PORTLAND—There’s been a school of thought throughout the 2023-24 season, that Cheverus’ powerhouse girls’ basketball team could be classified as Maddie Fitzpatrick and her supporting cast.

That “supporting cast” took proved its value when it took centerstage Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena.

And with Fitzpatrick sidelined with foul trouble for much of the contest, the rest of the Stags put on an amazing, season-saving show.

Senior Ruth Boles, who was exceptional throughout, scored six points in the first quarter, helping Cheverus go in front, 8-5, but late in the frame, Fitzpatrick was whistled for her second foul and as a result, she had to sit most of the second period.

It didn’t matter, as Boles and her teammates kept the Stags in front and when Fitzpatrick returned late in the half, she set up senior Megan Dearborn for a 3, then drained one of her own to produce a 23-18 halftime advantage.

In the third quarter, Cheverus went up by as much as 11, but Fitzpatrick was called her for her third, then her fourth before returning in the waning seconds to set up Boles for a timely layup and a 38-29 lead heading to the final stanza.


There, Fitzpatrick sat the first four minutes, but Oxford Hills could only draw within six and when Fitzpatrick returned, the Stags finally slammed the door and went on to a 48-38 victory.

Boles was exceptional with a double-double of 20 points and a dozen rebounds, while Fitzpatrick, despite her limited time on the floor, added 13 points and nearly had a triple-double as Cheverus improved to a program-best 20-0, ended Oxford Hills’ title reign and its season at 15-6 and advanced to battle either Gorham (18-3) or Scarborough (16-5) in the state final next Saturday at 7:05 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“I’m so proud of all the girls who stepped up when Maddie was out,” said Stags coach Billy Goodman. “She’s done so much for the team and today, the team did it for her.”

The wait is over

Last Feb. 25, 52 weeks ago, reigning champion Cheverus appeared on the brink of repeating when it led Oxford Hills by 12 points in the fourth quarter of the Class AA North Final, but the Vikings improbably roared back, forced overtime, then a second OT, before dashing the Stags’ repeat dreams, 68-63, and going on to win the title themselves.

After the game, Ftizpatrick already had her sights set on a rematch.


“It hurt to see them swinging the nets and cheering,” Fitzpatrick said, a year ago. “It lights a fire under us and gets us motivated. I’m going to Cheverus and get in the gym after this.

“We talk about being back next year and if we want to win, we’ll have to work hard in the offseason. I’m really excited for next year. We have a solid group coming back and probably some good freshmen coming in too. We want to finish what this year’s team started.”

Despite losing senior Emma Lizotte to Thornton Academy at the start of the school year and having a very inexperienced squad, the Stags were perfect during the regular season, getting tested only by Scarborough and Oxford Hills (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

As the top seed in Class AA North, Cheverus earned a bye into the semifinals and after a sluggish start Wednesday, it pulled away to defeat No. 4 Lewiston, 57-35.

Oxford Hills, meanwhile, struggled mightily early in the year, winning just twice in its first seven outings, but not surprisingly, the Vikings caught fire and closed on an 11-game win streak to earn the No. 2 seed in the region.

After handling No. 7 Portland in the quarterfinals, 51-20, Oxford Hills survived No. 3 Bangor’s upset bid in the semifinals Wednesday, 47-42, in overtime.


The Stags twice beat the Vikings this winter, but the games were very different.

Cheverus defeated host Oxford Hills in surprisingly decisive fashion Dec. 15, 76-47, but in the rematch, Jan. 4 in Portland, the Vikings pushed the Stags for 32 minutes before falling, 58-54. In the first meeting, Fitpzatrick led the way with 26 points, while Boles added 13. In the second encounter, Fitzpatrick had 22 and Dearborn finished with a dozen. Junior standout Ella Pelletier paced Oxford Hills with 22 points in the first contest and had 18 in the second.

The Vikings had won two of three previous playoff encounters (see sidebar), with last year’s come-from-behind win the difference.

Saturday, Oxford Hills got the opportunity to spring the upset as its ideal scenario of Fitzpatrick not being on the floor for much of the game opened the door, but the complete Cheverus squad stepped up to extend the season to the final Saturday.

Both teams needed the first quarter to hit their stride, although Boles excelled from the get-go.

Boles’ putback of a missed shot from Dearborn 14 seconds in gave Cheverus the jump, then Boles took a pass from Fitzpatrick and made a layup.


It took until the 3:03 mark for Oxford Hills to get on the board, as senior Tristen Derenburger drained a 3 from the corner.

After Fitzpatrick got her first two points, at the line, Pelletier countered with two free throws.

Boles then scored on a putback, but with just 3 seconds to go, Fitzpatrick was whistled for her second foul and while the Stags were up, 8-5, there was cause for concern.

Fitzpatrick sat almost all of the second quarter, but Cheverus was able to extend its lead.

Thirty-five seconds in, junior Gabbie Tibbetts drained a 3, but Boles put the Stags back in front with a driving runner off the glass.

The Vikings then took the lead for the first time with 6:19 on the first half clock, as Pelletier buried a 3, but Boles countered with a left-handed reverse layup.


After Tibbetts gave Oxford Hills the lead again with a runner in the lane, Boles set up Dearborn for her first 3, from the corner, and with 4:24 on the clock, Cheverus was back in front to stay, 15-13.

With 3:17 to go, sophomore Rachel LaSalle found freshman Abby Kelly for a layup on a pretty play, but Tibbetts countered with two free throws 13 seconds later.

Then, with 2:36 on the clock, Fitzpatrick returned and made an immediate impact, setting up Dearborn for a 3-pointer with 2:27 to go, then stepping back and draining one of her own 36 seconds later to push the lead to eight.

With 1:02 left, junior Maddy Herrick converted an old-fashioned three-point play (basket, foul, free throw) and the Vikings were only down by five, 23-18, at halftime.

Boles was the difference in the first 16 minutes, as she had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Fitzpatrick only played about eight minutes and had five points, three rebounds and two assists. Tibbetts paced Oxford Hills with seven points.

Cheverus started to open it up in the third quarter.


A minute in, Fitzpatrick threw a long pass ahead to sophomore Anna Goodman, who let a defender fly by, then banked home a shot.

Dearborn then buried her third 3, from Fitzpatrick, and after Tibbetts countered with a 3, Fitzpatrick set up Boles for another left-handed reverse layup and with 4:25 remaining in the frame, Fitzpatrick found a cutting Boles for another layup and a 32-21 advantage.

Tibbetts countered with a jumper, then Fitzpatrick was called for a charge, her third foul.

Tibbets then scored on a runner and after Fitzpatrick answered with a layup after a pretty move, she picked up her fourth foul with 1:33 on the clock.

Again, the Stags were able to weather the storm, as after Vikings senior Maddy Miller scored on a putback, freshman Addison Jordan countered with two clutch free throws.

After Tibbetts hit a jumper, Billy Goodman rolled the dice and put Fitzpatrick back in the game and the gamble paid off, as Fitzpatrick drew the defense and set up Boles for a layup.


“We see each other whenever we cut,” Boles said. “(Maddie) just has great court awareness. Her IQ is very high and she got the ball where it needed to be.”

“We just look at each other,” Fitzpatrick said. “Ruth and I just know where each other are. When we were up by a lot last year, what hurt us was we started to get down on ourselves. Today, we had to keep pushing and play how we play. If we were thinking too negatively, that would stick with us and we wouldn’t have been able to push through.”

“I want Maddie to score,” added Billy Goodman. “We want her to score, but she’s a great passer too. She and Ruth feed off each other very nicely. It was very risky. She ended up getting the assist and that was a big basket. I just wanted to end the quarter great. It worked out.”

Pelletier then buried a halfcourt shot, but it came just after the horn and Cheverus was able to take a 38-29 lead to the final stanza.

Where the Stags finished it off.

Herrick opened the fourth period with a 3-ball and Oxford Hills had several chances to get closer, as the Stags missed consecutive shots, but Boles forced a turnover, then Jordan kept possession with an offensive rebound.


Herrick, Pelletier and Tibbetts eventually all missed 3-pointers to keep the score 38-32.

Then, with 3:50 remaining, Fitzpatrick returned and she made an immediate impact again, setting up Boles for yet another layup 13 seconds later.

After Tibbetts missed a 3, Boles got the rebound and was fouled.

With 3:05 left, Boles stretch the lead to 10 with two free throws.

After Pelletier missed a 3, Fitzpatrick got the rebound and with 2:24 on the clock, this time it was Boles setting up Fitzpatrick for the hoop, as she banked home a shot to make it 44-32 and essentially ice it.

Pelletier gave Oxford Hills faint hope with a 3-pointer, but Fitzpatrick again set up Boles for a layup for the umpteenth time with 1:59 remaining.


Tibbetts’ 3 with 37 seconds to go proved to be the Vikings’ final points and 12 seconds later, Fitzpatrick sank two free throws to bring the curtain down on the Stags’ 48-38 victory, setting off a celebration that was a year in the making.

“It’s incredible,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve felt this before, but it’s different this year. It’s just indescribable. Playing with Ruth, Coach Goodman, the team, my senior year. I can’t ask for anything else.”

“It’s definitely very exciting,” said Boles. “Last year was tough and we walked out of this gym crying. This year, we’re happy to make it to the next level. I think our hard work paid off and we played great. This means everything.”

“We just didn’t want the same result as last year,” said Dearborn. “We were ready for a good game and left our hearts on the floor. It was a lot fun. I’ve looked forward to this since I was a little kid.  We’ve worked since day one for this. This is the outcome we wanted. Our hard work paid off. I think we’re an incredible team.”

“Even when we were up late, after what happened last year, it felt like a tie game,” Billy Goodman added. “We have so much respect for Oxford Hills. Nate (Pelletier) does a great job with them and his daughter’s an amazing player. Last year was a heartbreaker. We did an amazing job, then we didn’t. To come back and do it this year, I give the players credit. They did it under pressure. I’m very proud of them.”

Boles had the game of her life, scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, blocking three shots and dishing out two assists.


“Coach always tells me before the game, ‘Play like a champion,'” Boles said. “I just wanted to help the team.”

“Ruth was just incredible today,” said Fitzpatrick. “Her leadership, the way she took care of the ball. It was incredible and shows our team chemistry.”

“I’ve played with (Ruth) since middle school and I’m so proud of her,” Dearborn said. “She knew when to execute and she did.”

“Ruth’s improved in so many ways,” added Billy Goodman. “Every day, every game, I tell her to play like a champion and she knows what that means. It’s rebounding, defense, good passing, dribbling, the little things. She did it and today she played like a champion.”

Fitzpatrick, despite being sidelined much of the day, still managed to post 13 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and three steals.

“It was definitely frustrating with the fouls and I got down on myself for a second, but I had to turn it into a positive and help my teammates from the bench,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s a little easier sitting on the bench when Ruth and the rest of the team were playing like they were.”


“Obviously, Maddie is an amazing leader, on and off the court,” Dearborn said. “She’s been here before and taught us what we needed to expect.”

Dearborn had nine points and Anna Goodman, Jordan and Kelly all added two.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve said it and Coach Goodman have been saying it, our whole team is great.”

“It was very tough without Maddie,” Boles said. “She’s our leader, our distributor, our leading scorer, but we have great players. Megan, Anna, (junior) Rachel Feeley all played great today. We have great ball movement, great shooters, great passers, everything. We just had to step up and get it done.”

“I’m choked up because I know what the girls did today,” Billy Goodman added. “Abby Kelly, Addison Jordan, Rachel Feeley, Anna Goodman. Everyone just did their job. We’ve been working in practice without Maddie, because she was sick, so the idea was get the other girls reps and it paid off.”

Cheverus enjoyed a 43-25 rebounding advantage, overcame 13 turnovers and hit 8-of-11 foul shots.


Oxford Hills got 19 points from Tibbetts. Ella Pelletier added eight (to go with four rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Herrick had six (to go with seven rebounds), Derenburger finished with three and Miller had two.

The Vikings made seven 3-pointers to the Stags’ four, only turned the ball over nine times and made 5-of-6 free throws, but their upset bid fell just short.

“I’m so proud we gave ourselves a chance,” said Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier. “All we wanted was a chance. Boles is a great player. She stepped up when she needed to step up. Some kids hit 3s when they had to step up. That’s why they’re undefeated. They’re a great team and you have to steal it from them and we weren’t quite able to do that

“The transformation my team went through this year, I’m super-proud of them. The start of the year was up-and-down, then we found our groove and got back to the regional final.”

One more step

Next Saturday promises to be a tough test for the Stags.


Cheverus did not face Gorham during the regular season. The Stags beat the Rams, 49-36, to win the 2022 state title and also defeated them, 50-44, in the 2012 Western A preliminary round.

Cheverus held off visiting Scarborough, 46-37, Dec. 28. The Stags lost the lone prior playoff meeting, 39-35, in the 2012 Western A quarterfinals.

“We’ll celebrate now, but the rest of the week, we’ll be locked in and focused,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ll practice hard and realize how hard we’ve worked and enjoy the opportunity to play one more game.”

“We’re grateful to have the medals and move on to next week,” Dearborn said. “We’re going to work hard like we have all season and hopefully, it works out in our favor.”

“This whole week, we need to give 100 percent effort and focus,” said Boles. “We need to keep pushing ourselves and come out and do what we need to do.”

“We’re going to celebrate now,” Billy Goodman added. “We have a lot of respect for Gorham and Scarborough and we’ll have to be ready. Gorham has a lot of good players. Starting with Ellie Gay. Scarborough is a very good team too. It starts with (Caroline) Hartley, but they can shoot. All I wanted was another week together with this group. We’re looking forward to it.”

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

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