PORTLAND—The Cheverus girls’ basketball team’s first quarterfinal round tournament experience was a valiant, but ultimately unhappy one.
The Stags gave the veteran Biddeford Tigers all they could handle for 32 minutes and got a sensational effort from freshman Brooke Flaherty, but it wasn’t quite enough as the fifth-ranked Tigers pulled away in the second half and held on for a 45-38 victory.
Biddeford advances to meet top-ranked Scarborough in Friday’s semifinal round, while the Stags go home with a record of 13-6.
“The girls should keep their heads hung high,” said Cheverus coach Richie Ashley. “Our shots just didn’t fall.”
Program on the rise
Cheverus easily enjoyed its best record to date this winter, winning 13 times and earning the No. 4 seed in Western A. Biddeford, a regional finalist last year, went 14-4, winning 10 of its final 11 games. On Dec. 30, in Biddeford, the Stags held on for a dramatic 56-55 overtime victory, arguably the program’s signature win to date. Cheverus and Biddeford had no prior playoff history.
Flaherty had a career night based on her first period alone.
After the Tigers went up 2-0 23 seconds in on a layup by junior Keila Grigware, Flaherty hit a turnaround to get her team on the board. Senior Lauren Rousseau hit a bank shot for Biddeford, but Flaherty made a short jumper, a leaner and scored on a putback for an 8-4 lead.
With 3:50 to go in the first, Rousseau made a layup to end a 3 minute, 11 second drought. After Flaherty and Grigware traded two free throws, Flaherty hit a layup and sophomore Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy made two foul shots for a 14-8 advantage.
The Tigers then ran off seven straight as Grigware hit a leaner, junior Amethyst Hersom made two foul shots and Rousseau canned a 3, but with 4.3 seconds remaining, a Palazzi-Leahy runner put Cheverus ahead, 16-15 after one.
There were five different lead changes in the second quarter.
A Grigware putback put the Tigers up one, but senior Theresa Hendrix made a layup for an 18-17 Stags’ advantage. After Grigware made two foul shots, Flaherty hit a jumper to make it 20-19 With 3:22 left in the second, Grigware hit two free throws to put Biddeford up for good.
Grigware added two more foul shots 18 seconds later. After Hendrix made a free throw for the Stags, Rousseau hit a runner with 1:04 to go in the half. The Stags held for the last shot, but senior Anna Snook’s 3 rimmed out and the Tigers took a 25-21 lead to the break.
Turnovers and foul trouble doomed Cheverus in the second half.
A Flaherty bank shot got the Stags within two, but Hersom hit a jumper and Grigware made a layup. After a Flaherty runner cut the deficit to four, 29-25, Snook and Palazzi-Leahy failed to convert on layups which would have drawn the Stags closer. Grigware then converted a contested leaner for a 31-25 lead after three.
Hersom started the fourth with a layup, but Palazzi-Leahy sank a 3 with 7:31 left to make it 33-28. A layup from Biddeford senior Jacklyn McCurry pushed the lead to seven, but with 6:29 to go, Hendrix drove the lane for a layup to once again make it a five-point contest, 35-30.
With 5:32 left, Grigware took a pass from Hersom and made a layup, but 12 seconds later, senior Hanna Lyons hit a 3 and suddenly it was 37-33.
With 4:46 remaining, senior Aimee Michaud hit a baseline jumper. Flaherty answered with a foul shot, but with 3:31 left, McCurry hit a jumper and the lead was back to seven, 41-34. With 3:12 to play, Palazzi-Leahy fed freshman Mikayla Mayberry for a layup. Cheverus then forced back-to-back turnovers and had a chance to draw closer, but each time gave the ball away.
With 1:59 left, Grigware fed McCurry for a layup. At the other end, Lyons scored on a putback and it was still a five-point game, 43-38, with 1:45 to go.
The Stags forced a turnover on the Tigers’ next possession, but gave it right back. Biddeford then turned the ball over once more, but again, Cheverus couldn’t get a shot off before giving it back.
With 21.8 seconds to play, McCurry sank both ends of a one-and-one. After one final Stags’ turnover, the Tigers ran out the clock on the 45-38 decision.
“We’re a young team,” Ashley said. “Biddeford deserves all the credit. They played well. The shots didn’t fall our way. We turned the ball over and they didn’t. That’s the way the game goes sometimes. It was a physical game and they were just a little more physical than us tonight.”
Flaherty had half her team’s points.
“Flaherty was incredible,” Ashley said. “If you told me going into the game that Flaherty and Grigware would cancel each other out, I would have taken my chances.”
Palazzi-Leahy added seven points, Hendrix and Lyons had five each and Mayberry finished with two.
Cheverus loses four seniors, but should be right back in the hunt next year.
“All the credit goes to the seniors,” Ashley said. “They turned the program around. I feel badly for them. We’ll keep going and keep fighting and see what we can do.”
For Biddeford, Grigware led the way with 20 points, Rousseau added nine, McCurry eight, Hersom six and Michaud two.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org