Girls basketball: Oxford Hills shoots out of the gate, tops Cheverus in AA North showdown

Jan. 21—PARIS — Tristen Derenburger's outside shooting helped build the lead, and Oxford Hills' timely playmaking kept Cheverus at a distance in Saturday's showdown of Class AA North girls basketball contenders.

Derenburger drained seven 3-pointers to pace the unbeaten Vikings to a 61-50 victory over the Stags.

"That was amazing," Oxford Hills guard Sierra Carson said of Derenburger's shooting. "I'd be like, 'This is automatic.' It was amazing."

Derenburger hit three of her treys during the opening quarter, keying a pair of 8-0 runs for the Vikings (11-0) as they jumped out to a 16-4 lead.

She drained three more 3s early in the third quarter and Ella Pelletier added another as Oxford Hills pushed its 29-19 halftime lead to 42-23.

Cheverus coach Bill Goodman said that the Stags were aware of Derenburger's shooting ability before Saturday's game.

"She's a great player," Goodman said. "The problem is they have five other players who are really good players. So, unless they let me have six players against their five, they're tough to stop. They are. They have a lot of good shooters and players that can drive. So they're really tough to handle."

The Vikings (11-0) maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half, but Cheverus (11-2) continued to battle, and in the fourth quarter got within eight points, 52-44, with less than four minutes remaining. Derenburger quickly responded with her seventh 3-pointer to put the Vikings up 11 points, and they maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

"They think that they're getting close," Carson said, "and she just hits that, and she's just like, 'Nope.'"

Derenburger said that her focus before that shot wasn't as much about the Stags closing the gap, but, rather, it was on giving the Vikings a spark.

"I try not to look at the scoreboard and everything. I knew what needed to be done, and I got it done," Derenburger said. "I just — if I have it open, I'm going to shoot it. ... I just knew we needed to get a little more of a kick under us."

Derenburger finished with 21 points to lead Oxford Hills. Her seven 3s matches a personal high that she has achieved a few times this season. Vikings coach Nate Pelletier said that it matches the most a player has made since he took over the program 18 years ago.

"That's the thing, it's not even today, she's hit seven 3s in a couple of games this year. She's shot well for us all year," Pelletier said. "It's no longer a fluke, she can shoot."

Ella Pelletier added 17 and Carson scored 15.

Maddie Fitzpatrick paced Cheverus with 21 points, and Ruth Boles finished with 10.

After Derenburger's shooting gave Oxford Hills a big lead in the opening quarter, Cheverus spent the remainder of the game battling back. The Stags scored the final five points of the first to cut the deficit to 16-9. The Vikings, spurred by a Molly Corbett 3-pointer, got it back to 11 points, 21-10, early in the second.

Cheverus resumed chipping away at the lead and had it down to 25-19 with about 30 seconds remaining in the second. But Carson scored a basket and then stole the ball near midcourt and drove for a layup in the waning seconds of the half to send the Vikings into the break with a 29-19 advantage.

Carson also had steal and a layup at the end of the third quarter.

"They're very talented, they shoot amazingly, they move the ball. I love our fight and our soul. I was really disappointed in how we took care of the ball," Goodman said. "We didn't do too well handling pressure."

Derenburger, Carson and Nate Pelletier each mentioned the importance of Oxford Hills' energy, which was particularly important against the taller Stags. The Vikings wanted to speed up the pace on offense, and work hard on defense, especially against Cheverus's top scorers, Fitzpatrick and Emma Lizotte, who helped the Stags win last year's Class AA state title.

Maddy Miller, Ella Pelletier and others teamed up to hold Lizotte to seven points.

"We need everybody to win. And we needed everybody tonight," Nate Pelletier said. "We had Maddy Miller foul out, but I thought she had an amazing game defending Lizotte, which is not easy — I couldn't defend her, it's not easy to do."

Fitzpatrick, a junior who has already committed to play at the University of Maine, had to work hard for her 21 points.

"We did everything we can. We fouled her a bunch, too," Nate Pelletier said. "She is so dynamic because she's 5-10, 5-11, so you put a smaller guard on her, she just goes right to the post and posts up and scores. You put somebody that's bigger than her, she goes by. She shoots the 3.

"She's going to UMaine for a reason. She's very good, and she's really worked on her game. I told her after, 'You're just super hard to defend.'"

Next up for the Vikings is perhaps an even tougher game. They play at fellow unbeaten Bangor (11-0) on Tuesday — and depending on Monday's weather, might do so without another practice. The Rams, the only other team to beat the Stags this season, are the top team in the AA North standings and ranked No. 1 in the Varsity Maine girls basketball poll (Oxford Hills is second and Cheverus is No. 4).

"I keep telling them — even before the game, after the game — this wasn't a state championship," Nate Pelletier said. "We've got a lot to do to be where we need to be come playoffs."