Monday afternoon’s Cheverus-Gardiner girls’ basketball game didn’t officially count in the standings, but that didn’t stop Stags’ junior standout Maddie Fitzpatrick from putting on her usual show at the Varsity Maine Holiday Hoops Showcase at the James A. Banks Sr. Exposition Building.

Fitzpatrick, who recently verbally committed to playing at the University of Maine, scored 11 points in a first half which saw Cheverus, the reigning Class AA state champion, go ahead by as many as 13 points before holding a 27-16 advantage at the break.

The Tigers, a favorite in Class A South, paced by senior post standout Lizzy Gruber, who will play next year at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, then roared back in the second half, getting as close as two before making it a 38-34 contest after three quarters.

In the fourth period, Gardiner pulled within two three more times, but Fitzpatrick sank two free throws, then converted an old-fashioned three-point play to help open it up and the Stags went on to a 54-47 victory.

Fitzpatrick finished with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds and Cheverus began a busy week with an encouraging result against a determined foe.

“The coaches told us at the beginning of the game that we could go into it like a scrimmage, but that it was a playoff game and we looked at it that way,” said Fitzpatrick. “We had three days off, so we were a little rusty, but I think we did well. Going against a great player like Lizzy only helps us for the future. When we get in close games like that against great players, it only helps us in the long run.”


Exhibition in name only

Cheverus began its title defense this winter with a 52-44 loss at Bangor, but the Stags rebounded to dominate Deering (55-12), Westbrook (78-39), Portland (61-24) and Lewiston (53-34).

Gardiner, meanwhile, defeated Cony (70-45), Lawrence (41-37), Mt Blue (59-16) and Messalonskee (74-34) to begin the season

Monday’s contest was one of the bigger attractions on the Holiday Hoops Showcase slate, as Gruber matched up with Fitzpatrick and junior post star Emma Lizotte.

The contest would live up to billing, as the Stags started fast before the Tigers rallied to make things very interesting.

Cheverus junior Maddie Fitzpatrick is defended by Gardiner junior Taylor Takatsu during the Stags’ 54-47 victory in Monday’s Varsity Maine Holiday Hoops Showcase showdown. Photo by Michael Hoffer

Fitzpatrick opened the scoring 43 seconds in, driving for a layup, and Cheverus would never trail.


After Fitzpatrick set up Lizotte for a leaner, Gardiner got its first point on a free throw from senior McKenna Johnson.

Fitzpatrick then drained a jumper over Gruber and hit a runner in the lane for an 8-1 lead and Tigers’ coach Mike Gray called timeout.

It paid off as Gardiner hit its first field goal, a putback from Gruber, but Lizotte added a short jumper and freshman Jaelyn Jensen added a long jumper to make it 12-3.

Late in the frame, Johnson drove and banked home a shot and after junior Ruth Boles made a short jumper for the Stags, Johnson set up junior Taylor Takatsu for a layup and the Tigers were down, 14-7, after eight minutes.

Gruber then started the second period with a layup, but Fitzpatrick countered with a three-point play (jumper, foul, free throw), then Fitzpatrick set up Lizotte for a fastbreak layup to push the lead to 10.

After Gruber answered with a contested leaner, Fitzpatrick made a jumper.


Gruber then made a layup, but Fitzpatrick found Lizotte for a layup and Lizotte hit a short jumper to make it 25-13.

Late in the half, senior Savannah Brown hit a free throw for Gardiner, but junior Olivia Conroy made two to give Cheverus its biggest advantage.

Senior Megan Gallagher hit a jumper and Gruber added two free throws to cut the deficit to nine, but with 7.8 seconds remaining, a jumper from junior Megan Dearborn gave the Stags a seemingly comfortable 29-18 halftime advantage.

In the first 16 minutes, Fitzpatrick had 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot, while Lizotte added 10 points, helping negate Gruber’s 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and a block.

The Tigers then came out strong to start the second half.

Cheverus junior Emma Lizotte defends Gardiner senior Lizzy Gruber. Photo by Michael Hoffer

Gardiner started the half with a 3-pointer from Brown. Johnson then drained a 3 and Johnson took a pass from Takatsu and made a layup to make the score 29-26 less than two minutes into the third period.


Fitzpatrick stemmed the run with a pair of free throws, then Boles made a floater, but Gallagher hit a jumper and Johnson made a foul shot to cut the Stags’ lead to 33-29.

Freshman Jenna Jensen answered with a jumper from the corner, but sophomore Emilee Brown made a 3 and the Tigers were within one possession.

After Lizotte made a free throw, Gruber set up Emilee Brown for a layup to cut the deficit to just two, but with 7.6 seconds left, a Boles jumper gave Cheverus a 38-34 advantage going to the fourth quarter.

There, Savannah Brown hit a jumper to again make it a two-point game and Savannah Brown had a look at a 3 and the lead, but it was off target.

With 5:33 to go, Fitzpatrick made two free throws, but Gruber answered with a contested leaner to make it 40-38.

The Stags didn’t waver, as Fitzpatrick found Lizotte for a short jumper, but Gallagher hit a jumper to pull Gardiner within two one final time.


Gallagher had a look at a 3 and the lead, but missed and with 3:22 to go, Fitzpatrick made two free throws.

After another Tigers’ miss, Cheverus’ two stars combined to extend the lead, as Fitzpatrick passed to Lizotte, then flashed to the hoop, got the ball back, laid it in while being fouled, then added the and-one free throw to make it 47-40 with 2:26 left.

“I don’t like to force stuff,” Fitzpatrick said. “I let it come to me and my teammates helped me. (The give-and-go isn’t) necessarily a specific thing we work on, but after the Bangor game, we only worked on passing, so it’s burned in our brains at this point to look to pass.”

Gruber answered with a jumper, but Fitzpatrick hit two foul shots.

Gruber then hit a long jump shot, but Gardiner would draw no closer, as Jenna Jensen made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the three-point play.

“Emma and I had really good role models helping us when we were younger, so it’s awesome for us to see the younger players develop,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’ve known Jenna since we went to camps together when we were younger. It’s awesome to see her in those big moments. It makes me excited for the future of Cheverus girls’ basketball.”


“Jenna doesn’t play like a freshman,” added Cheverus coach Billy Goodman. “She plays like a veteran. I gave her a lot of minutes tonight and she did a great job. She earned those minutes tonight.”

Fitzpatrick then broke away for a layup to end all doubt.

Gallagher made a late 3, but it was far too-little, too-late and the Stags went on to a 54-47 victory.

“They just started hitting shots, I don’t think we let down,” Fitzpatrick said. “We stayed calm and kept pushing.  We learned a lot from (the Bangor) game. I think losing is important. It shows us what we had to improve.”

“This was a playoff game,” said Goodman. “My team this year, needs to play games like this. Gardiner’s a tough team. We need to learn how to handle pressure. I’m learning my team, who should be playing when. I learned a lot today. Looking back, I’m glad we could have a close game and win. You can’t buy that experience.”

Fitzpatrick finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. She also had six assists and three steals.


“Maddie made a lot of good decisions,” said Goodman. “I was upset with her (four) fouls, but she has to have the ball in her hands. She’s playing very smart. Sometimes, I tell her to shoot more. She works really hard on both ends of the floor and she’s that much better than last year.”

Lizotte excelled as well, scoring 13 points, adding six rebounds, three assists and three steals, while exerting a lot of energy on the defensive end, trying to hold Gruber in check.

“Emma played an amazing game, defense, passing, shooting, scoring,” Goodman said. “All-around, that’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen Emma play.”

Boles finished with six points, Jenna Jensen (four rebounds) had five and Conroy (eight rebounds, two assists), Dearborn and Jaelyn Jensen two apiece.

Cheverus didn’t hit a 3-pointer, but had a 40-27 rebounding advantage, made 14-of-22 free throws and overcame 17 turnovers.

For Gardiner, Gruber showed off her myriad skills by scoring 16 points and adding 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.


Gallagher (five rebounds, three assists, two steals) and Johnson (four assists) each added nine points, Savannah Brown had six, Emilee Brown finished with five and Takatsu had two.

The Tigers turned the ball over 14 times, but were doomed in part by 5-of-14 foul shooting.

Back to reality

Gardiner is back to countable play Thursday at Camden Hills.

Cheverus returns to action Tuesday at Edward Little. The Stags then host Hampden Academy in a playoff rematch Thursday.

“We’re handling (being the favorite) well,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s difficult, but we understand we’re lucky to have that pressure and it’s only going to make us better. We know it’ll take a lot of work to get back (to states). We just need to continue progressing. If we keep pushing and having each other’s backs, we’ll be fine.”

“We’ve gone back to basics on defense and I feel it’s been better since Bangor and now, we’re working on offense and understanding how to be more efficient,” Goodman said.

“Edward Little is playing better this year and Hampden Academy is always good. It’s time to heat up the season.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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