Gray-New Gloucester’s Nate Hebert presents the gold ball to the student section at Cross Insurance Arena after the Patriots beat Hampden Academy in the Class A boys basketball championship on Saturday. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

The Gray-New Gloucester boys basketball team’s objective for the 2023-24 season was always a state championship.

“We had a camping trip this summer as a team, and we all sat around the fire. Every one of them around the fire said that’s what the goal was,” Ian McCarthy, a first-year head coach but longtime assistant for the Patriots, said. “And I said, ‘All right, well, let’s gear up, we can do it.’

“They all knew that they were capable of it, just needed to come together as a team.”

Gray-New Gloucester completed the mission Saturday and earned the first boys basketball state championship since 1975 with a 52-41 win over Hampden Academy.

Winning a state championship is many teams’ goal in the preseason, when everyone is 0-0 and the reality of talent and athleticism are no match for optimism.

But for the Patriots, the desire to win a gold ball went deeper than idle brashness or unbridled optimism.


“I think that we all not just want it, but need it,” Aidan Hebert said last week.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid,” senior Noah Schaeffer said after the Patriots won the state championship.

Gray-New Gloucester head coach Ian McCarthy reacts as it becomes clear his team would win the Class A boys basketball championship Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald


Gray-NG played desperate from the tipoff to the final buzzer of each game. They rarely, if ever, let up. They also rarely, if ever, got caught up in their own chaos and allowed difficult situations to turn their desperation in overwhelming frustration. Maybe because the season went so well — they went 20-2, and their two losses were separated by nearly two months.

Maybe things went so well because the Patriots refused to let them go any other way.

In Saturday’s state title game, Aidan Hebert, the team’s top defender and rebounder and pace-pushing point guard, picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter and went to the bench. He returned to the court at the start of the second period but committed his third foul within 35 seconds and spent the rest of the half watching from the sideline.


The Patriots missed him on both ends of the court. They were leading 8-2 when Hebert first left the game. Over the next six minutes, Hampden scored 11 straight points and led 13-8 with about six minutes to play in the half.

But the Patriots stepped up.

Carter Libby ended the drought with a basket, then Nate Hebert hit a 3-pointer.

Nate Hebert, with help from John Patenaude, made tough shots to keep the score close the rest of the first half.

Nate Hebert then helped lead Gray-New Gloucester seize control in the third quarter by hitting a pair of 3s and scoring nine points.

Aidan Hebert and his twin brother, Noah, are known for setting the tone for the Patriots, but Aidan Hebert said Nate’s drive to win shouldn’t be overlooked.


“I would want to say we all want it the same, but this kid, he lives for this,” Aidan Hebert said of Nate, his uncle. “He is awesome. I mean, when he wants something, he gets it, you know?”

Noah Hebert hit a trey and scored five points in the third and Libby made a corner 3 as Gray-NG outscored Hampden 21-10 in the period and took a 43-34 lead into the fourth.

Aidan Hebert returned after halftime. He had a quarter-and-a-half’s worth of unused energy, and he played like it. He pulled down seven rebounds in the second half, had a couple steals and scored five points.

It also isn’t much of a coincidence that Mr. Maine Basketball finalist Zach McLaughlin and J.J. Wolfington, who together scored 18 points in the first half, were held to a combined four in the second half.


The return of the Heberts for their senior season was a reason for the Patriots to have legitimate state championship aspirations. Carter Libby, the Class B cross country champion in 2022 and runner-up in 2023, was back and gave Gray-NG another starter with athleticism, length and skill, and a fourth senior leader.


The fifth spot in the starting lineup went to a newcomer — to the school, the team and the already tight-knit group: Patenaude, who transferred from Poland.

Patenaude was a proven scorer, but McCarthy and some of the players wondered if there were going to be enough shots to go around.

Patenaude and the other starters quickly adapted — he and Nate Hebert particularly work well together — and he made them even more tough to beat.

“Johnny was a great addition,” Nate Hebert said. “I mean, without Johnny, we don’t do any of this. Without the twins, we don’t do any of this. If you take one person away, we don’t do any of this.”

Nate Hebert dropped a game-high 21 points in the Class A final. Patenaude and Libby finished with nine apiece, Noah Hebert had eight and Aidan Hebert five.

The starting five accounted for all 51 of Gray-NG’s points. But one of the first things Nate Hebert said afterwards was that the victory and the state championship season were “a full team effort. You know, every single person. The managers, everybody. This was a team effort.”


That includes the Patriots’ bench, which contained a mix of veterans and underclassmen.

Junior Colby Mitchell hit some big 3-pointers, particularly in the postseason, and is another long, athletic defender. He was in and out of Saturday’s game, based on matchups, and made a key defensive play in the fourth quarter when he nearly stole the ball in the backcourt but managed to knock it off the Hampden player and out of bounds.

“Did exactly what we told him, go in, be aggressive and see if he can get a pick. And he got one,” McCarthy said.

Mitchell Heinrich is Gray-NG’s tallest player, and the senior played important minutes throughout the season. He replaced Aidan Hebert in the first quarter Saturday and grabbed a couple of rebounds when the Patriots were struggling on the boards.

Noah Schaeffer, another senior, was usually the third player off the bench and was a steady presence willing to do little things like set screens and play strong defense. Schaeffer said the Patriots role players take pride in their roles.

“In practice, you’re playing against our starters, the best players on the court,” Schaeffer said. “So you’re always going hard, you’re pushing them to do better, and I mean … we help them win.”


Schaeffer also credited Gray-NG’s coaching staff.

“They were planning our whole plan all week. They were watching a ton of film,” Schaeffer said. “They knew exactly what they (Hampden) were going to do, and we just executed it.”

McCarthy took over when Ryan Deschenes left to coach Gorham, which reached the Class AA title game. He and assistants Josh Walker, Wayne Martin and Joe Burnham — who coached the Winthrop girls to the 2020 Class C final and was McCarthy’s teammate at Winthrop in the 2000s — were wise enough to recognize the benefits of allowing this group of players to be themselves, while also coming up with specific game plans that highlighted strengths and hid weaknesses.

Gray-New Gloucester’s student section erupts in cheers after the final buzzer sounded at the Class A boys basketball championship game. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald


The Patriots are close on and off the court, and it’d be hard to find a team that enjoyed itself more this year.

“It’s a blast,” Schaeffer said.


It’d also be difficult to find a fan base that had as much fun as Gray-New Gloucester’s, especially in the postseason.

After the Patriots’ semifinal win over Freeport, a longtime Portland Expo employee told McCarthy that game was the loudest he had heard the building. The state championship game was at Cross Insurance Arena, a venue not known for fostering a great crowd atmosphere, but the Gray-NG fans made it loud Saturday.

The Patriots players, throughout the season, emphasized their connection and commitment to their family, friends, school and fans.

“It’s just awesome that we were able to stick together throughout the whole year, and bring something special to this community,” Libby said.

“We all take a lot of pride in doing it for our community,” Aidan Hebert said.

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