Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team celebrates its last-second 53-51 home win over Windham Saturday. Hoffer photo.

BOX SCORE

Cheverus 53 Windham 51

W- 10 19 13 9- 51
C- 12 7 9 25- 53

W- H. Talon 6-0-15, Morey 5-0-12, Hirning 3-2-11, S. Talon 4-0-10, Flanders 1-1-3

C- L. Jordan 5-4-15, J. Kratzer 4-2-12, Lizotte 3-3-9, Singleton 2-1-5, Kelly 1-2-4, Davie 1-1-3, Huntington 0-3-3, Hammond 1-0-2

3-pointers:
W (10) Hirning, H. Talon 3, Morey, S. Talon 2
C (3) J. Kratzer 2, L. Jordan 1

Turnovers:
W- 13
C- 6

FTs
W: 3-4
C: 16-25

PORTLAND—It was either high drama or highway robbery.

Depending on which team you were cheering for Saturday afternoon at Keegan Gymnasium.

What was indisputable, however, was that the Cheverus-Windham girls’ basketball game, which brought the curtain down on the regular season, won’t soon be forgotten.

Especially considering the teams will square off again with even bigger stakes next week in the Class AA North tournament.

On Cheverus’ Senior Day, the Stags got off to a promising start, as senior Lauren Jordan had eight first quarter points, helping produce a 12-10 lead, but the sharpshooting Eagles opened up a 12-point second period advantage and went to the half on top, 29-19, thanks to terrific ball-handling and outside shooting.

When Windham senior Hannah Talon drained a 3 late in the third quarter, the Eagles were up 16 points and appeared home free, but a layup from sophomore Julia Kratzer pulled Cheverus within 42-28 heading to the fourth period and set the stage for a dizzying comeback.

A pair of Kratzer 3-pointers got the Stags close, then with 1:53 to go, an old-fashioned three-point play from Jordan put them ahead, 50-49.

Sophomore Lillie Singleton added a free throw for Cheverus, but with 44 seconds remaining, a putback from sophomore Kayla Flanders pulled the Eagles even.

The Stags then held for a final shot and after junior Jillian Lizotte threw up a prayer just before the horn that fell short of the rim, Singleton got the rebound and laid it home as the horn sounded.

Or after the horn sounded.

The officials conferred, then ruled the basket counted and just like that, Cheverus had a palpitating 53-51 victory.

Jordan led the way with 15 points, Kratzer added a dozen and one year after winning just five games, the Stags concluded the regular season 11-7, dropped Windham to 11-7 and in the process, set the stage for a rematch next week at Cheverus in the Class AA North quarterfinals at a date and time to be announced.

“It’s a really good win for us going into the playoffs,” Jordan said. “It gives us confidence and a home playoff game, which is huge for us. This is a great high note to end the regular season.”

The tune-up

Cheverus and Windham came into Saturday’s game knowing it was the first of two meetings over the next several days and that the next one was going to be more important, but there was plenty riding on the season finale.

Namely homecourt advantage for the quarterfinals.

Both teams have been in the competitive mix all winter.

Windham, which has just one senior, Talon, was just 3-4 after losing at defending Class AA champion Oxford Hills on Jan. 4, but had won eight of 10 since. In the Eagles’ last outing Tuesday, they fell at home to Oxford Hills (76-57).

The Stags opened with wins over host Lewiston (50-38), visiting Scarborough (48-44) and host Edward Little (54-31). After falling at home to reigning Class AA state champion Oxford Hills, 50-38, Cheverus won, 47-39, at Massabesic. After a 64-39 home loss to Portland, the Stags defeated host Deering (58-38), visiting Bangor (53-49) and host Thornton Academy (53-35). Cheverus lost at Windham, 48-37, then bounced back for a 63-33 home win over Lewiston. The Stags then lost at home to South Portland, 56-37, and at Oxford Hills (65-31) before downing visiting Deering, 65-25. After dropping a competitive 35-29 decision to Portland in a game played at Southern Maine Community College, Cheverus fell at Bangor (53-44), then downed visiting Edward Little Tuesday (61-45).

In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 9, the host Eagles gradually pulled away for a 48-37 victory behind 17 points from Talon and 11 from freshman Abbey Thornton. Cheverus was paced by 11 points from sophomore Madison Storey, who has since suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Saturday, after their five seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony with their families, the Stags pulled off an improbable rally and beat Windham for the first time since a Class AA North quarterfinal round victory Feb. 15, 2018 (56-50 in overtime).

Jordan was joined in the starting lineup by seniors Alex Hammond, Emily Huntington, Caitlin Kennedy-Jensen and Emma Levesque and Jordan scored the game’s first points, on a putback 26 seconds in.

The Eagles answered, as Talon made a layup, then sophomore Sarah Talon drained a 3-pointer.

Jordan countered with a 3-pointer and after Cheverus coach Billy Goodman inserted his usual starters, Jordan took a pass from Singleton and made a layup, Jordan scored on a putback, then with 3:02 left in the first period, Jordan’s free throw gave the Stags a 10-5 advantage.

With 2:09 to go, a jumper from sophomore Carly Morey ended Windham’s 4-minute, 39-second scoring drought, but Lizotte drove for a layup to restore the five-point lead.

Late in the period, a 3-pointer from junior Lexi Hirning pulled the Eagles within 12-10 after eight minutes.

Windham then opened up a double-digit lead in the second quarter.

Hannah Talon opened the frame with a 3-point shot from the corner.

After Lizotte put Cheverus back on top with a putback, Sarah Talon got a 3 to rattle home.

Jordan set up Singleton for a layup off an inbounds set, but with 5:13 remaining in the half, Hannah Talon’s 3 sparked a 10-0 Windham run.

Morey added a short jumper, Morey hit a 3, then, after Thornton kept possession alive with a pair of offensive rebounds, Morey made a jump shot for a 26-16 lead.

Lizotte sank a free throw to end the run and a 4:31 drought, but Morey made another 3

With 2.5 seconds left in the half, Lizotte made two free throws, but that only pulled the Stags within 10 points, 29-19, at the break.

The Eagles, who turned the ball over only two times in the first half, continued to control play in the third quarter, until the very end, when Cheverus began to show life.

Huntington made a pair of free throws for the Stags to start the second half, but Hirning countered with a 3 and Sarah Talon made a layup after a steal to stretch the lead to 34-21.

Jordan countered with two free throws, but Sarah Talon went coast-to-coast for a layup.

Huntington made a foul shot and Singleton set up Lizotte for a layup to end a 9-minute, 9-second field goal drought and pull Cheverus within 10, but Hirning made a 3 and with 2:36 left in the frame, Sarah Talon did the same for a seemingly safe 42-26 advantage.

Enter Julia Kratzer.

With 9 seconds remaining in the quarter, Kratzer drove for a layup to give the Stags a little spark, but the Eagles were still up by 14 entering the final stanza.

But that lead would evaporate, setting up a frenetic finish.

Forty-three seconds into the fourth period, Kratzer made a 3 and the next time down the floor, Cheverus got an old-fashioned three-point play from junior Ella Davie and just like that, a 16-point deficit was down to eight.

Hannah Talon then made a layup after freshman Elizabeth Levesque broke the press, but Kratzer knocked down a 3 and after Sarah Talon blocked a shot at one end and Hannah Talon made a layup at the other, Kratzer sank two free throws and after a putback from sophomore Maeve Kelly, Kratzer made a short jump shot with 4:34 on the clock to make it a one-possession game, 46-43.

“I just wanted to win,” Kratzer said. “I got some good passes and hit shots. I thought it was possible to come back.”

“I got on Julia and I’m very impressed how she handled it,” Goodman said. “I know how I want her to play and she did what I thought she can do tonight. I give her credit.”

Ten seconds later, Hirning made two free throws for Windham, but the Stags kept coming and after Jordan scored on a putback, Singleton stole the ball and passed to Kelly, who was fouled with 2:44 to go. Kelly made both free throws and just like that, the deficit was only one, 48-47.

Cheverus’ defense forced a turnover and Kelly had a look for the lead, but sophomore Kayla Flanders blocked the shot, then was fouled.

With 2:21 to go, Flanders made the first of two free throws, but she missed the second and Jordan got the rebound.

At the other end, with 1:53 to play, Jordan made a layup while being fouled, then added the free throw to give the Stags their first lead since the first minute of the second quarter, 50-49.

“We kept faith in each other and ourselves,” Jordan said. “We kept cheering on the bench and that really helped us. We played tough defense and got scores. One play at a time. We pulled it together.”

After a Lizotte steal, Singleton was fouled and with 55.2 seconds on the clock, Singleton made one of two free throws to stretch the lead to two, but after Morey missed a 3-pointer, Flanders got the rebound and put it home to tie the game for the fourth and final time, 51-51, with 44.2 seconds left.

Without a timeout, Goodman tried to shout out instructions as time wound down, but Cheverus wouldn’t run any semblance of a typical scoring play.

Yet the Stags got the ball in the basket regardless.

As time wound down, Lizotte drove between a couple defenders and threw up a shot from the right elbow.

Off her hand, it was clearly short, but like Lorenzo Charles in the 1983 NCAA men’s basketball final, Singleton was waiting for the rebound and while she didn’t slam it home like Charles did in that game of legend 37 years ago, Singleton did lay it up and in.

The horn sounded either as Singleton went up for the shot or a split second after and initially, it appeared as if the officials weren’t going to count the basket, but after discussion, they ruled it good.

Cheverus 53 Windham 51.

And bedlam ensued, with the host team celebrating and Windham coach Brody Artes arguing the shot was no good, to no avail.

“It happened so quick,” said Singleton. “I saw the shot going short, so I just put it in and hoped the refs counted it. It was fun to be mobbed like that.”

“This a big win,” Goodman said. “I yelled a play and it didn’t happen, but I can’t stress the effort Lillie gives every day. The effort she gives in practice played off today at the end. The girl gives 100 percent effort all the time.

“I honestly don’t know if (the shot got off in time). I can’t say.”

Jordan, the Stags’ inspirational leader, who earlier Saturday dazzled as a shot putter at the SMAA Championship meet, led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds.

“Lauren does it all on the court,” Goodman said. “She plays D, she rebounds, she can score. She’s a special leader for this team.”

Kratzer willed her way to a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. She also had a pair of steals.

Lizotte had nine points, five blocked shots and five boards, Singleton added five points (including the biggest basket of the game), Kelly had four, Davie and Huntington three apiece and Hammond two.

“I give the bench the credit,” said Goodman. “They got the girls hyped. So many girls did their job. Everyone stepped up. Where we’ve come the last three weeks after talking in the locker room after losing to Oxford Hills, we’ve been so much better. They’re trying to do the things I’m asking. I can only ask my team to battle. This is the 11th game we’ve played against a double-digit win team. We have a hard schedule and I love it. It only makes us better.

“For a lot of these girls, I’m their fourth coach in four years. It could have gone different ways this year, but off the court we have fun and on the court, they’re understanding what I want as a coach and I’m understanding what they can do as players.”

Cheverus had a 43-37 rebounding advantage and made 16-of-25 free throws. The Stags only turned the ball over six times.

Windham was paced by 15 points from Hannah Talon. Morey added 12 points and six rebounds, Hirning had 11 points and Sarah Talon finished with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. Flanders had three points, four rebounds and three assists. Thornton didn’t score, but grabbed six rebounds and had two assists.

The Eagles took just four free throws, making three, and committed 13 turnovers, but 11 of those came after halftime.

“Cheverus did a good job cranking up the intensity in the fourth quarter and we panicked,” said Artes. “We’re a young team. We were confident with the lead, but it was almost like we played not to lose at the end. We hit some outside shots and relied on that a little too much in the second half, especially the fourth quarter. We needed to take care of the ball more and take more time off the clock.”

Rematch

It’ll be hard to top Saturday’s contest, but Cheverus and Windham will try next week when they battle in what should be an entertaining quarterfinal.

The teams have met twice prior in the postseason, each winning once. In addition to the aforementioned Stags’ victory two years ago, Windham sprung a 41-36 upset over Cheverus in the 2014 Western A semifinals.

The Eagles certainly won’t have any trouble getting motivated after the way Saturday’s contest ended.

“We match up well, but it’ll be a battle,” said Artes. “We have to adjust and learn from this and move on. We have to take care of the ball and see what happens.”

The Stags are thrilled to be playing one more game at home, but they know they’ll have to put forth a solid 32-minute effort to advance to the semifinals.

“This will spark us to hopefully have a good run in the playoffs,” Singleton said.

“We just have to continue to play like we did today,” Kratzer said.

“We’ll put our heads down and work hard,” Jordan said.

“Windham’s a really good team,” Goodman added. “They don’t miss. They’re one of the better offensive teams I’ve seen. They have good players and are well-coached. We’ll need to be focused. We’re well-aware we need to play a lot better to get the win next week.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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