Dirigo senior Charlie Houghton shoots during a Class C South semifinal against Mt. Abram last month at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

As far as singular moments go, the ending to Charlie Houghton’s junior season might be impossible to top.

With the Class C final tied, Houghton drained a 3-pointer before the final buzzer to give Dirigo a 59-56 win over Dexter and the program’s fourth state championship.

“I can’t imagine that there’s any better moment than that for him,” Cougars coach Cody St. Germain said. “That’s got to be the peak of any basketball player’s career highlights. I mean, I feel like every kid when they’re grow up playing high school basketball dreams of like that exact moment happening … a hundred times over and over again.”

Houghton didn’t top that specific moment during his senior season, but he and Dirigo were better in 2022-23. And, though the finish wasn’t as dramatic, it was the perfect ending to the careers of Houghton and the team’s other seven seniors.

The Cougars made a somewhat unexpected run to the 2022 state title. With all but one player returning this season, they were no longer under the radar, they were everyone’s target. They lost only once, going 21-1, and claimed their second straight Class C championship.

“I think it was a lot of determination and hard work paying off,” Houghton said.


Houghton played some of his best basketball in the postseason, averaging 23.3 points in four games, including 26.3 in the final three games.

His excellence in the biggest games of the season set him apart and make Houghton the 2022-23 Sun Journal All-Region Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

St. Germain said that Houghton, despite his clutch shooting, struggled in last year’s playoffs.

“Then this year played, I thought, the best that he could have played,” St. Germain said. “He just dominated in every aspect of the game. And I just had so many coaches and media people and fans just coming up to me and talking about just how good he was, and how he just showed how multi-dimensional he was in those playoffs, which I saw and I’m glad that everybody else caught onto it and saw, as well, that he shined on the biggest stage for us.”

Houghton and his teammates worked hard in the offseason to prepare for the 2022-23 season. As proud as they were of their first state title, they were equally determined to defend it.

“Just to win the state championship. Just to have that feeling again,” Houghton said.


In his first game in a Dirigo uniform, in December 2019, Houghton scored 29 points in a victory over Telstar. He ended his freshman season averaging 16 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Statistically, his career has been remarkably consistent: He averaged 21 points and 10.8 rebounds as a sophomore, 19 and 10.1 as a junior and 19 and 10.8 as a senior.

Houghton’s game continued to evolve throughout his career. This season, St. Germain challenged him to be better at scoring in the post, improve his shooting percentage through better shot selection, and be better at distributing to his teammates.

In a way, it was an easy adjustment, because Houghton’s teammates made strides in the offseason, so it was easy for him to distribute the ball to them. However, he wasn’t scoring much during the first seven games of the season — though he did become the Dirigo boys program’s fourth 1,000-point scorer during that early stretch.

Even without Houghton’s high scoring, the Cougars cruised to a 7-0 record, winning every game by 13 points or more.

In the eighth game, Dirigo played its first of four tight games against Mt. Abram. Houghton scored 33 points, including nine in the fourth as the Cougars overtook the Roadrunners to win 67-65.

Having figured out the balance between facilitating and scoring, and having a better mastery of efficient scoring, Houghton reinjected his scoring punch without hampering the offensive potency of the other Cougars.


Dirigo senior Charlie Houghton averaged 19 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4..2 assists and 3.1 steals this season while helping the Cougars claim their second consecutive Class C state championship. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“We had a close game against Mt. Abram, and, like, that’s when I needed to take over, and I did,” Houghton said. “And then it just continued for the rest of the season.”

After averaging about 10 points per game during the first seven contests, Houghton averaged more than 20 over the remaining 15 games.

That includes the postseason. In the Class C South tournament, he scored 14 points against Madison, 27 against Mt. Abram and 28 against Monmouth.

Houghton, who was voted the Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year and was a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist, thinks the Class C South final against Monmouth was his best game.

The Mustangs were the only team to beat Dirigo this season. In the regional final, their defense forced Houghton to play a different role.

“They were picking up our point guard, Trenton Hutchinson, full-court. Whenever I got the ball, they’d back off,” Houghton said. “So I kind of had to play like a point guard, which is weird for me because I can handle a ball, but I’ve never been that, like, primary ball handler, and I had to, like, create offense and I still came out scoring pretty well.”


Dirigo won, earning a trip back to the Class C state title game, where it would face Calais.

St. Germain said that in 2021-22, the Cougars teased Houghton about sometimes getting “a look in his eye” that made it clear he already had his mind made up that he was going to attack the hoop and try to score.

“I’d be dribbling down the court,” Houghton said, “and it was like at this pace, it was just this weird pace where everyone in the gym knew I was going to come down, and it was just going to be a crossover, and I was going to shoot it.

“Sometimes it worked, maybe like 20% of the time. It was not a high-percentage shot at all. But I think this year I just picked my spots better.”

He wasn’t as prone to force shots this season. In fact, he wasn’t as prone to force anything, nor was he as determined to take over.

In the Class C final, Houghton scored 12 points in the first quarter and added another basket before being called for his second foul early in the second period. The safe move was to remove him from the game for the rest of the first half.


But it was the state championship game, and if there was ever a time to take a risk …

St. Germain said that he and his assistant coaches debated whether to put their leading scorer back in the game midway through the second quarter, but Houghton put an end to the discussion. He was more interested in what was the smartest move to help Dirigo win the game.

Dirigo’s Mason Ducharme, left, and Charlie Houghton celebrate after cutting the net following the Cougars’ 65-58 win over Calais in the Class C state championship at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on March 7. Dirigo repeated as state champions for the first time since 1982-83. Kevin Bennett photo

“Charlie actually got up and said, ‘We’re good, Coach. We’re good, Coach,’” St. Germain said. “So I was like, all right, well that’s encouraging to hear that he was confident in his teammates and knew that he’d come out hot in the second half for us.

“But he had full faith in his teammates that they’d get the job done and, and they did.”

Houghton scored three points in the third quarter and then seven in the fourth as he and Hutchinson helped the Cougars pull away and beat the Blue Devils 65-58.

“I think the state championship this year was his best game, overall,” St. Germain said. “It was, just start to finish, and every second that he was on the court, he was doing something well. He didn’t make hardly any mistakes in the game, rebounded the ball well, made good shots, shot a good percentage from the floor.”


Houghton finished with a game-high 24 points. He was determined throughout the postseason to keep the season going so the Cougars could have the chance to go out on top.

“Knowing I was a senior and knowing like, hey, this could be my last game … just that mentality,” Houghton said. “And then just letting a game come to me and like knowing when to take over and when not to take over. And my teammates were always finding me.”

In his senior season, Houghton’s field goal percentage jumped up to 52%.

He concludes his high school career with 1,390 points, which ranks second in Dirigo history behind Riley Robinson’s 1,974. Houghton also had 797 rebounds, 250 steals, 212 assists and he made 77 3-pointers. Those numbers include a shorter season and no playoffs in 2020-21 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 6-foot-5 Houghton, who played quarterback for Dirigo’s football team and has been invited to participate in this summer’s Lobster Bowl, said that he will continue his basketball career at Southern Maine Community College.

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