AUGUSTA — Opponents have employed a lot of different strategies to try to disrupt Winthrop junior sharpshooter Jacob Hickey this season. None have succeeded.

Dirigo used a not-so-secret weapon — senior Gavin Arsenault — to guard Hickey one-on-one at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday, and it’s unlikely any individual or any team defense will do a better job.

Arsenault limited Hickey to one point while contributing 13 of his own to the Cougars’ ledger to send Dirigo to a 55-44 win over Winthrop in a battle of Mountain Valley Conference unbeatens at the 21st Annual Capital City Hoop Classic.

Riley Robinson scored a game-high 17 points to go with 10 rebounds for Dirigo (7-0). Anthony Owens led Winthrop (6-1) with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Arsenault, with occasional help from freshman Alex Gorham, face-guarded Hickey all over the large Civic Center court. Hickey is one of the top shooters in the state, having rained down 10 3-pointers in a 41-point performance against Lisbon earlier this month, but didn’t get on the board Wednesday until he made the first of two free throws with one second left in the third quarter.

“I just knew he was a good player and coach said face-guard him all game, so I just knew I had to step up my game,” Arsenault said.

“We’ve seen a lot of looks on Jacob… but I think one of the things that presented the biggest problem was Gavin is such an athlete with length and athleticism that it’s the player guarding him, not the strategy,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “He’s a great defensive player.”

Thanks to Owens’ efforts inside, Winthrop still managed to hang around with the Cougars for two-and-a-half quarters despite having their top scorer shut down. Owens scored a pair of hoops inside to pull the Ramblers within 29-26 midway through the third period.

The Cougars broke away with an 18-5 run to end the quarter. Robinson converted a three-point play to put the lead into double digits to stay. Gavin Hebert followed with a 3-pointer and Robinson put back his own miss and made a pair of free throws courtesy of a technical foul on MacArthur to give Dirigo its largest lead to that point at 47-30.

“I think the biggest thing was when they pressured us, we scored and got layups,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “Until the last five minutes (the lead) went from three to 17 with their pressure. The thing I tell my kids is if they’re pressing us, make them pay.”

“We did a very poor job in our transition ‘D,'” MacArthur said. “Early on, we both kind of struggled offensively, but their transition was the difference early on and they had more transition points in that third quarter and, for them, more defensive stops.”

Dirigo tallied 10 of the game’s first 11 points and Winthrop missed its first five shot attempts before Owens finally scored inside with 3:20 left in the first quarter.

The Ramblers rallied to tie the game at 12-12 in the second quarter on a three-point play by Garrett Tsouprake and an Owens putback. Robinson then found Arsenault for a bucket that sparked another mini run that allowed the Cougars to take a 22-16 lead at halftime.

“We just had to be strong with the ball and swing it, run the floor still. We just didn’t run the floor towards the end of the first quarter,” Arsenault said.

“The impressive thing is Gavin worked so hard defensively and still scored 13 points, which I think is his second highest of the year,” Magnusson said. “He just played an all-around great game.”

Winthrop shot 18-for-54 (33 percent) for the game, Dirigo 20-for-38 (53 percent).

Bennett Brooks added eight points and eight rebounds for the Ramblers. Clay Swett chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds for the Cougars.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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