Burns' key FTs beat Dexter
By Jessica Bloch, Of the NEWS Staff - BANGOR - It wasn't just the game that was on the line when Dirigo's Alyssa Burns settled in to shoot two free throws with 5.6 seconds left in overtime of Friday night's Class C state championship game.There was also that pesky streak to think about. In all their attempts to win state championships at the Bangor Auditorium, the Cougars of Dixfield had always been bothered by the building's loud, frenzied atmosphere.
But in the most pressure-filled kind of situation, Burns and the rest of the Dirigo squad put all that aside. Burns knocked down both shots to lift the defending champion Cougars to a 39-37 victory over Dexter for the program's seventh state title.
It was Dirigo's fifth gold ball since 1996.
Not only was Friday's game a meeting of two 21-0 teams, but also a showdown of two of the state's top post players, Dirigo's 6-foot-1 senior Lyndsay Clark and Dexter's 6-foot-3 sophomore Ashley Ames.
Ames finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Clark, who is heading to Albany on a full scholarship, scored 10 points and added eight rebounds and four blocks.
Clark fouled out with 15 seconds remaining in regulation - 12 seconds after putting back an offensive rebound that gave the Cougars a 37-35 lead.
Clark's foul sent Ames to the free-throw line, where the 6-foot-3 center made her two shots to send the game into overtime.
It seemed Dexter would have had an advantage in the extra period because Clark was on the bench, and the Tigers worked their high-low game to Ames for a 37-35 lead with 3:16 left in OT.
But the Tigers weren't able to get the ball inside to Ames again.
"We knew we had to make sure we were help side because of [Ames],"Burns said. "We just knew we all needed to step up and play big."
Dirigo's Alexa Kaubris tied the game on a jumper in the lane with 2:20 left. After two Dexter turnovers the Cougars held the ball until Burns was fouled.
"I was so nervous, I was shaking so bad," said Burns, who missed two FTs earlier in overtime. "I was just trying to concentrate and make sure I used the rim."
The Tigers were without point guard Brittany Veazie for most of the overtime. The junior fouled out with 3:25 left.
Burns led all scorers with 16 points. Ten of those came during a 14-4 second-quarter run that gave Dirigo a 23-18 halftime lead.
So just how did the Cougars manage to win in Bangor?
For one, coach Gavin Kane held up handwritten signs with instructions during the game. And Burns said the team practiced at the Auditorium earlier this week and tried to emulate the atmosphere it would face.
"I think that was a big key for us," she said. "We got used to playing with all the noise and it worked."
Dexter coach Margaret Veazie was pleased with her team's man-to-man defense, especially with Ames guarding Clark. The four-year starter wasn't able to get into the flow of the offense too often, although she had four points in the fourth quarter.
"I know I have one of the best defensive teams in the state," she said moments after the game. "That's what I know. And they proved it to everybody today. Sometimes they play ugly, but they can play defense. They did what they needed to do, which was shut them down and make them shoot from the outside. I'm so proud of these kids."
Clark's basket late in regulation was reminiscent of the winning shot she made in her freshman year, a lay-in with nine seconds left that lifted the Cougars to a 46-45 victory over George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill.
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