PORTLAND—If one fist won’t get you, the other one will.
That’s been the approach of the Cheverus girls’ basketball team, with the emphasis on team, this winter and it worked again Friday afternoon at Keegan Gymnasium.
The Stags rode to an early 17-point lead over visiting Marshwood, thanks in large part to the sizzling outside shooting of junior Georgia Ford, in her first game back from illness, but after the Hawks closed to within six in the third period, Cheverus got key contributions from multiple sources, most notably senior captains Brooke Flaherty, Kylie Libby and Mikayla Mayberry and juniors Sadie Lyons and Alisha Starbird to pull away.
The Stags closed the game on a 24-6 run to win, 57-33, ending the 2012 portion of their schedule at 6-0 and dropping Marshwood to 1-5.
“The team’s been playing awesome together,” said Ford, who had 14 points. “We calmed down as a team. We executed all of our plays. There’s not one person on the team who does everything. We balance it out.”
Cheverus was a quarterfinalist in 2011-12, dropping an agonizing 39-35 decision to Scarborough, and with an abundance of talent returning this winter, expected to be a top contender.
The Stags opened with a 54-19 win at Biddeford, then downed visiting Gorham (57-34), host Portland (42-17), visiting Westbrook (57-31) and host Noble (68-15).
Marshwood, a semifinalist last season, also victimized by a close playoff loss to Scarborough, was hit hard by graduation and after an opening win over Portland, had lost four straight, to powers Deering and Scarborough, two-time defending Class A champion McAuley and Windham.
Last season, the Hawks beat the visiting Stags, 59-49.
Saturday, Marshwood played well in stretches, but Cheverus simply had too much.
The teamwork tone was set by the Stags just 18 seconds in when sophomore Jill Libby set up Mayberry for a layup. Libby then passed to Flaherty for a layup and a quick 4-0 lead.
The Hawks got on the board on a foul shot from Hannah Ferguson, but Ford answered with her first 3 and after a free throw from Marshwood’s Abby Hysom, Ford connected again from downtown for a 10-2 lead.
The visitors answered with a layup from Megan McLean, but with 1:10 to go in the opening quarter, Ford buried another 3 and it was 13-4 Stags.
“I’m a rhythm shooter,” said Ford. “I got good passes and once I was on, I got going. I’ve been sick. I missed two games. It felt good to get back. (My teammates have) been really supportive of me. It was all of us playing really well together.”
In the final minute, Marshwood’s Sasha Vissure scored on a layup and Flaherty answered with a driving layup to give Cheverus a 15-6 lead.
When Starbird opened the second period with a 3 and a putback, the lead was up to 14, 20-6.
The Hawks got a layup after a steal from Lydia St. Pierre, but Stags senior Victoria Nappi scored on a putback, Kylie Libby sank a free throw and with 5:03 to go in the half, a Flaherty jumper seemingly put the hosts in firm control, up, 25-8.
Marshwood didn’t quit, however, as Jill Gosi made a jump shot, then another, McLean made a layup and with 2:46 to go before halftime, McLean made another layup after a steal to cut the deficit to nine, 25-16.
A Flaherty jumper 17 seconds later ended the run and Kylie Libby added a foul shot, but with 30 seconds to go, St. Pierre made a layup to pull the Hawks within 28-18 at the break.
Marshwood could have crept even closer, but made just two of eight foul shots while turning the ball over 13 times. Ford led all scorers with nine points.
The third period would see the Hawks draw ever closer before Cheverus closed on a run.
A coast-to-coast layup by Ferguson started the quarter, but was countered by a jumper by Ford.
After Karinne Bohunsky pulled Marshwood within seven with a 3, Flaherty made a free throw, but with 4 minutes to go in the stanza, a layup by Ferguson cut the Stags’ lead to a precarious 31-25. Lyons answered with two free throws, but a runner from Vissure again made it a six-point contest, 33-27.
Then, Cheverus closed the stanza on an 8-0 run.
Starbird got it started with a 3 which rattled around the rim before falling. Kylie Libby added a putback, Flaherty hit a free throw and a jumper to make it 41-27 heading for the fourth.
There, the Stags ended all doubt.
Nappi hit a jumper and Lyons made a layup to push the lead to 18, 45-27.
The Hawks had one last mini-run left as Vissure made two free throws, Hysom hit a leaner and Vissure scored on a driving layup to make it 45-33 with 5:28 left, but the visitors wouldn’t score again.
Ford’s fourth 3 started a game-ending 12-0 run.
Flaherty added a leaner, Flaherty hit two foul shots, Nappi converted an old-fashioned three-point play (a layup after a steal and a free throw) and a layup by Jill Libby brought the curtain down on the 57-33 victory.
“Marshwood’s scrappy,” said Cheverus coach Richie Ashley. “They played tough. They’ll hang around. It was nervewracking. We became complacent a little bit. Some of the things I did didn’t work out, but we showed senior leadership. We got the ball moving and didn’t allow them to trap us.”
Flaherty was the game’s high scorer with 16 points. Ford finished with 14.
“I thought (Georgia) had mono,” Ashley said. “She was really sick. She practiced for the first time today. To step back in, I thought she did a really good job. She can knock down shots. We have four who can knock them down from the outside.”
Starbird had eight points, Nappi seven (along with three steals), Kylie Libby and Lyons four apiece and Jill Libby and Mayberry (four steals) two each.
“Brooke and Mikayla in particular, really stepped up,” Ashley said. “Brooke had 16 points. I ask Mikayla to do an awful lot. Kylie had some good blocks and facilitated us in the halfcourt. I thought Alisha had her best game of the year, all over the floor. Sadie Lyons gets lost, but she had rebounds and nice passes. I was pretty happy. The girls buy into we’re a team. We don’t have a kid who will score 20 every night. We have a team that will score 60. It’s a special group of kids who believe in the team and aren’t selfish. That’s rare in this day and age. They want to win and this is how we’ll win. We come at you in waves and the next thing you know, it’s a big lead.”
The Stags had a 32-28 advantage on the glass, as Kylie Libby grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and Flaherty had a half dozen.
Cheverus committed 18 turnovers (but forced 24) and made 9-of-17 free throws.
For Marshwood, McLean led the way with nine points. Vissure added eight. Ferguson had five points (and eight rebounds), while Gosi and St. Pierre each pitched in with four and Hysom (who had six boards and three steals) scored three. The Hawks were just 4-of-14 from the line.
Cheverus will face many challenges in the weeks ahead and will get to measure itself against several of the league’s finest teams. The Stags are back in action Wednesday at Bonny Eagle and host Sanford Friday. Cheverus then goes to Scarborough and hosts Deering and McAuley.
The Stags know they have the pieces in place to be one of the best teams in Western A come February.
“We’ll keep playing as a team and have fun,” Ford said.
“We did what we had to do to this point,” Ashley said. “It’s good to be 6-0. It’s the first time we’ve been undefeated going into the new year. Now, we have to take care of Bonny Eagle. They’re well coached and scrappy. Sanford is always tough.”
M- 6 12 9 6- 33
C- 15 13 13 16- 57
M- McLean 4-0-9, Vissure 3-2-8, Ferguson 2-1-5, Gosi 2-0-4, St. Pierre 2-0-4, Hysom 1-1-3
C- Flaherty 6-4-16, Ford 5-0-14, Starbird 3-0-8, Nappi 3-1-7, K. Libby 1-2-4, Lyons 1-2-4, J. Libby 1-0-2, Mayberry 1-0-2
M (1) McLean
C (6) Ford 4, Starbird 2
M (28) Ferguson 8, Hysom 6, Schiff 3, McLean, St. Pierre 2, Cory, Gosi, Kashmer, Morrison, Philbrick, Riccardi, Vissure 1
C (32) K. Libby 11, Flaherty 6, Ford, Mayberry, Starbird 3, J. Libby, Lyons, Nappi 2
M (10) Hysom 3, Schiff 2, Cory, Gosi, McLean, St. Pierre, Vissure 1
C (13) Mayberry 4, Nappi 3, Flaherty 2, Ford, Grover, Starbird, Willerson 1
M (2) Hysom, St. Pierre 1
C (7) Willerson 3, K. Libby 2, Lyons, Wagabaza 1