Sadie Nelson scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half as seventh-seeded Windham rallied Friday night for a 41-36 win over No. 6 Cheverus at the Cumberland County Civic Center, continuing the Eagles’ surprising run through the Western Class A girls’ basketball tournament.
Windham (14-7) will play No. 1 McAuley for the regional championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center.
The Eagles trailed 26-15 at halftime but turned up their defensive intensity and forced 13 Cheverus turnovers in the second half. The Eagles outscored Cheverus 26-10 in the second half.
“We wanted to do it for our seniors,” said Nelson, a 5-foot-10 sophomore forward. “It was definitely our defense that made the difference. That set the tone for our offense.”
And Nelson provided most of the offense in the second half. Her teammates got her the ball inside against the taller Stags.
“When I was guarded on one side, I would go back door,” said Nelson.
Windham won a preliminary round game against Sanford to reach the quarterfinals at the Portland Expo, where they knocked off No. 2 Thornton Academy. That earned the Eagles a trip to the Civic Center, and now they’re headed to their first regional final.
“The girls made a goal of wanting to be a dominant team in the tournament,” said Windham Coach Brody Artes. “We lost some close games during the regular season.
“Sadie is a great finisher. She does a great job on the blocks.”
Nelson scored the first seven points of the second half to get Windham back into contention. The Eagles grabbed their first lead since early in the game when Haley Batchelder scored to make it 29-28 with 1:30 left in the third. Moments later, Cassidy Grover of Cheverus hit one of two from the line to tie it and Jill Libby followed with a 3-pointer to give the Stags (14-7) a 32-29 edge heading into the fourth.
But Cheverus’ offensive woes continued and Windham wasn’t going to be denied. The Stags’ only points in the fourth quarter came from Jess Willerson, a 6-2 sophomore. Willerson opened the fourth with a basket and added two foul shots with 3:40 left for the Stags’ last points.
Nelson gave Windham the lead for good at 37-36 on an inside basket with 2:50 left. She scored again to make it 39-36 with 1:30 to go after a Cheverus miss and a backcourt violation. Sam Frost hit a free throw with 25 seconds left and another with 16 seconds remaining.
“It was a tough second half,” said Cheverus Coach Richie Ashley. “The third quarter has been our Achilles’ heel all season. Windham turned us over in the second half and did a good job of taking away Jess (Willerson) in the second half. We didn’t have an alternative to her. We did in the first half with Lodia Ismail, who kept us in the game. We would have been trailing without her.
“Windham was prepared and they played to win. It was evident. They looked loose and we seemed a little tight. Nelson is a tough, tough player.”
Ismail hit four 3-pointers in the first half. Cheverus, led by Ismail’s two 3s in the second quarter and Willerson’s eight points, outscored the Eagles 17-8 in the second quarter.
“I thought we played well in the first half and I liked our position,” said Artes.
Cheverus opened the second half with two traveling violations and kept going downhill from there.
Willerson finished with 14 points and Ismail had 12.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: