The deficit had reached double digits in the fourth quarter of the Class AA North final and was in danger of growing. But the Oxford Hills girls’ basketball team wasn’t ready to give in.

“Even when we went down, it’s that long game that we like to play,” senior guard Sierra Carson said. “If we can just outplay, outhustle, we just had faith.”

That faith was realized in epic fashion Saturday afternoon. Carson scored 29 points, Tristen Derenburger hit tying and winning shots in the final two minutes of the second overtime, and Oxford Hills defeated Cheverus, 68-63, to win the Class AA North title at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The top-seeded Vikings (20-1) trailed by 12 points early in the fourth quarter and by four points early in the second overtime. But with Carson, who scored 24 of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and a pressure defense leading the way, they kept alive their quest for a third Gold Ball in four seasons.

“It looked a little doom and gloom for a little bit,” said Coach Nate Pelletier, who also got 17 points from his daughter, Ella. “But they just fought. That’s all I can ask for. You just keep fighting and fighting and fighting, and good things are going to happen.”

The loss ended the second-seeded Stags’ reign as Class AA champions. With Maddie Fitzpatrick (28 points, 17 rebounds) and Emma Lizotte (15 points, 18 rebounds) leading the way, Cheverus (18-3) showed its own grit and resolve by rallying from deficits late in the fourth quarter and again in overtime, but couldn’t close it out in the second overtime.


“It sucks. It hurts,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s tough. But they’re a great team.”

After erasing from a 41-29 deficit in the fourth, Oxford Hills was in trouble again in the second overtime, down 61-57 with two minutes left. Carson hit a free throw, then came up with a steal and found Derenburger on the right wing. The junior’s shot splashed through, tying the game at 61 with 1:51 to go.

Derenberger, who had only three points before her tying shot, wasn’t finished. Cheverus turned the ball over on its next possession, the ball again found Derenburger, and she again was good from behind the arc, putting the Vikings up 64-61 with one minute to go.

Cheverus missed its next shot, and Carson hit a pair of free throws to all but seal the win.

“I’ve always told myself, ‘You might get one or two shots. You need to make one or two shots,'” said Derenberger. “You need to come into this game knowing you can shoot, and you need to shoot.”

Cheverus was closing in on a return trip to the final in the fourth quarter before the Vikings ramped up their defensive pressure – or, as Pelletier called it, “chaos.”


The effects were immediate. Oxford Hills forced three straight turnovers, keying a 9-0 run that made it 41-38 with 4:39 to go.

“(My assistants) said ‘Coach, we’re digging ourselves our own grave here if we keep playing this slowdown game,” Pelletier said. “It’s really hard to play (a fast) pace and stay out of foul trouble. But when you’ve got nothing to lose and you’re backed into a hole, you just do it.”

The ramped-up pace awakened Carson, who scored 13 of the Vikings’ 20 points in the fourth quarter.

“We knew we could get back into the game, it was just how fast,” Carson said. “Mentally, I was (thinking) sometimes I have to be selfish to create success for my team. … If I could just get past my first defender, I could create so much room for myself and my teammates.”

Oxford Hills took a 49-47 lead with 1:23 left in regulation. A Fitzpatrick putback forced overtime, and though the Vikings held three leads in the first overtime, the Stags erased all three to force a second.

Fitzpatrick said the experience will help a Stags team that will return 13 of 14 players, including herself and Lizotte.

“Just playing in this venue … is really important, and feeling what it feels like to lose in this game, I have a fire lit under me already,” said Fitzpatrick. I’m ready to go.”

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