Maddie Fitzpatrick is one of five starters expected to return for the Cheverus High girls’ basketball team next season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Cheverus High girls’ basketball team had just lost in the regional final, and the season had only been over for a matter of minutes.

Maddie Fitzpatrick, however, was ready to get started again.

“I have a fire lit under me,” the Cheverus junior said. “I’m ready to go.”

It’s hard to blame her. Few teams will be better armed for the 2023-24 season than the Stags. Cheverus is expected to return all five starters, and 13 of 14 players, from a team that went 18-3 and lost in double overtime in the Class AA North final to eventual champion Oxford Hills. The Stags won it all last season, were oh-so-close this year, and could be even better next winter.

“They know a lot now. They know so much more now, we’ve been through battles together,” Coach Bill Goodman said. “The experience is really going to help us next year.”

Cheverus is one of several southern Maine teams in both boys’ and girls’ basketball poised for success next season, thanks to a combination of returning players, incoming talent or impact players coming back from injury.


The Stags should be a clear favorite in Class AA North. The entire starting lineup of Fitzpatrick, Emma Lizotte, Megan Dearborn, Ruth Boles and Jenna Jensen is expected back, along with top sub Jaelyn Jensen.

Though Cheverus was the defending Class AA champion, no one besides Fitzpatrick and Lizotte played significant minutes for that title team. Goodman said the team’s run to the regional final, and the toe-to-toe battle with the loaded Vikings, should benefit the team as a whole.

“We have a lot of experience, and confidence that we can do it,” he said. “We’ve just got to do it for 32 minutes next year. … As a coach, I’m really fired up.”

Caroline Hartley of Scarborough was the top scorer in the SMAA this season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Class AA South was full of teams that succeeded with young rosters or talented underclassmen. Sanford, which went 13-7 and earned the No. 2 seed, expects to bring back top scorer Julissa McBarron and three other starters. Scarborough, which dipped to 8-10 after making the South final the previous season, could have 12 of 14 varsity players back, led by the SMAA’s top scorer, Caroline Hartley. Thornton Academy features Class AA South Player of the Year Addisen Sulikowski and standout freshman Kylie Lamson.

And then there’s Gorham, which finished 12-10 but made the Class AA final could bring back every starter from the title game, as well as sophomore guard Vanessa Walker, who averaged 14.8 points per game before being lost for the season because of injury.

“(It’s good) as long as we can keep moving forward. If we come back and we’re the same team, I think that’s not what we’re looking to do,” Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume said. “Really, this year was about growing and about consistency, and finishing in such a positive manner was something that we can build on. The girls are excited for next year already.”


Brunswick, which went 19-3 before losing in the Class A final to Lawrence, could welcome back starters Dakota Shipley, Maddy Werner, Lexi Morin and Emily Doring. In Class B, Lake Region should have four starters back from a team that went 13-6 and made the South quarterfinals. Wells could have four starters and impressive freshman Megyn Mertens back after going 17-3 and making the South semifinals.

“For a lot of these girls, this was their second time playing on (the Portland Expo) court,” said Wells Coach Sandi Purcell. “With more experience and more age, I can’t wait to see what the years to come look like.”

In boys’ basketball, Gorham could go from being a 13-6 regional quarterfinalist to being the team to beat in Class AA South. The Rams expect to bring back starters Ashton Leclerc (an all-region first-team selection), Gabe Michaud and Caden Smith, while Griffin Gammon and Wyatt Nadeau also started games this season.

Gorham’s Ashton Leclerc, right, is one of several veterans expected to return for the Gorham boys’ basketball team next winter. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“It’s a good starting point heading in. … We’re anticipating a good season next year,” said Gorham Coach Mark Karter. “The biggest part is they know the system, they know what’s expected of them, they know how we like to try to run things. … It’s always tough to try to re-teach things year after year.”

Scarborough, which went 7-13 but upset Gorham in the playoffs, should be poised for a move up with Liam Garriepy, Blake Harris, Liam Jefferds and freshmen Carter Blanche and Spencer Booth, who’s 6-foot-9. Same goes for Noble, which went 7-12 but could bring back sophomores Jamier Rose and Bryce Guitard, who averaged 18.5 and 18 points, respectively, as well as starter Isaiah Conary and sometimes starter Brayden Woodman.

“I think we’re going to take a pretty big step forward next year,” said Noble Coach John Morgan. “I’m never going to be the coach that says we’re a lock for being a 2 seed or being a 1 seed. We still have more to prove, but we’re extremely excited.”


Noble, under the new basketball classification structure, would be eligible to play down in Class A next season, which could boost its chances of a high finish. Morgan said the team hasn’t decided whether to petition to stay in Class AA.

“If my guys feel strongly about wanting to be in AA … we’ll probably petition to go back up,” he said.

Carter Galley, with the ball, and his twin brother, Cohen, will return next winter for the Oceanside boys’ basketball team. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The trend of well-stocked teams continues north and along the coast. Kennebunk, which went 9-10 in Class A South, could bring back 10 of 12 players from the 55-51 quarterfinal loss to Gray-New Gloucester, including players who scored 49 of those points. Oceanside, the Class B runner-up, has top scorers Carter and Cohen Galley and point guard Zeb Foster scheduled to return.

And Gray-New Gloucester, which went 16-4 and made the A South semifinals, should have the Heberts – Nate, the leading scorer in the Western Maine Conference, as well as Noah and Aidan – returning to starting spots.

“You turn the page, you look forward to what’s ahead, and what we have ahead returning kind of rejuvenates you,” said Patriots Coach Ryan Deschenes. “I think the underclassmen knew they have one more shot at this, and they’ve really got to raise the level with this offseason. … We’ve got guys that are hungry.”

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