Sierra Carson of Oxford Hills calls out instructions as she brings the ball up court during a Class AA North quarterfinal against Portland. Carson led the Vikings to their third state championship since 2019. Brewster Burns photo

Any attempts to tell the story of Sierra Carson and the 2022-23 Oxford Hills girls’ basketball team should begin with just over six minutes to go in the Class AA North final in February.

That’s when the Vikings trailed Cheverus by 12 points. It’s when their dream season seemed to be fading out on the Cross Insurance Arena court.

And it’s when Carson took over.

Carson scored 24 of her 29 points from that point on, leading Oxford Hills to a 68-63 double-overtime victory. Nine days later, she had 17 points and eight steals in a 62-25 win over Gorham in the state final.

Those games capped a brilliant senior season in which Carson established herself as a dominant two-way player. She is our selection as the 2023 Varsity Maine Player of the Year for girls’ basketball.

Carson averaged 17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game this season. Gardiner center Lizzy Gruber, who won the Maine Miss Basketball award, Cheverus guard Maddie Fitzpatrick, who was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, and Old Orchard Beach guard Elise MacNair, who was a Miss Basketball finalist while guiding the Seagulls to the Class C title, also got strong consideration.


“She is the most dynamic player I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached some great players,” Oxford Hills Coach Nate Pelletier said of Carson. “She can score at all three levels, she can defend every single position. … And all she really cares about is winning.”

The games bring a change in Carson’s demeanor. Off the court or after the whistle, there’s the smile, the laugh, the cheery disposition.

As soon as she steps on the court and play starts, however, the smile disappears. The eyes intensify. And Carson goes into what she called “a zone.”

“I was definitely locked in,” Carson said. “After, (people) say ‘Did you hear us in the crowd?’ I’m like ‘I don’t hear anything in a game.’ It helps, too. Some student sections are so bad, but I don’t even hear anything.”

Pelletier has seen it, too.

“It’s funny how a kid can be so happy, and so excited for teammates, and then be so locked in in those important moments,” he said.


The moment was never more important than in the regional final. Carson hounded the ball on defense as Oxford Hills upped the pressure, and began attacking the basket relentlessly on offense to key the rally. She then scored six of the team’s eight points in the first overtime, and five of the 11 the Vikings scored in double overtime. The other six points in the final overtime came on a pair of deciding 3-pointers by Tristen Derenburger – both assisted by Carson.

“I was maybe a little too passive in the first half, so I (knew) I definitely needed to step up,” Carson said. “If I’m aggressive and get in, it opens up my teammates. So no matter what, if I’m aggressive, we can get something out of it.”

Sierra Carson of Oxford Hills gets to the basket during the Class AA North championship game in Portland on Feb. 24. Carson scored 24 of her 29 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes as the Vikings downed Cheverus, 68-63. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

The state final was about her defense. Carson, just too fast and too quick for Gorham’s ballhandlers, simply took the ball away whenever the Rams tried to push it up.

“Get her out in the open, and she’s literally unguardable,” Pelletier said. “Even in practice, when we get into drills, we can’t stop her. At times, we have to take her out so we can run things, it looks good, we feel good about ourselves.

“She just has that ‘I’m not going to lose’ mentality.”

Now Carson will bring that ability and intensity to Dartmouth College, where she’ll be reunited with Maine Attraction teammate and former Gorham High standout Anna Nelson. Coach Adrienne Shibles is eagerly awaiting her.

“She’s a competitor, she’s just fierce on the floor, and as we build this program, we need people like her who have that understanding of what it takes to win, who want the ball in their hands down the stretch,” Shibles said. “I can’t wait for her to get here.”

Pelletier is sad to see Carson go.

“She’s going to be a tough one to lose,” he said. “She just gets along with everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are on the team, she’s always trying to lift you up and help you out and help you learn. That leadership is something you just don’t teach.”

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