Maeve Kelly was open in the left corner and took a deep breath. Then she released her shot and it was true, rippling through the net and sending the home crowd at Cheverus High into a frenzy.

Basketball was back – with fans – Friday night. And it felt good.

“Last year was hard,” said Kelly, alluding to the shortened 2020-21 season that was played with no fans in the stands. “It meant a lot (to have fans back). The energy, really, is what keeps our team going. We all have our backs. And once it gets exciting like that, we tend to have each other’s back even more. When the fans pick us up, it carries over to the team.”

Kelly, a senior guard, hit two crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter – her only baskets of the game – to fuel a 15-0 run as Cheverus rallied to defeat Bangor 50-36 Friday night in a Class AA North girls’ basketball season opener. The visiting Rams led 30-25, but succumbed to relentless full-court pressure by the Stags, who forced 31 turnovers, and clutch shooting by Kelly.

This was a much-anticipated opener – University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon was on hand with her father Paul, one of the state’s legendary girls’ basketball coaches  – with both teams expected to contend for a championship. It was the Stags who made the final push, holding Bangor to just six points over the game’s final 12 minutes.

“Everything is about possessions and getting good shots,” said Bangor Coach Jay Kemble. “Like anything it’s about poise and learning to play under that pressure and they did a good job with that tonight.”


Still, Bangor led 30-25 midway through the third after Taylor Coombs (team-high 13 points) stole the ball and drove three-quarters of the court for a layup. But what followed was six consecutive turnovers against the press, resulting in an 11-0 Cheverus run to end the third. Kelly gave the Stags the lead for good with 2:42 left in the third when she drained a 3-pointer from the left corner. Then, after a Bangor miss, she banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 35-30.

“We needed to get our defense together and play as a team,” said Kelly. “We were a little disorganized in the first half. I think what pulled us together was our defense and our energy.”

Sophomore Maddie Fitzpatrick, who led Cheverus with 19 points, said Kelly “gave us the momentum. Maeve is so good at defense, that got us going. Then she hit those two 3’s and pushed us over the edge.”

The Stags would get the first four points of the fourth to lead 40-30. Bangor would get no closer than eight. Sophomore center Emma Lizotte added 16 points for Cheverus, nine coming in the third.

And while this was just the season opener, Cheverus Coach Bill Goodman said this was a great way to start the season.

“This gives us confidence and experience playing in a tight game,” he said. “The girls earned this. They were down and they came back.”

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