Every basketball season is special, but you could make the argument that the 2012-13 campaign raised the bar to a triumphant new height.
All five local schools produced highlights and then some.
Two cut down the nets.
Here’s one man’s opinion on the best stories in our coverage area this season.
It was almost all nine, but the Cheverus boys, despite a last-night-of-the-season upset of eventual Western A champion South Portland, and the Portland girls, despite holding the final playoff spot heading into the final week, just missed. Of the seven who took part, several made headlines.
Exhibit A was the Waynflete boys’ team, which posted its best record ever and made it to the Western C Final for the first time. After falling in the semifinals two years running, the Flyers appeared doomed for another defeat in that round against defending state champion Dirigo, but Waynflete rallied behind a strong team effort and advanced in dramatic fashion. The run finally ended in the regional final, the program’s first in three decades, versus Boothbay, but this group of Flyers will long be remembered.
Coming into this season, Cheverus’ girls were best known for their agonizing recent playoff exits. This year’s group, led by a special and determined senior core, shattered that mold and made a spirited tournament run. After peaking late in the regular season with a first-ever victory over city rival Deering, the Stags were seeded third for the regional tournament. After holding off No. 6 Sanford in the quarterfinals, Cheverus met the Rams again in its first game on the Cumberland County Civic Center floor. The Stags struggled early, but took the lead in the second half and held on to reach the regional final for the first time. There, Cheverus trailed defending champion McAuley, 18-4, late in the first half, but refused to go down without a fight, twice rallying within four points late. The Stags ultimately fell just short, but forever changed their image.
McAuley finished where it was expected all along, at the top of the Class A heap for a third year in succession. The Lions were rarely pushed in an emphatic 18-0 regular season, but got tested by Gorham, Scarborough and Cheverus in the regional tournament. In the Class A state final, versus Bangor, McAuley actually found itself behind for the first time in nine postseason games, but the Lions weren’t fazed and gradually seized control. Behind the dominant inside play of junior Olivia Smith and sophomore Victoria Lux, the all-around brilliance of star junior Allie Clement and key contributions from several others, the Lions became the first Class A squad since Cindy Blodgett-led Lawrence nearly two decades ago to “three-peat.” McAuley will go all out to win a fourth straight next winter.
The Waynflete girls came into the season hopeful they would finally get over the hump and make it to the Class C Final. The Flyers soared even higher than that. Waynflete stumbled just three times in the regular season, all against Western B playoff teams. The Flyers were ranked fourth entering the regional tournament and completely decimated their four foes, including top-ranked Boothbay and No. 2 Madison. Senior standout Martha Veroneau, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer during the season, won regional MVP honors for a second straight season as Waynflete advanced to meet Calais in its first-ever Class C state game. The Flyers played poorly for much of the first half and trailed by 12 entering the half, but they came out a vastly different team in the second half and when Veroneau hit a 3 midway through the fourth quarter, they had the lead. Veroneau would score 19 fourth quarter points, including her team’s final 16, as Waynflete held on to capture the Gold Ball in scintillating fashion, 59-55. If that wasn’t enough, Veroneau was named Miss Maine Basketball six days later. It’s fair to say that Veroneau and 2012-13 Flyers will be program standard bearers for many years to come.
For the third winter in a row, the McAuley Lions celebrated a Class A state championship.
Senior Rhiannan Jackson played a key role in helping Waynflete’s girls win Class C for the first time.
Senior Brooke Flaherty and the Cheverus girls made the deepest run in program history.
Portland junior Matt Talbot was one of the finest boys’ basketball players in the city of Portland (and the state) this winter.