Cheverus junior Abby Cavallaro dives to get a loose ball during the Stags’ 61-39 home win over Sanford Thursday. Cavallaro had 16 points to help Cheverus get back in the win column.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
S- 5 7 15 12- 39
C- 16 14 9 22- 61
S- Cote 7-5-19, M. O’Connell 2-3-7, Camire 1-2-5, Allen 2-0-4, Boissonneault 1-0-3, K. O’Connell 0-1-1
C- Cavallaro 5-3-16, Malmquist 6-1-14, Poulin 3-0-7, Dawson 2-1-6, Kane 3-0-6, Briggs 2-0-5, Kelly 1-2-4, Jordan 1-0-2, Tillotson 0-1-1
S (2) Boissonneault, Camire 1
C (7) Cavallaro 3, Briggs, Dawson, Malmquist, Poulin 1
PORTLAND—The word on Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team is that it lives and dies by the 3-point shot.
Thursday afternoon, the Stags didn’t just live from behind the arc, they thrived.
Hosting Sanford in its final game of the calendar year, Cheverus got a 3 from junior sharpshooter Abby Cavallaro 27 seconds in and that set the tone.
By the end of the first period, the Stags had made five long-range shots and opened up a commanding 16-5 lead.
While Cheverus’ outside shooting percentage diminished as the game wore on, the Stags were able to retain the lead thanks to a strong defensive effort and by halftime, they were firmly in control, up, 30-12.
The Spartans, sparked by freshman Paige Cote, tried to rally in the second half and drew as close as 11, but Cheverus used its depth to pull away and went on to a 61-39 victory.
Cavallaro led the Stags with 16 points, senior Kaylin Malmquist added 14 and Cheverus won its first game in 16 days, improved to 3-2 and dropped Sanford to 3-4 in the process.
“We needed to get back in the win column,” said Cavallaro. “We came out knowing that we needed to win this game to get where we want to go. We came out hungry and wanting to win and it paid off.”
The Stags started fast with wins at Noble (53-38) and at home over Portland (63-32), then lost at home to Edward Little (37-34) and at Oxford Hills (52-44).
The Spartans opened with a 32-28 home loss to Windham, then beat host Biddeford (51-42) and after losses to visiting Scarborough (55-44) and at Deering (43-17), Sanford beat host Bonny Eagle (51-45) and Tuesday won at Portland, 50-37.
Last winter, Cheverus won, 65-47, at Sanford.
Thursday, in a game moved up to the afternoon due to bad weather forecast for the evening, the Spartans hoped for their first victory over the Stags since a 45-42 triumph in the 2011 Western A quarterfinals, but instead, Cheverus made it seven in a row in the series.
Not surprisingly, it was Cavallaro who set the tone, knocking down a 3-pointer just 27 seconds into the contest for a lead the Stags wouldn’t relinquish.
With 6:58 to go in the first quarter, junior Emme Poulin added a 3 and 25 seconds later, senior Brooke Dawson made a free throw for a quick 7-0 advantage.
Sanford got on the board with 6:08 left in the frame, when senior Summer Camire sank a 3, but Dawson and Cavallaro each countered with a 3-ball for a 13-3 lead.
“Everyone has the green light to shoot,” Cavallaro said. “Whoever is hot that night, we get it to them. Everyone says we live and die by the 3s, but we’re trying to get the ball inside too to get some shots in close.”
“(Abby) absolutely has a green light,” said Cheverus coach Steve Huntington. “They all do. Shooting 3s is who we are. We have a bunch of shooters. Not letting them shoot would be like having Tom Brady not pass the ball. We focus on shooting in rhythm, not just shooting 3s for taking 3s sake. We struggled finding the balance early in the year. We’re doing a better job setting them up now. We’re trying to change a little our style of play. Instead of having 90 possessions a game and having bad shots just to get shots off, we’re focusing on executing simple stuff.”
In the final minute, Malmquist got in on the long-range fun with a 3 and even though Cote made a layup, Cheverus took a 16-5 lead to the second quarter.
The Stags made five 3-pointers in the frame and forced eight turnovers to seize control.
Cheverus gradually extended its advantage in the second period.
Senior Alayna Briggs got the fun started with a 3-pointer from the corner. Cote answered with a free throw, but Malmquist drove and finished a layup with her left hand. After Spartans sophomore Megan O’Connell made a foul shot, Cavallaro sank her third 3 and the Stags’ seventh from behind the arc for a 24-7 lead.
Malmquist added a left-handed layup after a nice spin move before Sanford sophomore Julia Allen hit a jumper and Cote made a free throw. After Cavallaro set up junior Kat Kane for a layup and Cote made one for the visitors, Cavallaro drove for a layup with 8.5 seconds left and the Stags had a 30-12 advantage at the break.
In the first 16 minutes, Cavallaro led the way with 11 points.
Cote tried to rally the Spartans in the third period, but Cheverus hung tough.
Cote started the half by sandwiching layups around a putback by Malmquist, but Malmquist drove and banked home a shot and Cavallaro added a free throw for a 35-16 lead.
Cote then converted an old-fashioned three-point play (bank shot, foul, free throw) and Allen drove for a layup. After Cavallaro countered with a driving layup and Kane made a layup off a pass from Cavallaro, O’Connell twice converted three-point plays to pull Sanford within 39-27 heading for the fourth quarter.
There, Cote’s three-point play, following a layup by Briggs, drew the Spartans within 11, 41-30, but that’s as close as they would get.
Senior Ally Tillotson sparked a quick 5-0 run with a free throw and after a steal, junior Michaela Jordan hit a jumper and Cavallaro again set up Kane for a layup with a pretty pass to make it 46-30 with 5:14 to play.
After Camire made two free throws for Sanford, Poulin made a layup, Cavallaro hit two free throws, Malmquist drove for a layup and with 2:09 to go, Malmquist set up Dawson for the Stags’ biggest lead, 54-32.
Cote got three points back with a free throw followed by a putback, but Malmquist set up Poulin for a layup and Malmquist added a foul shot.
Senior Kristen O’Connell made a free throw for Sanford, but Cheverus sophomore Meg Kelly answered with a layup. Junior Molly Boissonneault’s 3 accounted for the Spartans’ final points. Kelly added two more free throws and that brought the curtain down on the Stags’ 61-39 victory.
Cavallaro’s 16 points led Cheverus. She also had five rebounds and four assists and was able to stay on the floor despite being in foul trouble much of the way.
“Abby’s gotten into foul trouble before and I pulled her quick and it affected her rhythm,” said Huntington. “I had to see how she reacted in this game. She was still able to be aggressive on the defensive end and didn’t reach.”
Malmquist had a solid stat line of 14 points, three assists and three steals. Poulin added seven points (to go with five boards and two blocked shots), Dawson and Kane had six apiece, Briggs finished with five, Kelly four, Jordan two and Tillotson one.
“We typically go nine deep,” Huntington said. “We have some strong underclassmen on the bench. It’s a different style having Ally, Alaina, Kat and Michaela out there. They give us toughness and versatility and more flexibility from a defensive standpoint.”
The Stags made 8 of 15 free throws, only turned the ball over 12 times and forced Sanford to give it away on 27 occasions.
Sanford was led by 19 points from Cote. Megan O’Connell had seven, Camire five, Allen four, Boissonneault three and Kristen O’Connell one.
The Spartans made just 11 of 24 foul shots.
Sanford returns to action Tuesday at home versus Thornton Academy.
Cheverus has a big test as the new year dawns as Deering pays a visit for a playoff rematch Tuesday night. The Stags then go to newly-named Maine Girls’ Academy Thursday of next week, hoping to beat the Lions for the first time ever.
“I love this team,” Cavallaro said. “This year, we have a lot of seniors. We want to make it far for them and I want to make it far also. We have some big games coming up and we need to get some big wins or our season might be shorter than we want it to be. The ultimate goal is to make it far.”
“It’s never too early to think about the tournament,” Huntington said. “We want to get back. It doesn’t matter the seed, as long as we’re playing well when we get there. There’s a lot of parity. The battles we had with Edward Little and Oxford Hills helped us. Next week we’ll find out how much. Deering has a great team. That will be a tough matchup Tuesday.”
Cheverus senior Kaylin Malmquist passes the ball around Sanford sophomore Julia Allen.
Cheverus junior Emme Poulin dribbles through the Sanford defense.
Cheverus senior Kaylin Malmquist drives to the basket. Malmquist finished with 14 points.
Cheverus junior Abby Cavallaro handles the ball.