FARMINGDALE — She’s listed at 5-foot-9, but Iris Ireland’s impact was much larger than that Friday night.

The freshman turned in a monster double-double effort against Dirigo with 22 points and 21 rebounds, willing Hall-Dale to a 57-52 overtime win in a Mountain Valley Conference girls basketball game. Ireland — who spent most of the afternoon sleeping off illnes — had five points in the extra session and 16 of her rebounds after the halftime break as the Bulldogs improved to 8-4 on the season.

“We stick with each other,” Ireland said. “We focus on how we play and not how the other team’s playing. I think that definitely helped us tonight.”

Ireland was just one of many key contributors for Hall-Dale. Senior Grace Begin saved all four of her points for overtime, including two from the foul line in the final 1:10 to secure the win.

“We’ve never been a team that’s done well in these situations, because obviously we’ve never had a winning record (before this year),” Begin said. “Throughout the season, we’ve kind of gotten used to going really, really hard all the time, no matter what the score is.

“Having so much ability everywhere on the floor, we never settle.”

Point guard KK Wills added 14 points, while Averi Baker added nine. Both are freshmen.

Dirigo (3-8) was led by three different players in double figures, including junior Alyssa McTyre with a team-high 15 points. Alexa Varnum and Page Lueders each finished with 12 for the Cougars, who got a Lueders’ runner in the paint with 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

The game was tied on eight different occasions in the third and fourth quarters, as well as overtime.

“It’s kind of weird, but we have had some composure for how young we are and the young girls that are out there in those moments,” Hall-Dale coach Jarod Richmond said. “We’ve been in close games, but we’ve found ways to get those wins out. That’s a hard skill to learn.”

“We’ve had several games where we’ve been in them, but we haven’t been able to close them out,” Dirigo coach Rebecca Fletcher said. “Against some of the better teams in the MVC, we’ve had a hard time getting over the hump.

“We need to clean up the tiny things.”

Both coaches pointed to small moments as keys in either direction, with turnovers, defensive rebounding and shot selections among them.

But the biggest factor on this night was Ireland, who grew up playing in the frontcourt and now — though undersized at the varsity level — has no qualms about fighting for every inch under the hoop.

“I was too excited,” Ireland said, noting she felt no effects of being sick once the game tipped off. “I was the tallest girl in middle school. Even though everyone grew past me, I’m still so used to playing down there, it’s fun for me.”

Dirigo closed the first quarter with a 10-4 run, keyed by 12 of McTyre’s points in the period. The Bulldogs answered early in the second quarter to get back in front, but the Cougars responded with a 10-3 stretch that took them into halftime with a 26-22 lead.

An 11-2 run for Hall-Dale handed the home team the lead early in the second half, but once again Dirigo responded and got Varnum’s putback as time expired in the third period to take a 35-33 lead.

The 5-foot-9 Varnum fouled out late in the fourth quarter, and it gave Hall-Dale — and Ireland — enough space to finally begin wrestling control of the game away.

That inside presence was crucial for the Bulldogs in overtime, with Hall-Dale out-rebounding Dirigo 8-3 over the four-minute extra session.

“We’ve got some girls that play bigger than they are,” Richmond said. “We do have some size, but we don’t always use it the right way. One of the things we’ve really had to focus on was boxing out and rebounding. It starts with us for some toughness, and we’re working on finding more of that toughness.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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