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Cheverus junior Jesse Matthews blocks the shot of Scarborough senior Nick Discatio during the teams’ very entertaining showdown Saturday night. The Stags scored the game’s final six points to prevail, 57-51.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
S- 14 11 9 17- 51
C- 12 15 14 16- 57
S- Pratt 5-1-16, Lagerquist 5-0-10, Discatio 3-2-9, Fiorillo 2-2-6, Joy 2-0-4, Seme 2-0-4, Parent 0-2-2
C- Matthews 7-1-16, J. Casale 3-8-14, Shibles 4-2-13, Duchaine 4-0-12, Ephron 1-0-2
S (6) Pratt 5, Discatio 1
C (8) Duchaine 4, Shibles 3, Matthews 1
PORTLAND—Twice in 24 a hour span, Cheverus’ boys’ basketball team had its character tested.
And twice, the Stags passed with flying colors.
Saturday evening at Keegan Gymnasium, one night after holding off host Sanford in overtime, Cheverus hosted an athletic, valiant and determined Scarborough squad which again pushed the Stags to the brink only to see Cheverus, led by sources both expected and surprising, make the key plays to prevail.
The Red Storm, playing their opener and their first game under new coach Phil Conley, jumped out to a five-point lead in the first quarter, but the Stags cut the deficit to 14-12 after eight minutes on a clutch 3 from junior Will Shibles.
Midway through the second period, Cheverus caught up and took the lead on a 3-pointer from sophomore Matt Duchaine, Friday’s hero.
Scarborough junior Morgan Pratt hit a late 3, but the Stags took a 27-25 advantage to halftime.
There wasn’t much separation in the second half either, but Cheverus did manage to open up a six-point lead in the third period when junior Jesse Matthews made a layup. Again, the Red Storm answered and drew within a point on a layup from senior Dominic Joy, but a long Matthews 3 gave the Stags a 41-34 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
When senior captain Jack Casale sank two free throws with 4:07 to go, Cheverus led, 48-41, but back roared Scarborough with eight successive points, capped by a rarely seen four-point play (3-pointer, foul, free throw) from Pratt to lead, 49-48, with 2:03 remaining.
The Stags didn’t buckle, however, and won the game from the 3-point line and the charity stripe.
Duchaine put the hosts back on top with a 3, but a putback from Red Storm sophomore Nick Fiorillo tied the game, 51-51.
Shibles then sank two clutch free throws with 48.7 seconds to go to put Cheverus on top to stay. After Shibles forced a turnover with a great hustle play, Casale iced the game down the stretch with four free throws and the Stags prevailed, 57-51.
Matthews led four Cheverus players in double figures with 16 points, Casale added 14, Shibles had 13 and Duchaine finished with 12, which helped counter Pratt’s 16, as the Stags improved to 2-0 on the young season.
“This speaks to the grit of this team,” said Cheverus coach Ryan Soucie. “We use the word grit every day. The guys showed character, heart and poise both nights and I’m proud. Especially tonight. That’s a good team. They kept coming at us and we withstood every run.”
Cheverus and Scarborough came into the season chasing the favorites in their respective regions, but both teams have quite the upside.
The Stags lost a close game to Edward Little in last year’s Class AA North quarterfinals and are eager to challenge defending state champion Portland and rival Deering for the top spot this time around. Friday, Cheverus opened with a dramatic 51-49 overtime victory at Sanford behind Casale’s 23 points and clutch 3 from Duchaine in the extra session.
The Red Storm were ousted by Massabesic in last year’s Class AA South quarterfinals. The team welcomes a new coach this year in Conley, who won 108 games and a regional title during a very successful eight-year stint at South Portland. Scarborough is looking to take it to the next level this winter.
Last year, Cheverus eked out a 62-58 win at Scarborough.
Saturday, the Red Storm sought their first victory over the Stags since Jan. 8, 2013 (73-51 in Portland), but instead Cheverus made it five in a row in the series.
With a lot of coaches from around the league in taking in the action (most teams played Friday), the teams gave them to plenty to scout in a frenetic first period.
Scarborough opened the scoring 26 seconds in when junior Reece Lagerquist scored on a leaner.
The Stags first basket was of the highlight reel variety, as Casale passed to Matthews, who got behind the defense and slammed the ball home to bring the partisan crowd to its feet.
The Stags took their first lead on Casale’s leaner, but Pratt countered with his first 3-pointer and junior Jaquan Seme set up Fiorillo for a layup and a 7-4 lead.
Casale kissed home a leaner off the glass, but Fiorillo made two free throws and Seme made a leaner for an 11-6 advantage.
After Duchaine sank his first 3, Scarborough senior Nick Discatio countered with a 3 of his own.
Then, with 25.4 seconds to go in the frame, Shibles made a 3 to pull Cheverus within two, 14-12.
The Red Storm could have had a bigger lead, but they turned the ball over six times in the first eight minutes.
Just 17 seconds into the second period, Casale was called for his second foul and had to go to the bench.
Scarborough took advantage, as Lagerquist’s leaner rolled around and in and after Matthews drove and banked home a shot with his left hand, Lagerquist got a hook shot to bounce in to make it 18-14.
The Stags then went on a 13-4 run that started with a Shibles 3.
After a pair of free throws from Red Storm senior Andrew Parent, a Duchaine 3-ball tied the score, 20-20, and forced Conley to call timeout.
It didn’t help, as with 3:24 remaining in the half, Cheverus junior Tobias Ephron stole the ball and made a layup to give his team its first lead since 4-2.
After Discatio tied the game with two foul shots, a Duchaine 3 put the Stags back on top and after a steal by sophomore Akera Oryem, Matthews made a layup for a five-point advantage.
Inside the final minute, Scarborough restored a little order as Pratt sank a 3, but Cheverus clung to a 27-25 advantage at the break.
In the first half, Duchaine led all scorers with nine points to counter six apiece from Lagerquist and Pratt.
Casale made the most of his return to the floor in the second half, opening with a pullup jumper. After Discatio made a layup, Shibles countered with a floater and Casale sank two free throws to make it 33-27.
Pratt set up Discatio for a layup, but Casale set up Matthews for a layup at the other end.
After Pratt made a 3, then set up Joy for a layup to make it a one-point game, the Stags closed the frame with six straight points, as Matthews scored on a putback, Matthews made a foul shot (after a fantastic save from Ephron kept possession) and Matthews buried a long 3 to make it 41-34 heading for the final stanza.
There, Scarborough made things very interesting before Cheverus finally finished it off.
Just 32 seconds into the fourth, Pratt sank a 3. Pratt then set up Joy for a layup to make it 41-39, but a jumper from Matthews again made it a two-possession game.
After Discatio passed to Lagerquist for a layup to make it 43-41, Shibles grabbed a long rebound just behind the 3-point stripe and didn’t hesitate, sinking the long shot for a five-point lead.
“My coaches have a lot of faith in me,” Shibles said. “I’m trying to step into a big role and I think I’ve been able to fill the spot pretty well so far. I thank the coaches for the opportunity. Coach has told me to look for my shot. I’ve looked for it and it went down.”
After Lagerquist missed two key free throws, Casale was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound and with 4:07 to play, he sank both free throws for a seemingly safe 48-41 advantage.
The Red Storm then roared to life.
After a Lagerquist putback, Seme scored on a putback to make it 48-45.
Then, after Ephron missed the front end of a one-and-one, the ball came to Pratt on the wing. Pratt went up for a 3, was fouled in the process and watched as the shot found its mark. With 2:03 to play, Pratt added the free throw for the four-point play and Scarborough was ahead, 49-48, its first lead of the second half.
“Morgan hit some big shots,” Conley said. “That four-point play was huge.”
It proved to be the Red Storm’s only lead of the half, as just 12 seconds later, Shibles dished to Duchaine, who calmly buried a 3 to put the Stags back on top, 51-49.
“Matt’s game is shooting 3s,” Shibles said. “He had a big one last night against Sanford. I knew if he was open, I should get him the ball and he’d knock it down.”
“It was a game of guys making plays and I was confident we’d come down and make one,” Soucie said. “I call (Matt) the ‘zone buster’ and that’s what he can do. He’s accepted that role well.”
Pratt looked to give Scarborough the lead again with a 3, but he missed. Fiorillo was there to grab the rebound, however, and he finished to tie it, 51-51, with 1:31 remaining.
After milking some clock, Shibles was fouled with 48.7 seconds showing. He went to the line for a one-and-one and calmly sank both ends to give Cheverus the lead for good, 53-51.
“I was a little bit nervous, but we practice free throws every day and I had confidence to knock them in,” Shibles said.
“Will played mostly JV last year, but he worked hard over the summer,” Soucie said. “He loves the game and he’s a great teammate. He’s willing to do whatever it takes. The more he plays, the bigger factor he’ll be.”
The Red Storm couldn’t answer, as the ball was knocked free and Shibles dove to the floor to force a tie-up. The possession arrow favored the Stags and with 27.4 seconds left in the game, Casale was fouled. He made both attempts for a 55-51 lead.
“I like being the leader and icing the game,” Casale said.
After Pratt missed a 3, the rebound was knocked out of bounds to Scarborough, but Pratt missed again and with 2.5 seconds to go, Casale got the rebound and was fouled.
At the other end, Casale made two more free throws and that brought the curtain down on Cheverus’ 57-51 victory.
“It’s a great win,” Shibles said. “It’s great to win at home. It’s great to start to 2-0.”
“We just knew we had to rebound and play defense and that the offense would come,” said Casale. “We knew we have a day off tomorrow, so if we gave our all tonight we could rest tomorrow. We’re a lot closer this year. We’re all friends. We mesh well on the court.”
Matthews had 16 points and blocked a pair of shots.
Casale, despite his limited minutes, had 14 points (eight of which came at the line), eight rebounds and three assists.
“Jack’s leadership is crucial,” Soucie said. “He’s our guy. The rest of the league knows that and he accepts that and thrives on that. He motivates his teammates and empowers them. He shared the ball really well tonight, especially with Jesse. He leads by example because he works so hard.
“I thought there would be some fatigue tonight, so it might have been a silver lining that Jack got in foul trouble and had to sit in the first half. Jesse played 32 minutes and didn’t come out. We practice pretty hard. I think we’re in good condition for this time of year and it paid off.”
Shibles had 13 points, Duchaine added 12 and Ephron finished with two (to go with three assists).
The Stags only turned the ball over nine times and made 11 of 13 free throws.
Scarborough fell short, but did a lot of things right.
“Our character really showed tonight,” said Conley. “Our kids don’t give up. They played really hard and I’m proud of them. We have to shore up some rebounding issues to limit second chance opportunities. As a coach all you can ask is that they left it all on the floor. We had great passing tonight. Cheverus is a very good team. They have more than two scorers. Credit to them for hitting shots late.”
Scarborough was paced by Pratt’s 16 points (he sank a game-high five 3-pointers).
“(Pratt) shot lights out tonight,” Soucie said. “He’s a pure shooter. For the most part, we did a good job contesting.”
Lagerquist added 10 points, Discatio had nine (to go with six rebounds), Fiorillo six, Joy and Seme four apiece and Parent two.
“We had great passing tonight,” Conley said. “Our bigs played well. Lagerquist was very active on the glass. Discatio was active going to the basket and made great passes weak side to Reece. Jaquan, my point guard, handled himself very well under pressure tonight.”
The Red Storm had a 20-19 edge in rebounds, made 7 of 9 free throws and committed 16 turnovers.
“We turned the ball over in the first quarter, then we got better as the game went along,” said Conley.
Scarborough has another big challenge Tuesday at Thornton Academy, then plays its home opener Thursday versus Sanford.
“We have to build on this even though we lost,” Conley said. “We have to come to practice Monday to get ready for Thornton Academy. If we continue to play like this, we’ll get better. I love this group. They’re high-character kids who want to be coached. I look forward to the season with them.”
Cheverus is home with Windham Tuesday, then makes the trip north to Bangor Saturday as it hopes to keep its good times rolling.
“We still have to rebound better,” Casale said. “We have to box out. Offense will come because we have so many weapons. Going 2-0 to start the year is good and it boosts our confidence, but we know we have to come back and battle on Tuesday.”
“We have to keep working,” Soucie said. “We’re only two games in. We’ve got at least 16 more to go and the league is so tough. Every night could be like this. As long as we keep our nose to the grindstone and improve every day, hopefully we’ll be there in the end. Winning this type of game really helps.”
Cheverus senior Jack Casale knocks down a shot over Scarborough junior Morgan Pratt for two of his 14 points Saturday.
Scarborough junior Jaquan Seme drives to avail on Cheverus junior Tobias Ephron.
Scarborough junior Morgan Pratt drains a 3-pointer while being fouled by Cheverus junior Will Shibles with 2:03 to play. Pratt added the free throw for the rare four-point play.
Scarborough junior Reece Lagerquist comes down with a rebound.
Cheverus senior Jack Casale goes up and under for a shot.
Cheverus junior Jesse Matthews denies Scarborough junior Reece Lagerquist.
Scarborough coach Phil Conley calls a play from the sidelines in his debut with the program.