PORTLAND — The Oxford Hills Vikings’ hot start propelled them to into the Class AA North championship.
Maighread Laliberte and the Vikings made their first seven shots at Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday in the AA North quarterfinals, and held on for a 59-49 win over Cheverus.
“They shot so well in the first half,” Cheverus coach Gary Fifield said. “It was like they couldn’t miss. We tried to make some adjustments, but it didn’t matter.”
“I’m not so sure,” he added, “I’ve seen a high school team shoot, in this facility, as well as they did in the first half.”
The top-seeded Vikings will meet No. 3 Edward Little in the AA North title game Friday.
By the time Oxford Hills experienced its first shot bouncing off the rim Wednesday, it held a 19-6 lead. Four of those first seven shots were 3-pointers, and the Vikings went on to tie a tournament record with nine treys.
“It always looks nice when shots are going in,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “You know, everything you run, shots are going in.”
That first miss didn’t douse Oxfords Hills’ flame. The shots continued to fall throughout the first half, after which the Vikings led 37-17.
The fourth-seeded Stags chipped away at the lead, but ultimately the Vikings’ hot start was too much to overcome.
Laliberte was especially hot, draining three 3s and putting up 16 points in the first half.
“It’s fun,” Laliberte said. “Especially in a big crowd and atmosphere.”
Laliberte finished with a game-high 27 points and four 3-pointers.
“Maighread, I feel, is one of the best players in the state,” Pelletier said. “She has the total package: she can shoot the 3, she can defend, she can take the ball to the basket, and and she’s like and 82-83 percent free-throw shooter for us.”
The fun continued at the start of the second half. Julia Colby (17 points, two 3s) hit a trey, Laliberte scored on a running jumper and then hit her fourth 3-pointer to give Oxford Hills a 45-20 lead.
After that, Pelletier held out his arms and shrugged his shoulders in amazement. He knew the Vikings could shoot, but this was next-level stuff.
“What I will say, we shot the 3 really well this year,” he said. “So making 3-pointers doesn’t really surprise me. At the rate we made them early on, that’s kind of unheard of. But that’s one of the things we see in practice all the time, we can shoot the ball.
“It seemed to all come together for us at the right time for us, which is awesome.”
Twenty-five points was as high as the Vikings’ lead went. The Stags began whittling away the deficit by finishing the third quarter on a 16-3 run.
“At halftime, I said, ‘Hey, I’ve been in this game long enough, that the law of averages will balance out. And they did in the second half,” Fifield said. “I said, ‘I don’t have a 20-point play in my playbook for you. We need to, one possession at a time, try to crawl back in this.’”
Leading the Stags on their comeback were Emme Poulin and Abby Cavallaro. Each made a pair of 3s in the second half. Poulin finished with 17, and Cavallaro, after being held to two in the first half, finished with 14.
“In the second half, you saw they’re great players and were able to get their shots up and made some big shots,” Pelletier said.
The Stags cut the lead down to six points, 55-49, with 1:53 left in the game. However, they were held scoreless the rest of the game as Colby and Jadah Adams made defensive plays and Laliberte made four free throws.
“We’d been there before at the end of games, and we just had to come together as a team and know that we can pull out that win, and that’s what we did today,” Laliberte said.
“In the end,” Pelletier said, “we did enough to win, and I guess that’s all that matters this time of year, just doing enough to win to play another day.”
Edward Little (13-7) advanced to the AA North championship by routing No. 2 Portland 58-38 on Wednesday.
The Vikings as Red Eddies split their two meeting this season, each team winning on the other’s home court. EL won the season-opener 49-42, and Oxford Hills won 53-37 on Jan. 25.
“It seems like that every year, we play them three times. They’re a great club, they’ve been a great club for a number of years, and we’ve had some great battles. I expect this will be the same.”
Cheverus finishes 12-8 in Fifield’s first season as head coach after a decorated coaching career at the college level.
“I’m just really proud of how they didn’t fold and came back and played with a lot of desire and a lot of heart that second half,” Fifield said.
Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby goes for a basket as Cheverus’ Michaela Jordan pressures her from behind during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Oxford Hills’ Maighread Laliberte bounce passes the ball to a teammate past Cheverus’ Margaret Kelly during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Oxford Hills’ Jadah Adams looks to the basket as Cheverus’ Kathryn Kane and Michaela Jordan try to block her during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Oxford Hills’ Maighread Laliberte pushes past Cheverus’ Margaret Kelly during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Oxford Hills’ Brooke Carson holds off Cheverus’ Michaela Jordan as she looks for an opening during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby goes up for a basket during the Class AA North girls’ basketball semifinals in Portland at the Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)