SACO—Now this is the Cheverus girls’ basketball team that everyone was expecting to see.

The team that won the Class AA state title a year ago.

And the team that if it plays like it did Wednesday afternoon at Linnell Gymnasium, might just bring home another Gold Ball after all.

The Stags, four days removed from a loss at Oxford Hills and less than 24 hours removed from a less-than-ideal effort in a home win over Windham, faced the daunting task of taking on undefeated Thornton Academy, on the Golden Trojans’ home floor.

But Cheverus was more than up for the challenge.

Thanks to a stellar defensive effort and the brilliance of junior standouts Maddie Fitzpatrick and Emma Lizotte, who each produced a double-double.


Neither team shot well in a sluggish first period and Thornton Academy held an 8-6 lead after eight minutes, although it felt like it missed an opportunity to open up a healthier advantage.

The Stags then went ahead to stay with 5:22 to go in the second quarter, on a Lizotte layup, and thanks to a 12-2 run, held a 20-12 lead at the half.

Junior star Addisen Sulikowski tried to rally the Golden Trojans in the third period, but they never got closer than six points and after a late Fitzpatrick layup made it 31-21 Cheverus heading to the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick, Lizotte and freshman Jenna Jensen all scored early in the final stanza to cap a 10-0 run to break it open.

Thornton Academy never got closer than a dozen the rest of the way and back-to-back Lizotte old-fashioned three-point plays slammed the door as the Stags prevailed, 49-35.

Lizotte finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Fitzpatrick added 15 points and 19 rebounds and Cheverus improved to 13-2 on the season, handing the Golden Trojans their first setback in 14 outings in the process.

“We knew we needed to bring more energy and play as a team,” said Lizotte. “We just wanted to come in here and play our hardest and see what we could do.”



The Stags and Golden Trojans entered the season with lofty expectations and have risen to meet them.

Thornton Academy opened with decisive wins over Scarborough (58-33) and Noble (75-25), then downed Bonny Eagle (61-40), South Portland (46-30), Gorham (58-40), Windham (55-43), Scarborough (52-42), Sanford (55-47), Portland (60-29), Gorham (50-45), Noble (60-15), South Portland (58-55) and Gorham (64-30).

Cheverus, meanwhile, stumbled out of the gate with a 52-44 loss at Bangor, but then hit its stride and dominated visiting Deering (55-12), Westbrook (78-39), Portland (61-24) and Lewiston (53-34), host Edward Little (67-33), visiting Hampden Academy (67-32) and Scarborough (67-40), host Deering (57-35), Portland (64-38) and Hampden Academy (45-35) and visiting Edward Little (50-21). Saturday in South Paris, the Stags were beaten by sizzling-shooting Oxford Hills (61-50).

“(Oxford Hills is) a really good team, well-coached, but we know we can compete with them,” said Fitzpatrick. “We started out really slowly in the first quarter, but we competed with them in the last three quarters. The next game will be a good one.”

Tuesday, Cheverus bounced back, but it wasn’t easy, as it held off visiting Windham, 52-40.


Prior to heading to Saco Wednesday, the Stags had a walk-through, where coach Billy Goodman delivered a pointed message.

That he expected more out of his team.

“Coach (spoke) to us and it was effective,” said Fitzpatrick.

“I didn’t like the way we played defense against Oxford or last night against Windham, so we had a tough love conversation and broke down what we were looking for,” Goodman said. “I let them know I was upset.”

The teams didn’t meet a year ago, as the Golden Trojans were knocked off by Scarborough in the regional semifinals and it was ultimately Gorham that faced the Stags in the state final.

Wednesday, in a game moved up an hour-and-a-half due to an impending winter storm, in the teams first meeting since Jan. 7, 2020 (a 53-35 road win for Cheverus), Thornton Academy hoped to beat the Stags for the first time since Dec. 12, 2014 (50-28), but instead, Cheverus downed the Golden Trojans for the sixth consecutive meeting.


It took nearly two minutes for the scoring ice to be broken when Fitzpatrick, fittingly, went coast-to-coast for a layup.

Thornton Academy drew even when Sulikowski set up promising freshman Kylie Lamson for a layup.

Lizotte put the Stags back on top with a layup in traffic for her first points, but senior Emily Coleman fed Sulikowski for a backdoor layup and Sulikowski finished a spinner to give the hosts their first lead, 6-4.

Late in the quarter, Fitzpatrick converted a leaner, but senior Jessica Dow got a leaner to roll in and the Golden Trojans clung to an 8-6 advantage heading to the second period.

“We had a few roll in-and-out and we missed some easy ones early, but we were tight,” lamented Thornton Academy coach Eric Marston. “There were some nerves. This game had a tournament feel to it.”

In the second quarter, Cheverus seized hold of the game.


Lizotte tied the score with a jumper, then Fitzpatrick scored on a putback, but  Sulikowski made a layup after a steal to tie the score, 10-10.

Then, with 5:22 on the clock, Lizotte took a pass from freshman Jaelyn Jensen and finished with her left hand to give the Stags the lead for good.

After Lizotte added two free throws, junior Ruth Boles drained a jumper, then after Lizotte blocked a shot at the defensive end, she took a pass from Fitzpatrick and made a layup for an 18-10 advantage with 3:52 to go before halftime.

Dow then found Coleman in transition for a layup to snap a 4 minute, 1 second drought, but a Boles putback made it 20-12 Cheverus at the break.

In the first 16 minutes, Lizotte had 10 points and seven rebounds, while Fitzpatrick had six points and a dozen rebounds.

Dow tried to spark a rally when she began the second half with a bank shot, but Sulikowski was called for her third foul and Fitzpatrick fed Lizotte for a layup.


“I get (Emma) the ball and just run up the court because I trust her to score,” Fitzpatrick said.

After Sulikowski cut the deficit to 22-16, Fitzpatrick stole the ball, then lined up a 3-pointer that found nothing but net.

Lamson answered with a three-point play (runner, foul, free throw), but Lizotte banked home a shot in traffic and after Sulikowski made two foul shots with 59 seconds to go in the third period, Jenna Jensen sank a short jumper (off a feed from Lizotte) and Lizotte found Fitzpatrick for a layup and the Stags took a 10-point advantage, 31-21, to the fourth quarter.

There, Fitzpatrick hit a runner on the baseline, Lizotte drained a long shot from just inside the 3-point arc, then Jaelyn Jensen putback her own miss and just like that, Cheverus was up by 16.

A Sulikowski runner ended the 10-0 Stags’ run, then with 4:34 to play, Dow set up senior Claudia Pelletier for a layup to cut the deficit to 37-25, but the Golden Trojans would get no closer.

Eleven seconds later, Lizotte made a bank shot while being fouled and added the and-one free throw.


The next time down, Lizotte made a layup after a nice drop step, was fouled and again completed the three-point play to push the lead to 43-25.

Senior Hannah Cook answered with a long 3 and after Fitzpatrick found Jaelyn Jensen for a layup, Lamson sank a 3 to give Thornton Academy a last bit of hope, but it was quickly dashed, as Fitzpatrick set up Lizotte for a layup, then Fitzpatrick drove for a layup and the Stags’ final points.

With 10 seconds to go, Cook sank two free throws and that brought the curtain down on Cheverus’ 49-35 victory.

“It’s so relieving,” said Fitzpatrick. “Last night against Windham was a tough game. They brought it and we didn’t. We wanted to turn it around after that game and after our loss. We just wanted to play together. We know we can play like that and it feels good to finally play like that. The energy on the bench motivated us and our defensive effort were the difference.”

“We had a great walk-through where I went through what we wanted in a man-to-man defense,” Goodman said. “I’ve coached for 20 years and these girls really impressed me. They decided to come together as a team and played amazing tonight. I’m really shocked the girls did it. I’m proud of them.

“Today was like a playoff game. At Thornton, where it’s tough to win against a really talented team. (Thornton Academy’s) really good and they can score a lot. They have amazing shooters. They can drive. They were undefeated for a reason. We respect them a lot.”


Lizotte led all scorers with 24 points and also grabbed 15 rebounds, while dishing out three assists and also blocking three shots.

“I just focused on locating where the double (team) was coming from and if I did, I’d kick it out to my teammates,” said Lizotte.

Fitzpatrick, who has verbally committed to playing at the University of Maine (U. Maine coach Amy Vachon was in attendance Wednesday) dazzled as well with 15 points, 19 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

“People boxed out and I was free for the rebounds,” Fitzpatrick said. “Coach preaches rebounds. I’ve been with him since seventh grade, so it’s instilled in my brain. We know possession is more important than anything.”

“We’re just trying to be the best leaders we can,” said Lizotte. “It’s great to have Maddie healthy this year. Our teammates are figuring out how we jell together.”

“It all starts with Maddie and Emma,” Goodman added. “Today, they were champions. They made great decisions. They moved the ball. I’m very lucky to coach Maddie. I was on her pretty good in the walk-through. She listened and applied it. Emma’s been really working hard on being patient and today, you saw how far she’s come. She’s been a very good player and she was a great player tonight. I’m so proud of those two and the other girls for stepping up.”


Marston could only tip his cap to Cheverus’ standouts.

“Emma’s a tough matchup inside,” Marston said. “I think we did a good job against her for the most part. We made it hard for her. Maddie’s very smooth and in control. They have a good supporting cast too. Their kids play well in their role. It’s a tough matchup for sure, but there are some things we’ll do differently if we’re lucky enough to play them again.”

Boles added four points, as did Jaelyn Jensen  (who also had three assists) and Jenna Jensen tallied two points (and had four rebounds).

The Stags out-rebounded the Golden Trojans, 38-34,  made 4-of-9 free throws and only committed eight turnovers in a hostile road environment.

Thornton Academy was paced by Sulikowski, who had a dozen points, as well as five rebounds. Lamson added eight points (and five rebounds), Dow had six (to go with six rebounds and three assists), Cook five (as well as five rebounds) and Coleman (seven rebounds, two assists) and Pelletier two apiece.

The Golden Trojans made all five of their free throw attempts and only turned the ball over nine times, but never looked comfortable and couldn’t get in an offensive flow.


“They (beat us) for sure,” Marston said. “All season, we’ve been saying you can’t get away with (playing like) this against Cheverus, Oxford Hills and Bangor. We only played one of those three (in the regular season) and it was Cheverus and we didn’t get away with it. It’s a loss we feel OK about because we needed a wakeup call. We’ve had some tight games, but nothing like the defensive pressure we faced in this one. I don’t think it was a matter of our effort. I thought our effort was excellent and we defended relatively well, but they took us out of what we wanted to do offensively. What we typically do, we weren’t able to execute and they did a great job executing on their offensive end.”

Bigger things await

If the squads play again, it would come March 4 in the Class AA state final, but neither can think about a potential Gold Ball showdown now, as big tests remain.

Thornton Academy, still first by a comfortable margin in the Class AA South Heal Points standings, looks to get back in the win column Friday at Falmouth.

“We talk about our 2014-15 team that had an absolute meltdown against Gorham and we point to that as we wouldn’t have won the Western Maine Final if we hadn’t learned from that game and end-of-game execution,” Marston said. “We hope we’ll get a lot of lessons from this and move forward.”

Cheverus (third behind Bangor and Oxford Hills in Class AA North) visits Lewiston Saturday, then has another huge showdown versus Oxford Hills, this time at home, Tuesday of next week.

“We have to close out better and work on overall rebounding too,” Lizotte said.

“We have to work on defense,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s the most important thing. We have to get stops on defense and slow the game down on offense. I think that’s our specialty.”

“This helps us with confidence,” Goodman added. “We know Oxford is a very talented team. They gave it to us good. We’ll find a way to compete next Tuesday and keep building on today.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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