PORTLAND—Cheverus’ boys’ basketball team was seeking a complete game and a signature victory.

The Stags produced both Tuesday evening at Keegan Gymnasium.

Knocking Gorham from the ranks of the unbeaten in the process.

Cheverus delivered a haymaker in the first quarter, locking down the high-powered Rams’ offense and racing to a 14-2 lead behind nine points from junior Leo McNabb.

Gorham managed just two field goals in the first half and didn’t sink a 3-pointer and by the break, the Stags held a 24-11 advantage.

But to no one’s surprise, the Rams hit their stride, as senior captains Caden Smith and Ashton Leclerc began to heat up and a Smith layup midway through the third quarter cut the deficit to just 31-24.


But Cheverus didn’t buckle, scoring the final seven points of the frame to take a 14-point advantage to the final stanza and the Stags wouldn’t lead by fewer than nine the rest of the way as they went on to an emphatic 51-37 victory.

McNabb led all scorers with 19 points as Cheverus improved to 9-2 on the season and in the process, handed Gorham its first loss in nine outings.

“This is the first game this year I can think of that we played a complete game,” said Stags coach Richie Ashley. “We didn’t really have any lulls. When we did, we didn’t allow them to score either. We took advantage of having the lead then we capitalized with some easy baskets. It was probably the best team defense we’ve played.”

Heavyweight bout

Both teams were highly acclaimed entering the season and haven’t disappointed.

Gorham passed its first eight tests with relative degrees of ease.


The Rams started by defeating two-time reigning Class AA state champion South Portland in the opener, 64-50, before downing Greely (76-42), Falmouth (73-56), Edward Little (60-45), Westbrook (71-53), Thornton Academy (75-41), Sanford (84-55) and finally visiting Scarborough in a come-from-behind, 58-51 triumph Saturday.

Cheverus, meanwhile, opened with a 58-49 home win over South Portland, then rolled past visiting Oxford Hills, 74-36, before winning at Thornton Academy, 66-64, Portland, 49-44, and Deering, 67-60. The Stags fell from the unbeaten ranks at Scarborough,(59-51), but bounced back to down visiting Lewiston, 70-53 before losing an overtime decision at Windham (67-62). Cheverus responded with wins at Oxford Hills (56-37) and Bangor (65-51).

Tuesday’s meeting was the first between the teams since a 68-64 Stags’ home win Jan. 8, 2019.

Gorham hoped to beat Cheverus for the first time in six years, but instead, the Stags led wire-to-wire.

Cheverus sophomore Jameson Fitzpatrick goes up for a reverse layup during the Stags’ 51-37 home win over Gorham Tuesday. Hoffer photos.

Cheverus went on top to stay 89 seconds in, as sophomore Jameson Fitzpatrick found senior Gio St. Onge for a backdoor layup.

Fifty-one seconds later, Fitzpatrick set up McNabb for a backdoor layup and a 4-0 lead.


The Stags kept the pressure on, as Nzeyimana sank a 3, McNabb drained a pair of free throws, then with 2:02 to go in the opening stanza, St. Onge set up McNabb for a layup on the fastbreak for a 13-0 advantage, forcing Gorham coach Ryan Deschenes to call timeout.

Finally, with 1:54 on the first quarter clock, the Rams got on the board courtesy two Leclerc free throws, but with 53 seconds left, McNabb drained a 3 and Cheverus enjoyed a 14-2 lead after eight minutes.

When McNabb set up senior Maddik Weisberg for a layup 41 seconds into the second period, the Stags threatened to run away and hide, but Gorham would answer with six straight points.

First, Smith sank two free throws. After Smith set up Leclerc for a layup and the Rams’ first field goal of the game (after 16 straight misses) with 5:36 left in the half, Smith hit two more foul shots to cut the deficit to 16-8.

Cheverus answered behind a putback from junior Shema Rwaganje and after Leclerc sank a jumper, Nzeyimana drove for a layup.

With 2:05 to go before halftime, junior Griffin Gammon made a free throw for Gorham, but McNabb countered with a foul shot, then with just 9 seconds left, junior Rocco DePatsy converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) to give the Stags a 24-11 advantage at the break.


In the first 16 minutes, McNabb led all scorers with 10 points, while Leclerc paced the Rams with six.

Gorham would produce more consistent offense in the third quarter and hoped to rally, but Cheverus was able to rise to the challenge.

Cheverus senior Maddik Weisberg defends Gorham junior Jack Karlonas.

Nzeyimana set up Fitzpatrick for a layup 33 seconds into the second half, giving the Stags their biggest lead of the night.

After Smith answered with a leaner, Nzeyimana found Weisberg for a layup and a 28-13 lead, but the next seven points went to the visitors.

First, senior Gabe Michaud made a 3, the Rams’ first of the night after 13 consecutive misses from beyond the arc.

Smith then buried a 3 while being fouled by St. Onge and he added the free throw for the rare four-point play, cutting the deficit to just eight.


McNabb then countered with a clutch 3 from the corner, set up by Nzeyimana.

After Smith hit a pullup jumper, he took a pass from Michaud and made a layup with 3:39 remaining in the frame, cutting Cheverus’ lead to 31-24 and forcing Ashley to call timeout.

And it worked like a charm, as the final seven points of the period went to the Stags.

McNabb turned the tide by setting up DePatsy for a layup.

Cheverus then got another layup, as Nzeyimana found Fitzpatrick for the hoop.

Then, with 38 seconds showing, Fitzpatrick got the ball to freshman Nicola Plalum in the corner and Plalum sank a 3 that made it 38-24 Stags.


Gorham again tried to rally as the fourth period began, as Smith scored on a leaner, then Leclerc sank a 3 to cut the deficit to nine.

But after a Leclerc 3-point bid to make things even more interesting went in-and-out, Nzeyimana drove for a layup, Nzeyimana found St. Onge for a backdoor layup, then with 4:47 left, McNabb drove for a layup and a commanding 44-29 advantage.

After Leclerc set up junior Jack Karlonas for a layup, Fitzpatrick and Leclerc traded foul shots. Karlonas then drove for a layup, but St. Onge sank a free throw, then McNabb made two more with 1:36 on the clock, keeping Cheverus in front, 48-34.

Leclerc made one final 3 for the Rams nine seconds later, but that would be their final points of the night.

Down the stretch, McNabb drove for a layup, then a Nzeyimana free throw brought the curtain down on the Stags’ 51-37 victory.

“We came out, played physical, matched their energy and got the win,” Nzeyimana said. “Our bigs found their spots and were able to finish. We knew they had great shooters and we focused on defense and we knew our offense would come.”


“They’re good shooters, but we just had to stop them and that’s what we did,” McNabb said.

“It gives us a boost after our two losses,” DePatsy said.

“(Gorham’s) been playing really well, but I thought we had a good game plan and we executed it well,” Ashley added. “We talked about wanting to make it a rock fight and make them earn every shot and every possession. To hold them to 37 points when they were averaging 70, we did a really good job. We talked about stopping (Leclerc) and stopping (Smith) and limiting (Michaud) and making the other guys beat us. The balls didn’t bounce in for them and they bounced in for us.”

McNabb finished with a game-high 19 points, but that just began to tell his story, as he also had eight rebounds, two assists and by virtue of his strong defense, helped hold Leclerc at bay.

“Leo played an unbelievable game,” Ashley said. “For him to go two ways, we expect so much out of him.”

Nzeyimana added eight points (and five assists), while Fitzpatrick (three assists, three rebounds, two blocked shots), St. Onge (two assists, two rebounds) and DePatsy (eight rebounds) all had five points.


“It’s been great,” said DePatsy, who transferred to Cheverus from Falmouth. “I love it here. I’ve never experienced a team like this. Everyone’s so welcoming. I just try to be big. I try to put the ball up and get rebounds and play great defensively.”

“Rocco gave us some huge minutes with Jameson in foul trouble,” Ashley said. “He loves to be part of our program.”

Weisberg finished with four points (and four rebounds), while Plalum tallied three points and Rwaganje had two (to go with four rebounds).

“Our mantra is that the name on the front means more than the name on the back,” Ashley said. “When you get kids to believe that, you can do special things. (Junior) Aaron Goodman is another kid who did a great job. He came in and gave us three or four minutes when we needed to rest somebody. We needed to count on him and he was a big contributor.”

Cheverus had a 37-25 rebounding advantage and overcame 9-of-15 foul shooting, as well as 18 turnovers.

First taste of adversity


Gorham got 16 points from Smith, who also had four rebounds. Leclerc also wound up in double figures with 13 points, to go with a pair of assists. Karlonas had four points (and four rebounds), Michaud three (to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Gammon one (to go with six rebounds and three steals).

The Rams only turned the ball over 10 times and made 9-of-13 free throws, but were doomed by shooting 12-of-54 from the floor, including just 4-of-25 from 3-point land.

“It was their brand of a game and that’s why the outcome went the way it did,” said Deschenes. “Cheverus took away everything early. We weren’t able to get what we wanted. When we got to the rim, they were physical. When we got good looks off our sets, we couldn’t knock them down. We have to figure out other ways to score when we play teams like this. Defensively, we played OK for the most part. They had some mismatches on switches early, then we made an adjustment which helped. We made a little run and they responded. We just couldn’t sustain it. They have the length to be on Leclerc and when he got free and got good looks, he didn’t knock them down. Their length and physicality are as good as anyone. We made that run in the third quarter, but hats off to Cheverus, they stopped it and we were on our heels the rest of the night.”

One month left

Gorham (ranked first in the Class AA South Heal Points standings) returns home for two big games, versus Deering Friday and Windham Monday.

“It’s a tough, senior-led group,” said Deschenes. “At times you learn more from losses. I trust these guys will respond.”


Cheverus, meanwhile, goes to Edward Little Friday and welcomes Deering Monday.

The Stags are second in Class AA North and are still improving, a scary thought for the rest of the league.

“I believe we can do something special this year,” said Nzeyimana.

“I think we can go on a run,” DePatsy said.

“This definitely gives us momentum, but we still have something to prove and we can’t stop working hard,” McNabb said. “We just have to keep our energy up. We can’t have any off nights.”

“This was a big win for Heal Points,” Ashley added. “Gorham will win a lot of games. We’re still learning and getting better.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

Comments are not available on this story.