BOX SCORE

Windham 49 Cheverus 44

W- 10 11 11 17- 49
C- 9 13 11 11- 44

W- Morey 2-6-12, S. Talon 2-7-11, H. Talon 3-3-10, Potter 3-1-8, Thornton 1-2-4, Flanders 0-2-2, Hirning 1-0-2

C- L. Jordan 4-5-15, Lizotte 3-0-7, Singleton 2-2-7, J. Kratzer 2-0-6, Kelly 0-5-5, Bontatibus 1-1-3, Davie 0-1-1

3-pointers:
W (4) Morey 2, Potter, H. Talon 1
C (6) L. Jordan, J. Kratzer 2, Lizotte, Singleton 1

Turnovers:
W- 19
C- 15

FTs
W: 21-31
C: 14-25

PORTLAND—Five days after its most inspirational victory of the season, Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team was on the brink of something even better, a playoff win Thursday evening, but Sarah Talon and the Windham Eagles had other ideas in a Class AA North quarterfinal at Keegan Gymnasium.

Talon, Windham’s talented sophomore, nearly produced a triple-double and made some huge plays with the game hanging in the balance to help the Eagles accomplish something six years in the making.

A quarterfinal round victory and with it, a trip to the Cross Insurance Arena.

After the Stags beat Windham, 53-51, last Saturday on a controversial buzzer-beater, to no one’s surprise, the rematch was closely contested for 32 minutes, as neither team led by more than six points.

The Eagles clung to a 10-9 lead after one quarter, but Cheverus went on top, 16-12, on a 3-pointer from senior Lauren Jordan. Windham came back to lead by three on successive 3’s from senior Hannah Talon and sophomore Destiny Potter, but a pair of foul shots from sophomore Maeve Kelly gave the Stags a slim 22-21 advantage at the half.

The Eagles threatened to seize control when they scored the first seven points of the second half, capped by a 3-pointer from sophomore Carly Morey, but Cheverus roared back and held a 33-32 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

There, the game was tied twice, 35-35 and 38-38, but after a layup from freshman Abbey Thornton gave Windham the lead, Jordan made a 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go, then Jordan added two foul shots with 1:46 left for a 43-40 advantage.

Sarah Talon then ensured her sister and her teammates would live to play another day, as she converted an old-fashioned three-point play 10 seconds later, then, after Morey made two foul shots for the lead, Sarah Talon hit three-of-four foul shots in the waning seconds to help the Eagles prevail, 49-44.

Sarah Talon stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots and three steals and Morey and Hannah Talon also scored in double figures as Windham improved to 12-7, ended the Stags’ season at 11-8 and in the process, advanced to battle top-ranked, defending state champion Oxford Hills (18-1) in the Class AA North semifinals Thursday, Feb. 20 at 3:30 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena, across town.

“Words can’t explain it,” said Sarah Talon. “Our number one goal from the start of the season was to get to the Civic Center. We knew what we had to do. We went out and left it all on the court.”

No dispute

Cheverus and Windham played a game to remember last Saturday, when the Eagles couldn’t hold a 16-point second half lead and the Stags won it on sophomore Lillie Singleton’s putback, either at the horn, or a split-second following, depending on who you rooted for.

Regardless of whether the shot had been released in time, it counted and as a result, Cheverus finished fourth in Class AA North, while Windham dropped to fifth.

“It’s been a sleepless week for sure, but (that loss) was a blessing in disguise for us, I think,” said Windham coach Brody Artes. “We had a comfortable lead for three quarters and if that continued into the fourth, we might have been our heels today.”

Both teams have been solid this year and have been on a playoff collision course for some time.

The Eagles started slowly and were just 3-4 through seven games, then came to life and won eight of 10 before dropping the finale at the Stags.

Cheverus, meanwhile, in its first year under coach Billy Goodman, made tremendous strides, improving from five wins to 11 (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories) and Saturday’s win was enough to produce one more home game.

The teams split in the regular season, with Windham taking a 48-37 decision at home Jan. 9 and the squads had also split two prior playoff encounters (see sidebar, above).

Thursday, in front of a large and raucous crowd, the squads put on a show befitting a 4-vs.-5 matchup.

One that wasn’t decided, once again, until the very end.

Neither team was able to get into much of an offensive flow, as fouls quickly added up. Compounding matters for the hosts, they simply couldn’t knock down an outside shot, but strong defense kept the Stags close.

Hannah Talon opened the scoring with a runner, which bounced home, then Singleton tied the score with a putback.

After Morey banked home a 3 to put the Eagles on top, Jordan converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw), then with 3:26 to go in the opening stanza, junior Ella Davie gave Cheverus its first lead, 6-5, with a free throw.

Windham answered on a three-point play from Potter and after Singleton made a free throw for the Stags, Sarah Talon scored her first two points, from the line.

Jordan made a layup after a steal in the final minute, but the Eagles held a 10-9 advantage after eight minutes.

Cheverus went 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the opening quarter and continued to struggle from the floor in the second period, but Windham couldn’t take advantage.

After Thornton started the frame with two free throws, sophomore Maeve Kelly answered with one foul shot, then sophomore Emily Bontatibus tied the score with a bank shot, before Kelly hit a free throw and Jordan knocked down a 3 for a 16-12 Stags’ lead with 4:41 left in the half.

Jordan’s made 3-pointer was Cheverus’ first in 14 tries.

Sarah Talon stemmed the tide with a steal, a layup while being fouled, then a free throw for good measure.

Junior Jillian Lizotte drove for a layup for the Stags, but Hannah Talon tied the score with a 3, then Potter knocked down another for a 21-18 Eagles’ advantage.

Cheverus closed the half strong, however, getting a free throw from Jordan, another from Singleton and finally two from Kelly for a 22-21 halftime lead.

The Stags made just 1-of-17 3-point attempts in the first half, but nine points from Jordan and four points, six rebounds and three steals from Kelly was enough to produce a slim advantage.

Windham then came out red-hot to start the second half, getting a free throw from sophomore Kayla Flanders, a layup after a steal from Hannah Talon, a foul shot from Hannah Talon and with 5:56 left in the third quarter, a 3-ball from Morey for a 28-22 advantage.

Cheverus settled down, however, and answered, as Bontatibus made a free throw, Kratzer sank a 3 and after Potter hit a runner for the Eagles, Jordan made a 3, Kelly tied the score with a foul shot, then with 1:48 to go in the frame, Kratzer made another 3 for a 33-30 Stags’ lead.

Junior Lexi Hirning got two points back for Windham with a baseline jumper and Cheverus carried a one-point advantage to the fourth quarter.

There, the Stags appeared to be on the brink of triumph, but the Eagles saved their best for last.

Eight seconds into the final period, Kratzer set up Lizotte for a layup, but Morey made two free throws, then sank another with 6:31 remaining, tying the score, 35-35.

With 5:14 on the clock, Lizotte calmly buried a 3 for Cheverus, but Flanders made a free throw and with 4:24 to play, Hannah Talon sank two foul shots to tie it again, 38-38.

Fifty-five seconds later, Flanders broke the Stags’ press and found Thornton for a layup, but at the other end, with 3 minutes on the clock, Singleton again threatened to play the hero by sinking a 3 for a 41-40 Cheverus lead.

Jordan stole the ball back, but Kratzer missed a 3.

Lizotte then stole the ball and that set the stage for Jordan to be fouled with 1:46 to go. Jordan calmly hit both free throws and the Stags were up three.

But the Eagles would close on a 9-1 run.

With 1:36 left, Morey was on the brink of losing the ball under the basket, but she managed to get it to Sarah Talon, who was fouled while going up for a layup and she added the free throw to tie the score.

“I was not expecting that,” Talon said. “I saw an opening in the paint and went for it. I got fouled and went to the line and just put it in.”

Jordan drove for a potential go-ahead hoop, but missed and Thornton got the rebound.

Then, with 1:01 to play, Morey was fouled and she hit both attempts to put Windham ahead for good.

After Sarah Talon stole the ball, Singleton pilfered it back and with 37.5 seconds on the clock, Jordan was fouled.

Jordan had a chance to tie the score, but she missed her first attempt. Jordan sank the second, but the Eagles were still ahead by one.

Morey was quickly fouled and she too missed her first attempt and made the second for a 46-44 advantage with 32.3 seconds to go.

Kratzer then had a great look at a 3 for the lead, but it was just long and clanged off the back iron.

Thornton got the rebound and got the ball to Sarah Talon, who was fouled with 16.7 seconds remaining.

Talon wasn’t about to be denied, as she embraced the moment and made both attempts to push the lead to an all-important two possessions.

“I knew (those free throws) were for my team,” Talon said. “I knew if one of my teammates was at the line, I knew I’d appreciate it if they made those.”

Thornton then stole the ball to essentially ice it and with under a second left, Sarah Talon made one of two free throws to bring the curtain down on Windham’s 49-44 victory.

“Saturday was a wakeup call,” Sarah Talon said. “We’d have loved to have had a home game, but we knew what had to be done. We were frustrated last week and we took that frustration and got the win. We knew if we got open shots, we had to hit them. It’s not just one or two people, but everyone wanted this game and that showed in the fourth quarter. I really wanted it and I knew everyone else did too. It’s been Hannah’s dream since she started to play at the Civic Center. If I could help in any way possible, I wanted to do that.”

“I’m so proud,” Artes said. “These kids have been a blessing to coach over the course of the year. They just love each other and love working together. I’m really happy for them. They deserve to go to the Civic Center.

“We expected pressure tonight and I thought we did a good job handling it and we made some free throws at the end. I said to the kids at halftime when you have a tight officiated game, you just have to adjust. After the first half when we had three kids with three fouls, I thought it would be a long game, but we did a good job adjusting. Kratzer killed us Saturday and she hit a couple (3’s) again, but I thought we did a really good job locking down defensively the last four minutes. Every kid was determined to stop their player.”

Sarah Talon stole the show with her near triple-double.

“I was told to play inside, something I don’t usually do,” Talon said. “It was a challenge, but I went at it and did my best. Blocking shots gets me fired up. I think it raised up everyone on the court.”

“Sarah did a little bit of everything,” Artes said. “She’s a special athlete. She gets up for games like this. She had a look in her eye before the game. She wanted this one for her sister. She’s a big part of who we are.”

Morey had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists and Hannah Talon finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Potter added eight points, Thornton had four (to go with seven rebounds) and Flanders and Hirning had two apiece.

The Eagles overcame 19 turnovers and made 21-of-31 free throws.

The Vikings await

Windham has quite the daunting task awaiting it in the next round.

Other than a one-point loss at two-time defending Class A champion Greely, Oxford Hills has been perfect this winter, but the Vikings were pushed for a half by winless Deering, the No. 8 seed, in their quarterfinal Tuesday before pulling away for a 55-30 victory. Oxford Hills’ senior standout Julia Colby missed that game with an ankle injury, but is expected to return for the semifinal.

Windham lost both meetings with Oxford Hills this season, falling at Oxford, 54-36, Jan. 4 and at home, 76-57, Feb. 4.

“I can’t wait,” Sarah Talon said. “It’s really exciting. We’ve seen them twice. We know their offense and defense. We need to keep pushing the whole game.”

“We know (Oxford Hills is) good,” Artes said. “We have to try to spread them out on a big floor. They’ll come at us and try and end the game in the first quarter. If we can hang around and make shots, that will be big for us. We have to be ready to play that underdog role. I’m excited for the kids to get on the floor.”

Building block

Cheverus was led by Jordan, who had a game-high 15 points, as well as five rebounds and two steals.

Lizotte (eight rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks) and Singleton (seven rebounds, two steals) had seven points apiece, Julia Kratzer added six (to go with five rebounds and a pair of assists), Kelly had five (to go with eight rebounds and three steals), Bontatibus three and Davie one.

The Stags had a slim 42-41 edge on the glass, turned the ball over 15 times and hit just 14-of-25 free throws, as well as 6-of-29 3-pointers.

“It was an unbelievable effort,” Goodman said. “The girls played the game I wanted them to play and did everything I wanted them to do, but our shots didn’t go in. We just couldn’t put it away. When you see kids diving on the floor, going for rebounds, I can’t ask for more as a coach. All I’ve been preaching is I want good shots and I don’t want turnovers. They did everything right, but the shots didn’t go in. We got the shots and they were good shots. Windham just scored easier than we did.”

Cheverus improved its win total by six and nearly got to the semifinals. The Stags have to bid adieu to Jordan, Alex Hammond, Emily Huntington, Caitlin Kennedy-Jensen and Emma Levesque, but will return a lot of talent in 2020-21 and figure to be one of the top contenders.

“I think my team came a long way,” Goodman said. “I told the seniors I wished I had another year with them. I think all of them understand what I want from them now. It took a long time to get what I want out of players through to them, but to their credit, they really got better. I personally appreciate being back. I love coaching. Next year will be even better.”

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

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