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Cougars battle tough but lose bid for gold ball
BANGOR -- They battled to the bitter end, however the best of efforts proved to be to much to overcome for the Dirigo boys' basketball team in the Class C State Championship game.
The Cougars had cut the deficit to seven points on baskets by Spencer Ross and Cody St. Germain down the stretch, but Lee Academy had the answers in a 65-55 win at the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday. It was the third straight appearance in the state game for the Cougars.
Dirigo (19-3), who trailed by double digits, surged early in the fourth quarter on baskets by Ross (team-high 15 points), Caleb Turner (nine points) and a Ross three pointer.
“In the second half, we knew we had to start digging out the hole we were in and changed into our half court trap,” said Dirigo coach Rebecca Fletcher. “Lee really handled that pressure with their size and spacing. We went to our fullcourt press and started to turn them over, playing that trap as well as we have all season. We made several runs at them and closed it to seven points. But each run we made they answered. You could see the panic in them (Lee) rise, but then they would get a hoop and regain their composure.”
A Ross trey and St. Germain basket (first since the first quarter) pulled the Cougars to within seven, with two minutes left to play. Ben Holmes (five points) and St. Germain (eight points, six rebounds) was in foul trouble early. St. Germain had to sit a majority of the game before eventually fouling out.
Lee Academy, a private school in Eastern Maine, was led by A.J. Harris (18 of 27 points in the first half) and Bryan James (18 points). The Pandas made six of eight free throws in the final two minutes.
“When the coach's son, A.J. Harris, went to the line, it was going in,” said Fletcher, alluding to Lee, who was 22 of 34 from the free throw line. Dirigo made nine of 15 opportunities.
“We knew who we had to foul down the stretch, but Lee did a great job of making sure the right players were controlling the basketball,” she said.
Lee had a size advantage with 6-7 Daniel He (13 points, 11 rebounds) and his presence limited Dirigo from penetrating and dishing off. The Cougars used Mitch Stanley and TJ Frost.
Dirigo started fast and led early behind a Turner trey and a Arik Fenstermacher three-point play. Josh Turbide (four treys) and Ross each drained treys, but Lee went on a 13-2 run to lead 32-22 at halftime.
For the third year in a row, the Dirigo boys' basketball team was the winner of the Western Class C regionals. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)