This one is going to be remembered for a long time.

Grace Fontaine hit the tiebreaking free throw with 0.3 seconds remaining to lift Edward Little to a 50-49 victory over Gorham in the Class AA girls’ basketball state championship game Friday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Red Eddies survived a fourth-quarter comeback to earn their first state title and end Gorham’s two-year reign as Class AA champion.

“We made history tonight,” said Fontaine. “It means a lot. I told myself at the beginning of the season that we were going to win this.”

Gorham, seeded fifth in the South regional, rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to twice tie the game, riding the magnificence of 6-foot-2 junior center Mackenzie Holmes. She came back from an apparent knee injury at the start of the fourth quarter to score 16 points in the final seven minutes.

Holmes’s layup off an inbounds pass from Olivia Michaud with 17 seconds left tied the game at 49. The Eddies (15-7) called a timeout with 11.8 seconds left to set up one final shot.

The one thing that EL Coach Chris Cifelli wanted to do was to make sure Gorham didn’t get another shot in regulation.

He drew up a play for Fontaine, who got the ball on the right wing and sized up the defense. “We like to get Grace on that wing because she attacks the basket so well,” said Cifelli.

“When I heard (Cifelli) say, ‘Shoot, shoot,’ I went to the basket,” said Fontaine. “I was trying to draw a foul.”

She drove the right baseline and jumped into a couple defenders. Adele Nadeau was called for the foul, and Fontaine, a junior who missed two foul shots earlier, stepped to the line with this thought:

“I looked up at the clock and saw there was .3 seconds, and I just practice this so much, practice foul shots so much,” she said. “I told myself this was just practice and I needed to make it.”

She did. And a cacophony of sound washed down from the Edward Little side of the arena.

“We knew she could do it,” said EL senior guard Piper Norcross. “We can always count on her.”

She missed the second free throw, but Gorham didn’t have enough time for a miracle shot.

“It was a tough break at the end,” said Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume. “The kids believed in each other. There was never a time we felt we were all done until right there at the end.”

It was a bitter end for the Rams (14-8), who were underdogs all season after back-to-back championships.

Gorham led 13-6 late in the first quarter when Jacqui Hamilton hit a 3-pointer. But EL’s Hannah Chaput (16 points, two assists, four steals) hit a buzzer-beating 3 to end the quarter and give the Eddies a bunch of momentum.

Edward Little got the first six points of the second, taking the lead on a driving basket by Jade Perry (16 points). The Red Eddies led by eight at halftime and nine entering the fourth, as their constant pressure on Gorham’s guards forced 18 turnovers.

Then, 10 seconds into the fourth after a Perry basket made it 42-31, Holmes collapsed to the floor, clutching her left knee. She was out of the game for 35 seconds, then came back in to lead the charge, moving left, moving right and scoring every time.

“There was no way I was sitting the rest of the game,” said Holmes, who finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

But the Rams could never regain the lead. Perry and Chantel Ouellette scored huge baskets in the final 80 seconds to keep the Eddies on top. And then Edward Little had the last possession.

“We play every game for each other and we definitely did that to the end, and we got an unlucky call at the end,” said Holmes. “There was nothing we could do about that. I’m proud of our effort.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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