PORTLAND – After a loss Friday night to Gorham, Richie Ashley told his Cheverus High girls’ basketball players that they needed a big win.

The Stags got it Saturday.

Morgan Cahill and Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy combined for nine points in the fourth quarter as the Stags rallied past Sanford, 50-47.

The Redskins (12-4) were ranked third in Western Class A and the Stags (13-3) were fifth, with Gorham in between. The outcome will shake up the standings but, Ashley said, it was more important for confidence.

Cheverus trailed 31-26 at the half and by three with just over three minutes remaining.

“That was all them,” said Ashley, nodding at his players. “At the half I told them what we needed to do. We needed to have a big win. It was all on them. There was no magic formula.”

Both teams were playing their third game in three nights, but their intensity never faltered.

“We knew we had to do everything we could, after (Friday),” said Palazzi-Leahy, referring to the 46-39 loss at Gorham. “That loss actually amped us up.”

Shae Riley, who scored 19 points, hit two of her five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, each time giving Sanford a one-point lead, the last one with 4:19 remaining. Then Lindsey Nolette forced a steal that led to a fast- break layup by Taylor Flood, and Sanford led 47-44 with 3:38 remaining.

The Stags, whose other losses are to McAuley and Deering, the top teams in the region, closed back within a point on an offensive rebound basket by Kylie Libby (six points, eight rebounds). Neither team scored again until 53.4 seconds remained.

Palazzi-Leahy (12 of her 14 points in the second half) had the ball in the left corner and found Cahill (17 points, nine rebounds) underneath. She powered in for a layup and a 48-47 Cheverus lead.

“I just found the open player,” said Palazzi-Leahy. “I’m always looking for Morgan under the basket. I’m always looking for the open player.”

Sanford called a timeout with 37 seconds left to set up a play. But the Stags forced a turnover that Cahill recovered with 4.5 seconds left. Palazzi-Leahy hit two foul shots with 2.9 seconds remaining to seal it.

“It was a great game,” said Redskins Coach Kristy Parent. “I thought we played our best game, collectively.

“Unfortunately, the kids look at that last play. It broke down. They stopped us from what we wanted and we weren’t able to get the shot off.

“But there were a lot of other things that happened earlier in the game that hurt us too.”

Cheverus’ largest lead was four, Sanford’s was nine after a 9-0 run midway through the second quarter.

“There’s not a lot separating the teams,” said Ashley. “There are seven or eight teams in the tournament that, if you don’t come to play on that night, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]