PORTLAND — Oxford Hills recognized the gravity of the moment as Wednesday’s Class AA North semifinal headed to overtime: step up and move on, or fall and go home.

“We really realized and understood that this could be the end of this season,” Vikings junior Gabbie Tibbetts said. “And, obviously, we don’t want it to end like that.”

Tibbetts hit the biggest shot of the game and the second-seeded Vikings controlled the extra period to take down third-seeded Bangor, 47-42, at Cross Insurance Arena and advance to their eighth consecutive regional final.

Oxford Hills (15-5) will meet top-seeded Cheverus (19-0) in Saturday’s AA North title game at 2 p.m. at Cross Insurance Arena.

“It’s amazing,” Vikings junior Ella Pelletier said. “Every year that we get to go to the regional final, it’s just surreal. Being in this place is amazing — the crowd, everything. I can’t express it in words. It just makes me so happy, being able to go to the regional final, trying to get to the state championship again, it’s what I live for.”

Thursday’s win is the 13th straight for the Vikings, who opened the season by losing five of their first seven games.


“We’ve just, as a team, over the past three or four weeks, found ways to win games,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said.

The keys Thursday were making big shots and big stops.

The teams battled back and forth all 36 minutes. Bangor built a six-point lead in the first half, but Oxford Hills battled back.

The Vikings went on a 9-0 run in the third to go up 29-23, but the Rams cut that down to three points, 31-28, by the end of the quarter.

In the fourth, Tristen Derenburger, no stranger to hitting big shots in big games at Cross Insurance Arena, sank a 3-pointer that put Oxford Hills up 38-36 with 2:10 left in the game.

Bangor’s Avery Clark responded with a basket that tied the game with 1:26 remaining.


Neither offense generated a quality shot attempt during the final 86 seconds, and the game went to overtime with the score 38-38.

Tibbetts changed the game less than a minute into OT with a 3-pointer to put Oxford Hills up 41-38.

“It’s one of those shots that you just have to make,” Tibbetts said. “You have to make it. There is no, ‘If you don’t,’ there’s, ‘It’s going in, you’re making it.’”

The early overtime lead felt like more than three points because of how strong both defenses were playing.

“That’s huge,” Ella Pelletier said. “Nobody talks about it, but it sets the tone for the entire (overtime). First person to score really gives a lot of pressure to the other team — especially for it to be a 3-pointer, it just gives a team so much more pressure to actually have to score now.”

Oxford Hills’ Maddy Herrick drew a foul 17 seconds later, then made both foul shots. Even more detrimental to Bangor than the five-point deficit was that senior Mimi Quinn committed the foul, her fifth of the game.


“Losing that inside presence that controls — you know, any time we get an entry pass into the post and she’s got it, she gets double-teamed, which opens up someone else,” Bangor coach Jay Kemble said. “And that was gone.”

The Vikings sealed their victory with defense — Ella Pelletier blocked a couple shots, Herrick made a steal — and free throws by Tibbetts and Pelletier.

“I thought Gabbie, in the overtime period, got us to win that game,” Nate Pelletier said. “She had a big 3, free throws. But as a team, though, we rebounded when we needed to rebound; defensively, understood our assignments.

“It wasn’t pretty, by any means. Our first half was pretty ugly, if you ask me. And some of that’s their game plan, they defended pretty well, they’ve got some length.”

Tibbetts and Ella Pelletier led Oxford Hills with 15 points apiece.

Pelletier, a junior, scored 10 of her points in the third quarter — “Ella went off in the third,” Tibbetts said — after netting only one bucket in the first half.


“I think I just was a little nervous at first,” Ella Pelletier said, “but I just had to lock in, realize that I got to take it to the hoop, get fouled, but I’ve got to kick it out to shooters, too. I think just having that mindset of, ‘I got to score,’ is what helped me.”

Pelletier’s big quarter helped the Vikings flip a 19-16 halftime deficit into a 31-28 lead.

Nate Pelletier said the entire team needed a mindset change in the second half.

“I told them, ‘If you come out and take shots, I promise you things are going to start swinging in our direction,’” he said. “And they did.”

Clark kept the Rams in the game by scoring all nine of their third-quarter points.

All of the sophomore’s game-high 16 points were scored after halftime, as she and fellow sophomore Delaney Horr (seven points, all in the fourth quarter and overtime) paced Bangor’s offense in the second half.


“We were sagging off a couple of players — just like they were — trying to eliminate Pelletier. They were trying to eliminate Quinn,” Kemble said. “And it was just other people having to make shots. Both teams did. … Everybody on both teams made big baskets.”

Quinn, one of the Rams’ two seniors, and junior Emily Adams carried the load in the first two quarters. Adams ended the game with 10 points and Quinn had seven.

Milo Seams was Oxford Hills’ top scorer in the first half, with five, highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter.

Derenburger made two 3s for six points. Her long-range shooting was crucial to the Vikings’ run to last year’s Class AA state championship, but she only recently returned after recovering from a leg injury.

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