophomore last winter, he averaged 22.

Dirigo’s Charlie Houghton, middle, drives to the basket while being defended by Mountain Valley’s Caleb Frisbie, left, and Zach New during a March 2021 game in Rumford. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Dirigo boys basketball coach Cody St. Germain knew opponents would focus on the junior this season, and that the Cougars needed to have more players involved on offense.

“Last year we found that in big games teams were keying on Charlie, putting a lot of pressure on him,” St. Germain said. “He did a good job of scoring, but we didn’t recognize it as well as we should have. I had spoken to Charlie in the preseason, and our goal was having him looking up the court when the double teams happened and finding someone. He’s done an exceptional job, and the other guys are scoring and his passing has come a long way. I told them as they got older and matured, he’d be able to trust them more.”

Another junior, Dakota Tompkins, has stepped up and was even the Cougars’ leading scorer through the first five games of the season.

Trenton Hutchinson, also a junior, is running the point guard position for a third year in a row, and St. Germaine is looking for him to become more of a scorer. 

“He’s always been very productive, very reliant,” St. Germain said. “We are trying to get him to get the next step forward in being more of a scorer, continue to be a facilitator but adding scoring.”

The Cougars start four juniors and have two more juniors come off the bench. Those six have played key roles in Dirigo’s 6-2 start to the season. 

“The group is a ton of fun to be around, both as individuals and how they play on the basketball court,” St. Germain said. “You can tell they have played a lot of basketball through the years — very good team chemistry.”

Ethayn Roberts of Lisbon High School pulls down a rebound against Monmouth Academy last month in Lisbon. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

GREYHOUNDS FINDING WAYS TO WIN

The Lisbon (5-2) boys have won three of their last four games. The impressive part is that they haven’t suited up more than eight players during that stretch. 

In last week’s win over Monmouth, Lisbon had only seven healthy players. Levi Tibbetts was under the weather but still played, leading the Greyhounds with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

Over the next three games — wins over Boothbay and Mt. Abram and a loss to Carrabec — Lisbon has had a rotating group of eight players available.

“It’s going pretty well,” Jake Gentle said. “We’re still battling a lot of illnesses, haven’t been able to suit up a full team in the last four games, but the kids are playing with a lot of heart. There’s a lot of sicknesses and I think there’s a cold or flu that’s beat them down, but they’re playing with a lot of heart.”

It hasn’t always been smooth, but Gentle said the players have adapted well to not having a full roster.

“These kids have been playing together since middle school, over the summers, and they’ve adjusted pretty well,” Gentle said. “There will always be some hiccups with some timing — one player might like it in a certain spot, a player might do something different from another — there is always a learning curve we will have.”

Tibbetts and Mason Booker are described by Gentle as “steadfast” for the Greyhounds. Meanwhile, Gentle said, Aiden Parker, Caden Boonem and Chase Mailhot have stepped up and given quality minutes. Gentle calls Boonem the Greyhounds’ “defensive catalyst.” 

“They’re going (into games) focused and hoping to play good basketball,” Gentle said. “We had goals of wanting to improve every day and have the best record they can at the end, and they’re working hard at those.”

RED EDDIES IMPROVING

After the Edward Little girls started the season 0-5, the coaches and players had a meeting. 

“We had a frank discussion, saying we had to pick a side of the floor where we were going to make big strides in getting better,” Edward Little coach Chris Cifelli said. “We wanted to keep the scores within striking distance. Ever since the Windham game (a 44-38 loss on Dec. 23) where they were motivated to play against a great player in Sarah Talon, we’ve wanted to be able to stretch out leads and play hard in the fourth quarter.

“There’s been a lot of buy-in, and it’s important for the young kids to play in the intensity of those games, and it makes a huge difference that even if you don’t win you understand time situations, timeouts.”

Edward Little’s Nikki Clark takes the ball up the court as Lewiston’s Ellie Legare stays on defense last month in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In their next two games, the young Red Eddies (2-6) earned wins over Portland and Deering. On Thursday night, it had Hampden within reach at the half, only trailing the 7-1 Broncos by three points. Edward Little ended up losing 51-38, but it’s a significant improvement over their 43-point loss to Hamden earlier this season. 

“It’s one of those things, too, that even the games we won the scores were somewhat deceiving,” Cifelli said. “It takes us a while to pull away. Nobody sucks, the records maybe are weaker (for some) teams, but we were in a two-possession game with a team that beat us by 43, and that coach was finding fun combinations of kids to put in and now he has to work at it. They had to coach the full 32 minutes.

“The questions from the girls was, ‘Were they missing people?’ They only were missing one player, who had eight points the game before. We played them straight up.”

Tess Robbins recently returned from an injury, adding another post presence next to Jenny Chaput, which forces opponents to defend the Red Eddies differently. 

“We got Tess Robbins back, who gives us a presence in the paint and is a calming influence,” Cifelli said. “She was certainly a factor in that game and it frees up our guards.”

BIG GAMES ON TAP FOR PATRIOTS

Gray-New Gloucester’s girls basketball team has started the season 4-1, including an overtime win over Freeport and a close 45-44 victory over Biddeford in the first two games of the season. 

“I think what’s been nice is our ability to pull out close games,” Patriots coach Mike Andreasen said. “Our first game we played Freeport and we were down in the last minute, tied the game and then won by seven in OT. In the Biddeford game, we had to have a basket to tie and two free throws to win it. Down the stretch we get tough. The fourth quarter, we kind of dig in.”

Gray-NG then lost to Greely 64-45 but trailed by just one at halftime. 

Andreasen said he is pleased with the Patriots’ record, and adds that the next few games will tell a lot about the team. 

“I think our results are good, we’re 4-1, and you think about what’s been good is that we are a pretty inexperienced team,” Andreasen said. “We haven’t gotten into the meat of the schedule yet. We have Mt. Ararat, Wells, Brunswick and Yarmouth coming up. Not that the first teams aren’t good, but they don’t have the tradition. I wouldn’t say it’s fools gold, they’ve been tight games. Now we have to get in the big part. We will see how we progress. 

“Brunswick and Wells will tell us a lot. We are making Fryeburg up this week (after a postponement) and they’re no slouch. Coming into the season I was hoping we’d be around .500. Looking at our last 13 games, if we can get above .500, that would be good.”

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