The Cheverus High girls’ basketball players rush the court Friday night after holding on to a 33-31 victory against Deering in the Western Class A semifinals at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Stags will meet McAuley for the title Saturday night.
PORTLAND — Stylish it wasn't. But no one on Cheverus High's girls' basketball team was going to complain.
The third-ranked Stags advanced to their first Western Class A championship game Friday night by out-lasting second-ranked Deering 33-31 in a fiercely played semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Cheverus rallied from a four-point halftime deficit by holding the Rams to 13 points in the second half -- and by hitting some clutch foul shots in the final 37 seconds.
"I'm happy for the girls, happy for the school, happy for the program," said Cheverus Coach Richie Ashley. "All of the hard work, not just these girls, but all the others who have played for us, has paid off."
Cheverus (18-2) will play two-time defending Class A state champ McAuley -- which is riding a 46-game winning streak -- in the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center.
This one was all about defense, especially in the second half.
Cheverus fell behind by six points early in the second quarter after Deering's Courtney Brett hit a 3-pointer and a jumper, and Marissa MacMillan scored on the fast break. That made it 16-10 with 6:11 left in the second quarter.
Amazingly, the Rams would score only 15 points the rest of the way -- and five came from Keneisha DiRamio in the final 53 seconds.
"Everything was a grind for us offensively," said Deering Coach Mike Murphy. "I was disappointed in the decision- making in the last three, four minutes."
Cheverus trailed 18-14 at the half but scored the first seven points of the third quarter. Kylie Libby, who had five points in the third quarter and gave Cheverus the lead for good with a spinning left-handed bank shot with 3:30 remaining in the third, said the Stags were not going to let this one slip away.
"We kind of looked at each other when we came out in the second half," said Libby. "We said, 'We're a family, we're not going to let each other down.' We knew there were going to be ups and downs like there have been all season.
"But we really needed to believe in each other and have each other's back."
The Stags led by two entering the fourth and increased the lead to 27-22 on a 3-pointer by Victoria Nappi -- her third of the game -- with 5:05 remaining.
Deering (17-3) got back within a point at 27-26 on two foul shots by MacMillan (10 points) with 2:21 left.
Ford then twice hit 1 of 2 foul shots -- exactly a minute apart, the second with 1:01 left -- to make it 29-26.
After DiRamio scored on a nice drive, Ford was fouled with 36.1 seconds left. As she walked up the court, Libby and Brooke Flaherty -- her foul-shooting partners -- told her to think about practice.
"They gave me the confidence and the boost and the positive feeling that I needed," said Ford. "It definitely helped."
She hit both to make it 31-28. Libby then tipped an entry pass away from MacMillan inside, and the Stags gained possession.
Flaherty was fouled and she hit both to make it 33-28. DiRamio answered with a long 3-pointer to pull the Rams within two. With 4.9 seconds left, Flaherty missed two foul shots, but Deering never got a shot off and the Stags escaped.
"Oh my gosh, we've never done anything like this," said Libby. "I'm just so happy that we are getting the opportunity to do this."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:
Jess Willerson, left, of Cheverus tries to knock a rebound away from Marissa MacMillan of Deering during their Western Class A girls’ basketball semifinal Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Cheverus won 33-31 and will meet McAuley for the title.
Brooke Flaherty of Cheverus heads to the basket while guarded by Marissa MacMillan of Deering.