BOX SCORE

Cheverus 46 Hampden Academy 29

HA- 8 5 5 11- 29
C- 18 6 15- 7- 46

HA- Haskell 4-0-12, Voteur 1-3-5, Wiles 2-0-4, Gardner 1-0-3, Murphy 1-0-2, Neal 1-0-2, Archer 0-1-1

C- Lizotte 7-1-15, Singleton 5-0-12, Kratzer 3-0-9, Kelly 2-0-6, Jordan 2-0-4

3-pointers:
HA (5) Haskell 4, Gardner 1
C (7) Kratzer 3, Kelly, Singleton 2

Turnovers:
HA- 20
C- 16

FTs
HA: 4-8
C: 1-2

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PORTLAND—When standout sophomore Maddie Fitzpatrick went down indefinitely with a thumb injury in the second game of the season, Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team found itself at a crossroads.

Ten games later, the Stags are thriving.

And much to the rest of Class AA’s chagrin, they’re about to get even better.

Because Fitzpatrick is primed to return to practice Thursday.

First things first, Cheverus hosted Hampden Academy Wednesday at Keegan Gymnasium and the Stags produced one final example that they’re as good a “team” as you’ll find anywhere.

Senior Julia Kratzer set the tone with a pair of early 3-pointers and Cheverus raced to an 18-8 lead after one quarter.

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The Stags weren’t able to deliver a knockout blow in the first half, however, as the Broncos, who were also playing without their star, junior Bella McLaughlin, hung around and trailed, 24-13, at the break.

The Stags then quickly ended all doubt in the third period, as senior Maeve Kelly, one night after playing the hero in a come-from-behind victory over Windham, hit a 3, then senior Lillian Singleton drained a pair and when senior Hayley Jordan scored four quick points at quarter’s end, Cheverus was in command, up, 39-18.

Hampden Academy fought hard in the fourth period and got as close as 15, but the Stags were able to go on to a 46-29 victory.

Sophomore Emma Lizotte led a balanced attack with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Cheverus improved to 11-1 and in the process, dropped the Broncos to 8-3.

“When Maddie got hurt we were kind of afraid, but we have five seniors who have played together for four years and being a team is the most important thing,” said Kelly.

Reaching potential

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Cheverus opened by beating visiting Bangor (50-36), then won at Deering (62-20) in the game that Fitzpatrick was injured.

But the Stags didn’t miss a beat, steadily improving in the six weeks she was sidelined.

Cheverus was victorious at Westbrook (64-21), at home over Portland (62-37) and at Lewiston (44-42) on Dec. 23, but the Stags, due to a COVID pause, wouldn’t play again until Jan. 11, when they defeated visiting Deering (60-47). Cheverus then won at Edward Little (62-20) and gave coach Billy Goodman his 200th win with a 48-29 victory at Portland. Last Friday, Cheverus suffered its first setback, 45-40, at Scarborough, a result that might have been a blessing in disguise.

“Our loss against Scarborough really pushed us to get back on track,” Kelly said. “Some good came out of it. That made us all come together and made us realize we have to be consistent. We were hard on ourselves afterwards. It made us realize we had to play as a team and it helped us grow.”

The Stags bounced back with a vengeance Saturday, beating visiting, undefeated, reigning Class AA champion Oxford Hills (62-59). Monday, Cheverus edged visiting Windham, 42-41, on Kelly’s late 3.

Hampden Academy has been solid as well. The Broncos started with wins over visiting Edward Little (69-28), host Portland (55-30) and visiting Brewer (64-37) before falling at home to Oxford Hills (52-41) and at Bangor (29-26). The winning ways then returned with victories over visiting Lewiston (45-33), host Edward Little (51-38), visiting Messalonskee (63-31) and host Brewer (53-27).

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Entering play Wednesday, the teams had never met, but the Stags went out and do what they always do.

Play strong defense, share the ball and get key contributions from myriad sources.

Just 18 seconds in, Kratzer drained a 3-pointer to put Cheverus on top to stay.

Hampden Academy got on the board on a long jump shot from sophomore Lauren Voteur, but with 6:36 to go in the first period, Kratzer made another 3-pointer, from the corner.

“I’ve been really begging (Julia) to be more aggressive and she did that tonight,” Goodman said. “That’s what we need from a senior leader.”

Next, Kelly hit a 3, then Kratzer set up Singleton for a fastbreak layup and with 3:26 on the clock, after a steal, Kratzer passed to Singleton for another layup and a 13-2 advantage.

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Broncos senior Emma Haskell stemmed the tide with a 3-ball, but Singleton made another layup (from freshman Rachel Feeley), Singleton set up Lizotte for a layup after a steal, then Lizotte added a free throw before a Haskell 3 pulled Hampden Academy within 18-8 after one quarter.

“We wanted to get off to a fast start because we haven’t started games very well,” Lizotte said. “We needed that for confidence.”

Kratzer and Singleton each had six points in the first period flurry and the Broncos turned the ball over five times.

Cheverus then struggled in the second quarter, but still managed to add one point to its lead.

After Singleton set up Lizotte for a layup to start the frame, Haskell made another 3, but Lizotte countered with a spinner and a putback before a late jumper from senior Camryn Neal pulled Hampden Academy within 11 points, 24-13, at halftime.

Lizotte nearly had a double-double in the first 16 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds. Haskell kept the Broncos within hailing distance with her nine points.

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The Stags then pulled away in the third quarter, sparked by an unlikely source.

Assistant coach Bill Whitmore.

Just 28 seconds into the second half, Kelly sank her second 3. Singleton then hit a 3-ball and after a layup from Hampden Academy sophomore Lucy Wiles, Singleton buried another shot from behind the 3-point arc to make it 33-15.

“We haven’t had good third quarters the past couple games, so Coach Whitmore told us the third quarter would be the biggest quarter and we had to secure our lead,” Kelly said.

“Coach Whitmore told them to get focused to start the third quarter and they did,” Goodman said. “They listen to him better than they do me.”

Voteur made a free throw and Wiles banked home a shot, but Cheverus ended the frame the way it began it, as Lizotte scored on a bank shot, then Jordan drove for a layup and Jordan spun and kissed a shot off the glass to make it 39-18.

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The Broncos started the final stanza strong, as senior Taylor Gardner hit a 3 and Voteur made two free throws and after Singleton set up Lizotte for a layup, Haskell made her final 3 to cut the deficit to 41-26.

But that’s as close as Hampden Academy would get, as Lizotte scored on a runner and Kratzer made one final 3 for the Stags’ final points.

In the last minute, the Broncos got a free throw from senior Taya Archer and a layup from senior Ella Carlisle to account for the 46-29 final score.

“We watched some film to get an idea of how they played,” said Lizotte. “We knew they’re fast, so we knew we had to get back on defense.”

“The girls find a way to reboot every day,” Goodman said. “What they did Saturday was so special and then last night’s win was great, then they started over. I give them all the credit. Hampden’s a fast team and they can shoot.”

Lizotte had 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.

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“Emma played really tough tonight,” said Goodman. “That’s probably the toughest game I’ve seen her play. She had two people on her and she battled. She’s really developed a way to understand when to score and when to pass. She’s worked hard and it’s paid off. I give her credit.”

Singleton also finished in double figures with 12 points and also had six assists and three steals. Kratzer added nine points (three assists and three steals), Kelly six (six rebounds and a couple steals) and Jordan four. Senior Emily Bontatibus didn’t score, but contributed four rebounds and a couple assists.

“This is my third year here and to see the seniors grow has been really fun,” Goodman said. “They’re a special group. I call them the ‘Fab Five’ because they all do something to help the team. All the girls have stepped up.”

Cheverus had a 33-27 rebound advantage, overcame 16 turnovers and made 1-of-2 free throws.

Hampden Academy was paced by Haskell, who hit four 3-pointers for a team-high 12 points. She also had four rebounds and two assists. Voteur added five points and three steals, Wiles had four, Gardner three, Murphy and Neal (six rebounds) two apiece and Archer one.

The Broncos made 4-of-8 free throws and turned the ball over 20 times.

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A most welcome sight

Hampden Academy’s schedule gets no lighter, as it hosts Windham and Bangor next, then goes to undefeated Class A powerhouse Skowhegan before hosting Cheverus next Wednesday.

As for the Stags, they’ll get Fitzpatrick back for practice Thursday with game action to follow.

To say she’ll be a welcome sight is a mighty understatement.

“Maddie’s a really good player and will be super-helpful to help her back,” said Kelly. “(Her absence) has helped us learn that we need other scorers instead of deferring to the easy option. I think it’s been good for us, but we’re excited to have her back because we love playing with her.”

“Maddie will really help us on the defensive end,” Lizotte said. “She’s quick and will cause turnovers. Offensively, she sees the court well and distributes the ball well. She brings positive energy.”

“We’re excited to get Maddie back, but we have a more experienced and deeper team now,” Goodman added. “Maddie’s done her job cheering for the team and everyone has stepped up and done more. She’s very excited to be back at practice. All the other girls will have such confidence now.”

Before seeing the Broncos again, Cheverus hosts Lewiston Friday and has another showdown at Oxford Hills Monday.

“Those teams will be ready for us,” said Goodman. “We’re in a very tough division, so we have to keep working on halfcourt offense and getting in shape.”

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

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