Cheverus celebrates after its victory over Oxford Hills Saturday in the Class AA North championship game in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Long after the final buzzer sounded, and long after the players on the Cheverus High girls’ basketball team had left the floor at Cross Insurance Arena, the images of a double-overtime loss to Oxford Hills in the 2023 Class AA North final continued to linger in their minds.

They lasted into the spring, into the summer and into the start of a new season. Even now, as the Stags stand one win from a Gold Ball, they haven’t gone away.

The players haven’t wanted them to.

“That loss was really important for us,” said senior guard Maddie Fitzpatrick. “It just woke us up. … We realized that we didn’t want that to be our last game this year. We didn’t want our last game to be like that.”

That motivation has carried the Stags through a season of change and adaptation, and to the brink of the ultimate triumph. Cheverus hasn’t lost since, and at 20-0 is a win over South champion Gorham away from earning a second Class AA title in three years, and finishing off the first perfect season in program history.

“We are where we are right now because we’ve worked so hard,” said Fitzpatrick, named a finalist Tuesday for the Miss Maine Basketball award. “We just push each other every day in practice, Coach (Billy) Goodman pushes us. There’s a lot of competition, but a lot of support, so it’s a healthy way to grow.”


That push stretches back to last February when a blown 12-point lead in the fourth quarter turned a victory in hand into a gut punch as the Vikings outlasted the Stags 68-63 in a thriller.

“We played an amazing game against Oxford, and it started to slip away with six minutes left,” Goodman said. “It was tough to take, because we really played a good game until then.”

The players and coaches alike remembered how they felt leaving the arena.

Ruth Boles of Cheverus passes the ball as Ella Pelletier of Oxford Hills plays defense Saturday during the Class AA North championship game in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“Walking out of that gym, crying, it really showed us how hard we needed to work in the offseason,” senior forward Ruth Boles said. “Coach Goodman would schedule practices at 6:30 during the summer. We had to come wide-eyed, ready to work hard.”

On paper, everything was fine. The Stags were set to return all five starters. But when Varsity Maine All-State center Emma Lizotte transferred to Thornton Academy and sisters Jenna and Jaelyn Jensen transferred to Mt. Ararat, Cheverus suddenly found itself without three of its top six scoring threats and facing a bevy of question marks.

“I think walking into tryouts the first day, we kind of didn’t know how it was all going to work out,” senior guard Megan Dearborn said.


The departures left holes, and the players weren’t initially sure how they would be filled.

“At first, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, Emma and the twins left, what’s going to happen?'” said junior guard Rachel Feeley. “We didn’t know at first who was going to do what.”

The players, younger and older, experienced and raw, filled the roles seamlessly. Boles (14 points, 11.5 rebounds per game this postseason) became a nightly double-double candidate. Dearborn (seven 3-pointers this postseason) improved as a shooter.

Feeley became a defensive tone-setter after overcoming a knee injury. Anna Goodman, the fifth starter, is a good rebounder and passer whose shot can get hot. Freshmen Abby Kelly and Addison Jordan have had double-digit scoring games. A sophomore, Rachel LaSalle, had 10 points in a regional semifinal win over Lewiston.

Maddie Fitzpatrick of Cheverus smiles at her teammates during introductions for their regional semifinals against Lewiston last week. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

At the center of it all is Fitzpatrick, who will play next year for the University of Maine. Fitzpatrick scores, dishes and rebounds unlike any other player in the state, but she was going to need the support around her that she got last year.

“We were all sad about them (leaving), but we realized that we can’t dwell on it,” Fitzpatrick said. “Everyone just stepped up. People took it as an opportunity.”


Wins over South Portland, Oxford Hills (a 76-48 victory) and Thornton Academy began the season and proved to the state that Cheverus was still the team to beat.

“That was a big deal,” Billy Goodman said. “We played a really tough schedule, and we threw the young kids in there. They had to produce pretty quickly. … I was very pleased with what I was seeing early, and we just built on it from there.”

Around the state, the chatter became about championships with Cheverus again. For the players, however, that didn’t stop.

“Every year, it’s a championship team. You have to have that mentality,” Fitzpatrick said. “Every year, it’s always ‘This is a championship team.’ You have to have that confidence if you want to be able to accomplish something like that.”

Confidence and, after last season, motivation.

“After that, the seniors realized we have one last shot at this, and we weren’t going to waste it,” Dearborn said. “We definitely have a gift with this team. … We wanted to work as hard as we could to give ourselves the best chance to be where we are today.”

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