JAY — Playing before a packed and electrifying crowd for the first time since his sophomore year gave Spruce Mountain senior Owen Bryant a jolt of energy like a strong cup of espresso.

Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey felt the same way as his fired-up Phoenix rolled to 65-40 victory over Dirigo in a Mountain Valley Conference boys basketball game in front of a raucous crowd on Saturday afternoon.

The Phoenix (6-0) didn’t disappoint and showed early on in the first quarter that they were going to treat their fans to a dazzling show of strong rebounding and defensive play. Spruce ended that quarter on top 24-10.

Bryant, a guard, led the team with his game-high 14 points, but he insisted the boisterous fans at The Nest boosted his tenacity. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

“I haven’t felt that since my sophomore year,” he said. “It definitely helps a lot.”

But Bryant said his team knew what the Phoenix were in for with Dirigo (5-2) in town.

“We knew it was going to be a battle from past experience, playing them this summer,” Bryant said. “We knew their personnel well and I think that helped us a lot. Going into the game, we knew what we needed to do to win.”

When halftime rolled around, the Phoenix were holding a solid 34-22 lead.

Freshman guard Jace Bessey was also a force from the outside, scoring 13 points in the game, sinking five free throws in six attempts and dropping in two 3-pointers. Senior forward Jayden Perreault helped out with 11 points.

“I thought our rebounding was fantastic,” Scott Bessey, who also gave a shout-out to Spruce’s defense, said. “Obviously, this is the first time in a year and a half that our kids played in front of a decent crowd. That gave us a lot of energy, too, which was important to us.

“We needed that. Dirigo is a fantastic team. They are going to win a ton of games. They are very well-coached. We were ready and the kids were great.”

The second half also went smoothly for the Phoenix, who kept their distance from the Cougars.

Dirigo junior guard Trenton Hutchinson led the team with 12 points and Charlie Houghton had 10.

“We obviously didn’t play to nearly the standard we wanted,” Dirigo coach Cody St. Germain said. “We had a couple of big away games, both against Winthrop and Spruce, and we lost. I think we really need to get used to coming into a hostile environment (and) having guys ready to attack.

“I told (the players) I thought we played scared the entire time and it proved that. Right from the get-go, I thought we came out and we didn’t realize how good a basketball team we were, and that comes from maturity and is being able to play in whatever environment you are playing.”

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