Last year, Dirigo made an underdog run to the Class C title game, which the Cougars won to claim the program’s fourth state championship.

With all but one member of that junior-laden squad back this season, there was no possible way for the Cougars to be underdogs in 2022-23. They were the favorites to win every game they played, the favorites to repeat as state champions, and the team every opponent in Class C and the Mountain Valley Conference was targeting.

“Last year we came in as the underdogs, and this year we’re the top team, but like (head coach Cody St. Germain) said, we can only go one game at a time,” Dirigo senior Dakota Tompkins said. “Yeah, we’re the favorites, but we have to prove that we’re the favorites, not just think that we’re going to make it. We got to show that we want it, that we will.”

They’ve handled it well. They’ve won 20 of their 21 games and have battled their way back into the Class C final, where they face Calais (18-3) on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

But this season has been a battle for Dirigo. The shiny record has been hard-won. The returning experience and championship resume haven’t made anything easy.

Even the Cougars’ path to the state final was daunting. After taking down eighth-seeded Madison in the quarterfinals, Dirigo faced fifth-seeded Mt. Abram and second-seeded Monmouth — the two teams that challenged the Cougars the most this season, and two teams more than worthy of representing Class C South in the state championship game.


“When it shook out, we were like, all right, well, they say if you’ve got to beat the best to be the best,” St. Germain said, “and we certainly knew we were going have to go through some tough teams to get there.”

Dirigo had already defeated Mt. Abram three times in 2023, twice in the regular season and in the MVC title game. Each time, the Cougars trailed after the third quarter then fought back in the fourth. In the C South semifinals, that pattern repeated itself, this time with Dirigo outscoring the Roadrunners 28-14 in the final quarter to win 71-63.

Monmouth is the team that dealt Dirigo its only loss of the season, winning by 15 points, 71-56, on Jan. 30. The Mustangs also were last year’s C South runner up, falling to Dirigo in the 2022 regional final. So they had the double-whammy of a score to settle and the confidence to do so.

This time, the Cougars turned the tables, seizing control in the second quarter and pulling away in the second half to win 64-47, and earn a trip back to the state championship game.

The Dirigo bench jumps up during a game against Mt. Abram in a Class C South boys basketball semifinal game on Feb. 24 at Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dirigo faces another challenge Tuesday against Calais.

“I just saw that they were the No. 2 or No. 3 highest scoring team in the state this year and in all classes,” St. Germain said.


The Blue Devils average 74.7 points per game. Leading the way is senior Jace Cook, who became a 1,000-point scorer during the C North tournament, during which he averaged 21 points per game, including a 31-point performance in the semifinals against Fort Fairfield.

“They’re a very, very good team,” Tompkins said. “I mean, you got Jace Cook, he’s been scoring 30 throughout the tournament. And then you’ve got No. 20, he’s just very, very fast. He gets down the court very, very well.”

No. 20 is senior Evan Gillespie. Like Dirigo, Calais has several players who can score a lot of points. Jacob Sockabasin scored 15 in the Blue Devils’ quarterfinal win over Penobscot Valley and had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in the 80-49 regional final win over Fort Kent. Jeremy Turner scored 14 against Fort Kent, Kaeson Dana had 12 versus Fort Fairfield, and Alex Richard has been a contributor, flirting with double figures throughout the postseason.

“They have a whole bunch of other guys that are really solid role players that do a lot of things well,” St. Germain said.

Dirigo also is adept at putting the ball in the basket, averaging 69.6 points.

Charlie Houghton has been the Cougars’ top scoring threat since his freshman season. He averaged 17.4 points per game in the regular season, but has increased that to 23 per game in the playoffs, including 27 and 28 points, respectively, in the semifinals and C South final.


Tompkins scored 19 points per game in the C South tournament. Others, such as Trenton Hutchinson, Trent Holman, Nathaniel Wainwright and Airick Richard can put up big points for the Cougars.

St. Germain said that Dirigo has shown it also can win a slower paced game, such as the C South final against Monmouth.

He added that defense and rebounding will likely be keys to Tuesday’s matchup.

“We like to limit those transition points as well as we can,” St. Germain said. “And we’ve said in the last three games against Madison, Mt. Abram and Monmouth that one of the biggest keys was rebounding the ball. And I think that definitely goes against these guys, too, because they’re physical, athletic and they definitely want to finish every possession with at least a couple shots up if they missed that first one.”

Calais last won a regional title in 2015. It then went on to beat Dirigo 57-43 in the Class C final. The Blue Devils also beat the Cougars in the 2009 state title game, winning a close one 40-39.

Both schools have won four Class C state championships.

“Pretty similar styles, I’d say, between the two teams,” St. Germain said. “We both like to get up and run and it should be an exciting game for anyone that’s watching.”

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