Cheverus triples its pleasure, edges Scarborough in 3 OT epic
SCARBOROUGH—The seniors on the Cheverus girls' basketball team have suffered through some absolutely gutwrenching losses and have heard the whispers that they can't win the big one.
Those whispers have been silenced.
Tuesday evening, in a battle of unbeatens against a Scarborough squad which rallied to knock them out of last year's tournament, the Stags persevered, excelled in the clutch and earned arguably the biggest win in program history.
Just as it did last February in a Western Class A quarterfinal, Cheverus led most of the way, but in a case of deja vu, the Stags' lead disappeared amid a fourth quarter flurry of turnovers. The Red Storm went ahead, 44-43, on two foul shots from sophomore Ashley Briggs with 1:19 to go, but 18 seconds later, Cheverus answered as senior Mikayla Mayberry made one free throw. Scarborough ran down the clock and looked to win it, but a 3-point attempt was no good and it was on to overtime.
It turned out that one OT wasn't enough, but in the second extra session, the Red Storm appeared in good shape, up, 54-50, with less than a minute-and-a-half to go.
Enter Brooke Flaherty.
The Stags senior is viewed as one of the best players in the Southern Maine Activities Association, but Tuesday, she turned in a legendary performance, which included consecutive hoops to tie the score at 54-54 and force yet a third overtime.
There, Scarborough again went up by three, but senior Victoria Nappi, with ice in her veins, canned a game-tying 3-ball with 1:34 to go and after a Red Storm miss, Cheverus got the ball back with a chance to win.
The ball, not surprisingly, came to Flaherty and she was fouled with 6.1 seconds left. Flaherty coolly buried the first free throw and while the second missed, the hosts weren't able to answer and the Stags had their statement victory, even if it took 12 extra minutes to secure, 58-57.
Flaherty led all scorers with 23 points as Cheverus improved to 9-0, dropping Scarborough to 8-1 in the process.
"We could feel it slipping away and we didn't want that," said Flaherty. "We know what it's like to lose and we didn't want to lose. We flashed back to last year and how we felt sitting in the (Portland Expo) locker room. We didn't want that feeling again. We pulled together. It does feel good. (Scarborough's) a very good team. It will be interesting if we see them again."
Forty-four fabulous minutes
Cheverus had barely been tested in its first eight outings, handling host Biddeford (54-19), visiting Gorham (57-34), visiting Portland (42-17), visiting Westbrook (57-31), host Noble (68-15), visiting Marshwood (57-33, game story), host Bonny Eagle (76-48) and visiting Sanford (57-47).
Scarborough, meanwhile, started 8-0 for the third time in four seasons, courtesy wins over host Gorham (56-23), visiting Westbrook (60-24), visiting Marshwood in a playoff rematch (44-31), host Windham (64-45), host Portland (57-44), visiting Biddeford (54-12), host South Portland (42-30, game story) and visiting Thornton Academy (52-26).
Entering Tuesday's contest, Scarborough had won eight of the 10 all-time meetings (please see sidebar) including a pair a year ago, 48-36 at Cheverus in the regular season and a 39-35 come-from behind victory in the Western A quarterfinals, which left the Stags heartbroken and kept the Red Storm alive. Scarborough would go on to earn another improbable victory over Marshwood in the semifinals before finally losing to eventual champion McAuley in the Western A Final.
Tuesday, history was on the verge of repeating itself before Cheverus rewrote its destiny.
The early pace was up-and-down and featured sharpshooting from both teams.
A pullup jumper from senior Kylie Libby allowed the Stags to break the ice 51 seconds in
The hosts answered with a 3-pointer from senior Taylor LeBorgne, who was on fire early.
After Cheverus went back ahead, 4-3, on a Flaherty bank shot, Briggs and LeBorgne each knocked down jumpers to put Scarborough up, 7-4, but the Red Storm wouldn't lead again until late in regulation.
With 5:08 to play in the opening stanza, Nappi sank a 3 to tie the score and the next time down the floor, junior Georgia Ford buried a 3-ball for a 10-7 Stags' lead.
After Scarborough senior Courtney Alofs fed classmate Maria Philbrick for a layup, Flaherty hit a leaner. Red Storm sophomore Bailey Adams banked home a 3 to tie the score, but inside the final minute, Flaherty was fouled after an offensive rebound and made one of two free throws to give Cheverus a 13-12 advantage after eight exciting minutes.
The fun was only beginning.
Ford got the Stags started in the second period with a 3-pointer 16 seconds in. After LeBorgne countered with a putback, Flaherty made a free throw. Scarborough pulled even behind three Alofs free throws, but another Ford 3 put Cheverus back on top, 20-17.
After LeBorgne made a leaner, Stags junior Alisha Starbird, who played for the Red Storm her freshman year, hit a long jumper, Flaherty made two foul shots and with 2:48 to go before halftime, Flaherty scored on a putback for a 26-19 lead.
Scarborough got a layup from LeBorgne (assisted by Philbrick) and a LeBorgne free throw to cut the deficit to four, but Cheverus freshman Jessica Willerson was fouled after an offensive rebound and sank one of two attempts to give the Stags a 27-22 advantage at the break.
Flaherty had 10 points and five rebounds in the first half, while Ford added nine points. LeBorgne led all scorers with a dozen points in the first 16 minutes.
Cheverus was able to extend its lead in the third quarter as the Red Storm went ice cold.
A Briggs free throw opened the second half scoring, but with 5:05 to play in the third period, Alofs received her fourth foul.
The Stags took advantage as Libby fed Flaherty for a layup, junior Sadie Lyons (who was a sparkplug off the bench) scored on a putback and Starbird sank a baseline jumper for a 33-23 advantage.
With 1:45 left in the quarter, Briggs scored on a leaner, ending a 7 minute, 58 second field goal drought and pulling Scarborough within 33-25 with eight minutes to play (or so we thought).
When the quarter column on the scoreboard switched the number '4,' the hosts came to life and almost woke up the echoes from last February.
Just 21 seconds in, Alofs set up LeBorgne for a layup. Mayberry countered with a clutch 3, but Philbrick made two free throws, after a Cheverus turnover, senior Mary Redmond did the same and after another turnover, LeBorgne hit a runner, all in a 43 second span, to cut a nine-point deficit to just three, 36-33.
With 5 minutes to play, Mayberry scored on a putback, but Philbrick hit a foul shot and with 3:51 to go, Adams made two free throws to make it just a two-point game, 38-36.
Out of a timeout, Mayberry caught the hosts napping and fed Flaherty for a layup. After the teams traded turnovers, LeBorgne made a foul shot at the 3 minute mark, but 27 seconds later, Starbird canned a clutch 3 to push the lead to 43-37.
It took all of 14 seconds for Scarborough to answer as Redmond hit a step-back 3 to make it 43-40 game.
After a Cheverus timeout, the Red Storm pulled within one when Redmond made two free throws with 1:28 remaining and after the Stags threw the ball away once more, Briggs went to the line with 1:19 showing and calmly made both foul shots to give Scarborough its first lead since 7-4, 44-43.
Cheverus was on the verge of a devastating defeat, but instead of buckling, the Stags bounced up off the deck, courtesy Mayberry, who after being fouled, made the first of two free throws to tie the score, 44-44.
Mayberry missed the second attempt, but Flaherty got the rebound to keep it alive. Cheverus would get two more looks at the basket. Both were off target, but each time, Mayberry kept possession alive with an offensive rebound.
Stags coach Richie Ashley called timeout, hoping to set up a winning play, but instead, Libby was called for an offensive foul with 46.6 seconds to go and that gave Scarborough a chance to win it.
Even though he had all five timeouts remaining, Red Storm coach Ron Cote didn't stop play, letting his charges try to prevail.
With 5 seconds to go, Philbrick had a look at a 3, but it was no good. Alofs grabbed the rebound as time wound down, but her putback was off target and it was on to overtime.
In Maine girls' high school basketball, teams play a four-minute extra session.
Little did anyone know that one or even two wouldn't settle matters.
Briggs started OT by missing a 3. Alofs stole the ball back for the Red Storm, but a LeBorgne runner was no good and Libby got the rebound.
Then, at the other end, Libby scored on a driving bank shot to put the Stags back on top, 46-44.
Scarborough quickly answered as Alofs made two foul shots.
After a Cheverus turnover, LeBorgne missed a 3. The Stags turned the ball over again and this time, with 1:10 left, Briggs was fouled and hit both attempts for a 48-46 advantage.
On the ropes once more, Cheverus again responded, as Flaherty was fouled (by Alofs, her fifth) and in a sign of things to come, made both shots to tie the score.
Again, the Red Storm eschewed a timeout and went for the winner, but as time wound down, a driving Redmond lost the ball out of bounds and it was on to the second overtime.
"We work on that (end of game) stuff quite a bit," said Cote, who assisted Ashley with Cheverus a year ago. "We do the four corner offense. We have plays set up in those situations. We just didn't get the result we wanted. (The Stags) did a nice job on Mary. She's our leading scorer. Other people have to step up."
"That was scary, especially when we were in double bonus," said Flaherty. "Mary Redmond's an amazing shooter. Briggs can drive. We had to keep them under control."
In the second overtime, the hosts got the jump as Redmond converted a bank shot, but Mayberry fed Flaherty for a layup to tie the score at 50-50.
With 2:37 remaining, LeBorgne spotted an open Redmond, who didn't hesitate to fire a 3 which found nothing but net for a 53-50 lead.
After Flaherty missed at the other end, Redmond got the rebound and with 1:37 to go, Briggs was fouled. She made the second free throw and Scarborough had a two-possession lead, 54-50, and was on the brink of delivering a knockout punch.
Instead, Flaherty put the Stags on her back and got them right back in it.
The rally started with a dazzling runner off the glass from Flaherty at the 1:24 mark. Mayberry then stole the ball and with 1:16 to go, Flaherty drove the lane and scored on a runner to tie the score once again, 54-54.
"I want the ball," said Flaherty. "I used to not want it. I used to be scared, but I do want it now. I think it's a senior thing."
"Brooke is always our go-to person," Mayberry said. "We can count on her. She's one of the most steady people we have."
"They got the ball to Brooke Flaherty and she got the job done for them," said Cote. "She's a four-year starter. I thought when it was crunch time, they went to her and she wanted the ball. Last year, that's what they had missing. Tonight, she wanted to put them on her shoulders. They got her the ball and she made her shots."
As time wound down, the Red Storm this time didn't hold the ball, as LeBorgne attempted a shot, but it was blocked by Flaherty and rebounded by Lyons. Any hopes Cheverus had of holding for a winner were quickly dashed, however, as LeBorgne stole the ball back.
That gave Scarborough another look at a winner, but Redmond missed a 3 and Mayberry grabbed the rebound. But before the game could go to a third overtime, Mayberry travelled and with 1.5 seconds left, the Red Storm had another chance. Mayberry atoned for her turnover as she blocked a Redmond desperation 3 and the game required a another overtime.
Again Scarborough struck first as LeBorgne fed sophomore Sam Sparda for a layup. Sparda then stole the ball, but the Red Storm's hopes of extending its lead were spoiled by a charging foul on Redmond (to the shock of no one, Flaherty took the charge) with 2:54 to go.
Making matters worse, it was Redmond's fifth foul and she joined Alofs on the bench.
After Starbird missed a 3, Philbrick extended the lead to 57-54 with 2:08 to go on a foul shot, but the hosts wouldn't score again.
At the other end, Mayberry missed a 3, but Libby kept the possession alive. After another miss, the ball was heading out of bounds, but a Scarborough player saved it back to Nappi behind the 3-point line. Nappi took advantage of her good fortune and buried a 3 with 1:34 left to tie the score for the ninth time, 57-57.
Once again, the Red Storm had the ball with a chance to milk the clock and set up for the win, but this time, Briggs had a look that was off target and Lyons snared the rebound.
That gave Cheverus a chance to set up for the winner.
After the Stags milked the clock under 15 seconds, the ball came to Flaherty near midcourt. She was initially trapped by two defenders, but broke free and was fouled with 6.1 seconds to go.
"It was pretty stressful, but this is what we work for every day," Flaherty said. "We put ourselves in these scenarios in practice. It was just a spur of the moment offense. Thankfully it worked. I was a little nervous when they double teamed me."
With all eyes on her, Flaherty coolly stepped to the line, dribbled a few times, took a deep breath and launched the ball.
Nothing but net.
"I pretended I was in the gym shooting by myself," Flaherty said. "I stared the rim as long as I could. I was just trying to zone everything out and hoped to God it went in."
The second attempt was off target, but after Scarborough senior Marisa O'Toole got the rebound, she hurried upcourt and threw up a desperation shot which wasn't even close.
The rebound settled into the hands of Lyons as the horn sounded at 9:18 p.m.
Cheverus 58 Scarborough 57.
"It's a special win for us because we have a lot of girls from Scarborough and Coach Cote is an amazing coach," said Flaherty. "Playing against him was a lot of fun."
"We've never really won a big game before, so this is huge," Mayberry said. "It was fun. We came together as a team. The senior leadership really pushed us through. We had to just go for it. We didn't hold back. We're older and more confident. There's no drama on our team this year. Sadie came off the bench and was a sparkplug for us."
"Our senior leadership really proved themselves tonight," Ashley added. "There were many times we could have folded the tent. They beat us in the fourth quarter. (Going into the third overtime) I told them it comes down to four minutes. The girls had a look (on their faces). They never got down. They had a belief they'd find a way to win. The girls deserve all the credit. They hung together. We really believe in each other. There's something (the girls) have that I don't know a lot of teams have. Sometimes we get a little complacent. Sometimes we've hoped to win, but tonight we took it. The girls deserved it. The seniors remembered last year and they took it upon themselves to say it wasn't going to happen again."
Ashley paid tribute to his former cohort.
"If there's a better coach in the league than Coach Cote, I don't know who he or she is," Ashley said. "We're from the same tree. The Coach (Bob) Brown tree. Coach Cote has coached a long time. I know all his calls. He knows all my calls. It was going to come down to the girls executing. The styles are kind of similar. We're a little taller and they're a little quicker. He had those girls ready to play. They scrapped and came at us."
Flaherty had a night to remember with eight field goals and seven free throws, good for a game-high 23 points. Nine of her points came in the three overtimes. If that wasn't enough, Flaherty added seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots and only committed one foul.
"I don't have the words to describe what Brooke did," said Ashley. "She's a special player. She's extremely unselfish. She stepped up. She's a four-year starter and a two-year captain. She's been around great leaders like Theresa Hendrix, Hanna Lyons and Anna Snook. She knows this is her time. She put on a show. Making free throws in that situation after being iced. She had unbelievable composure."
Ford added nine points, Starbird had seven, Mayberry and Nappi six apiece, Libby four, Lyons two and Willerson one.
Cheverus had a commanding 40-23 rebounding advantage, as Libby had a game-high nine boards, Lyons six and Mayberry five.
The Stags did turn the ball over 33 times and went 9-of-15 from the foul line, but that was quickly forgotten in the jubilation over the win. One which was truly a team effort.
"We had Alisha back tonight, which was huge," said Flaherty. "She played her heart out. She's a tough kid. I love having her on the team. Sadie and Georgia are also from Scarborough. Sadie's phenomenal. She's improved so much this year. Her energy and easy-going character fuels us and makes the game more fun. Georgia is an amazing shooter, player and teammate. Our team's like a family. We're a bunch of sisters who care for each other."
Scarborough was paced by 17 points from LeBorgne. Redmond (who didn't score until the fourth quarter) had 12 points and seven boards, Briggs 10 points, Philbrick six (to go with six of the Red Storm's 17 steals), Adams and Alofs (five boards and three steals) five each and Sparda two. Scarborough committed 25 turnovers and got 23 of its points from the charity stripe, on 32 attempts.
"It was a great basketball game for people to watch, but it's a tough one to lose," said Cote. "I told my girls, I'm extremely proud of the effort they gave. We got our energy back and got back in the game. We were down by 10 at one point and fought back to make it three overtimes. In a couple of those overtimes, we had a lead.
"I was very pleased with the effort and the play of Bailey Adams and Sam Sparda coming off the bench for us. That helped us. We played without Mary for a little while. She had a cramp in her leg. Taylor played a nice game tonight. Maria was Maria. Unbelievable. She gives that effort every single night.
"I know all those (Cheverus) kids. I knew a lot of things they did on the floor tonight. At times, I think it helped us. They have a lot of talent. They're very deep and they have a lot of kids who can play. Coming into the season, I thought they were a notch below McAuley. A win like this for them I think is big."
Scarborough goes to Noble Friday, then hosts Deering Tuesday of next week before playing at McAuley in a regional final rematch Jan. 18. The Red Storm (which still clings to the top spot in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, despite the loss) figures to bounce back.
"Coming into this game, I wanted to see where we were and I think this told us we can play with the better teams in the league," Cote said. "Hopefully we'll learn from it and keep improving. For our size, I think we give a maximum effort out there. The kids have a winning attitude ingrained in them. They don't give up easily. They keep plugging. We have to keep improving."
The road for Cheverus (a very close second in the Heals) only gets tougher as it hosts once-beaten Deering, a squad it has never defeated, Friday. Next Tuesday, Cheverus welcomes another team it's never beaten, two-time defending Class A champion McAuley.
The Stags have shaken their can't-win-the-big-one albatross and figure to continue to trend upwards.
"This is huge going into our next two games," said Mayberry. "We have play the same way we practice. Keep our composure and believe in each other."
"We're looking forward to the challenge of playing Deering," said Flaherty. "We have to work on handling pressure and foul shooting and knocking down shots when it really counts."
"Our mantra is to try to get better today than we were yesterday" Ashley added. "What's helped is not worrying about playing the top teams and getting better in the moment. We'll enjoy this tonight. We have a big one on Friday. We'll give it everything we've got."