Action heats up as winter season nears midway point-Portland edition

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As we near the midway point of the winter sports season, local athletes in all sports continue to impress. Here’s a look at where things stand.

Boys’ basketball

The biggest news on the local boys’ basketball front came Friday night when Deering, which has struggled much of the season, held off visiting Thornton Academy in a thriller that came down to the final shot.

The Rams, who beat visiting Biddeford, 62-43, last Tuesday (behind 17 points apiece from senior Nick Colucci and junior Jon Amabile and nine from sophomore Labson Abwoch), led the Golden Trojans most of the way before falling behind by a point in the fourth quarter. A 7-0 run proved to be the difference and Deering withstood a last-second, desperation, errant 3-point attempt from Thornton Academy senior James Ek, the league’s leading scorer, and held on, 50-48, behind 22 points from Amabile.

“It’s a big win,” said Amabile. “We needed it. We didn’t panic. If we did, it would have been a different story, but we handled it well.”

“This will hopefully have the guys see what hard work and consistency can do, beat arguably the top team in the league right now,” Rams coach Dan LeGage added. “If we play good defense and stick with the plan, we can be in the conversation.”

Deering (which shot to fifth in the Heals by virtue of the victory), goes to Kennebunk Tuesday, then hosts South Portland Thursday. The Rams play at Massabesic Saturday.

“We just have to build on this passion,” LeGage said. “We can’t let down against Kennebunk. We have to come back with the same energy and effort. I’ll caution the guys that it’s a long season. It’s a great game, but it’s over with. We have to keep our energy and passion high no matter who we’re playing if we want to win and get to the Civic Center.”

Defending Class A champion Cheverus continues to roll. The Stags held off host Windham in a playoff rematch last Tuesday, 45-35 (senior Griffin Brady had 16 points and classmate Connor O’Neil added 13). Friday, Cheverus, which has the league’s top defense, improved to 6-0 after downing visiting Massabesic, 80-27 (junior Shawn Grover and sophomore Malcolm Smith both had 13 points, while sophomore Matt Cimino and junior Louie DiStasio, returning from injury, each added 10). The Stags (first in Western A) have a big test at Thornton Academy Tuesday (see theforecaster.net for game story). They go to Bonny Eagle Thursday and play host to Scarborough Saturday in another rematch from last year’s postseason.

Portland enjoyed a 49-24 win at Gorham last Tuesday (junior Mike Herrick led the way with 13 points), but Friday, the Bulldogs dug an 11-0 hole and couldn’t quite dig out against visiting Westbrook, 34-32. Portland had a chance to win or tie as time wound down, but couldn’t generate a good look and sophomore Nick Volger’s last-ditch prayer was way off as the Bulldogs fell to 2-4 on the season.

“We had more than our chances tonight,” said Portland coach Joe Russo. “We were always one play away. To be that close, it’s tough to lose. The kids worked hard, but I’m disappointed on how we finished the game. We have to play through our inexperience.”

The Bulldogs (11th in the region) were back in action Tuesday at home versus Windham. They go to Massabesic Thursday and Kennebunk Friday, then host South Portland next Tuesday.

“We’re slowly getting there,” Russo said. “They have to realize they can do it. We need to get some wins.”

In Western C, Waynflete lost, 56-39, to visiting Old Orchard Beach last Tuesday (despite 10 points each from senior Joe Veroneau and sophomore Jack Cutler). The Flyers improved to 4-3 Friday with a 73-33 romp at Gould. Veroneau had 17 points, Cutler 13, senior Alex Hadiaris added 12. Waynflete (10th in the Heals) was at Traip Tuesday, goes to Old Orchard Beach Thursday and welcomes Sacopee Saturday.

Girls’ basketball

The compelling three-way city battle for Western A girls’ basketball supremacy continued last week.

Deering finds itself atop the Heals after wins over host Biddeford (48-37) and Thornton Academy (53-46). Senior standout Kayla Burchill scored 18 points against the Tigers while junior Ella Ramonas and sophomore Marissa MacMillan added eight apiece. Burchill went off for 30 versus the Golden Trojans. The Rams (7-0) were home against Kennebunk Tuesday and host Massabesic Saturday.

McAuley is also unbeaten. The preseason favorite Lions improved to 6-0 last week after downing host Noble (78-40) and visiting defending Class A champion Scarborough (69-32).  University of Maine-bound senior Rebecca Knight led the way against the Knights with 20 points. Sophomore Sadie Dipierro added 17 and junior Alexa Coulombe, sophomore Hannah Cooke and freshman Allie Clement all had 10. In the win over the Red Storm, Coulombe stole the show, stuffing the stat sheet with 19 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocked shots and five steals. Clement added 19 points and Knight finished with 13. McAuley (second in the Heals) hosted Bonny Eagle Tuesday, goes to South Portland Thursday, welcomes Sanford Saturday and plays at Biddeford next Monday.

Cheverus is 6-1 and fourth in the Heals after eking out a 55-54 home decision over Windham and cruising past host Massabesic (60-41).  The Stags almost let a sure win slip away against the Eagles, who put forth a furious fourth quarter rally, but they held on behind 15 points from junior Morgan Cahill, 14 from senior Britni Mikulanecz and 11 from junior Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy.

“It’s great (to have Morgan),” Palazzi-Leahy said, of the post standout who played at Yarmouth her first two seasons. “Last year, I know we didn’t have as many bigs and it’s nice to know as a guard being able to get it in and get it back out and get the game going with a lot of bigs.”

“They hit some shots, we didn’t play very disciplined,” Cheverus coach Richie Ashley said. “The credit goes to (Windham), they played well, they made shots and they made plays. They had 23 (points) in the fourth with five 3s. We had some young kids in there that got a little excited and a little hyper and they get out of position.”

Against the Mustangs, Cahill led the way with 18 points. Sophomore Victoria Nappi finished with 14 points and sophomore Brooke Flaherty added 13.

The Stags played host to Thornton Academy Tuesday, welcome Bonny Eagle Thursday and visit Scarborough Saturday.

Portland fell to 1-5 last week after close losses to visiting Gorham (51-46) and host Westbrook (54-48). Senior Nicolette Kapothanasis and junior Rebecca Smith both had 14 points against the Rams. In the loss to the Blue Blazes, Kapothanasis led her team with 14. The Bulldogs (12th in Western A) went to Windham Tuesday, play host to Massabesic Thursday and Kennebunk Saturday, then go to South Portland Tuesday of next week.

In Western C, Waynflete had an up-and-down week. The Flyers dropped an agonizing 34-33 decision at Old Orchard Beach last Tuesday (senior Lydia Stegemann had 16 points and sophomore Martha Veroneau 11), then bounced back by downing visiting Calais, 56-48 Saturday afternoon (behind 25 points from Veroneau and 21 from Stegemann) to improve to 5-2.  Waynflete (sixth in the Heals) went to Traip Tuesday, have a home rematch with Old Orchard Beach Thursday, host Sacopee Saturday, then welcome Greater Portland Christian School next Tuesday.

Boys’ hockey

Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team continues to be the big surprise. After four straight playoff-less campaigns, the Stags have returned the prominence and are in the thick of the postseason hunt. Cheverus tops the Western A Heal Points at 5-0 after wins last week over visiting Noble (3-2) and Fryeburg/Lake Region (5-1). Against the Knights, Junior Harry Ridge scored twice. Sophomore Cameron McLain had two goals against Fryeburg/Lake Region. The Stags go to Noble Wednesday, host defending Western B champion York Saturday and go to Portland Monday.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, they dropped to 3-3 after losses last week to Scarborough (5-2) and defending Class A champion Biddeford (11-1). Eddie Apon and Colin Merrill scored against the Red Storm.

“This team’s so young, 10 freshmen,” said Portland coach Andy Gildart, after the Scarborough loss. “Our numbers are good and they’ve played hockey for 10 years and they can skate, pass and shot. Now, it’s just position play.”

The Bulldogs (eighth in the Heals) host Yarmouth Thursday, go to Bangor Saturday and welcome Cheverus Monday.

Deering didn’t play last week. The Rams (1-3 and 12th in the region) are idle until Thursday when they host Marshwood. Saturday, they visit Maranacook.

Girls’ hockey

The defending state champion Cheverus girls’ hockey team had a lost weekend. Friday, the Stags lost to unheralded Yarmouth, 3-2. Saturday, they fell to talented Scarborough, 3-0. Cheverus, now 7-4, after three losses in its last four contests, is at Greely Wednesday. The Stags (still first in the West Region) go to Lewiston Monday.

Portland has dropped four of five after Saturday’s 3-1 home loss to Falmouth. The Bulldogs previously fell, 6-1, to visiting York. Junior Raechel Allen had the goal in both losses. Portland (fifth in Western A) were at Brunswick Monday, host Biddeford Wednesday, visit Edward Little Saturday and host Scarborough next Monday.

Waynflete’s co-op team with Cape Elizabeth suffered its third successive loss Thursday, 6-1, to visiting Scarborough, to fall to 2-7 (seventh in the standings). The team returns to action Thursday when it hosts York. After welcoming Falmouth Saturday, it goes to York Monday.

Swimming

City swim teams continue to impress.

Waynflete’s first-year squad saw its girls beat both Bonny Eagle (124-101) and NYA (124-47) last week to stay undefeated. The Flyers don’t return to action until Jan. 22 when they face Kennebunk.

Portland split a home meet with Yarmouth Friday. The boys were 109-55 victors. The girls fell just short, 81-80. The Bulldogs host Windham Friday.

McAuley joined Scarborough at Cheverus. The Lions lost to the Red Storm, 57-37, and to the Stags, 52-42.

Cheverus lost to Scarborough in the girls’ competition, 50-44. The Stags also fell short against the Red Storm boys, 89-78. Cheverus goes to Cape Elizabeth Friday.

Deering was at South Portland Friday. The boys were defeated, 103-61. The girls lost, 92-82. The Rams (along with McAuley) visit Westbrook Friday.

Skiing

The lone reported ski action last week came Friday when Cheverus and Portland took part in an Alpine giant slalom meet at Shawnee Peak.

In the boys’ competition, the Bulldogs came in fourth place with 94 points. Stags were sixth with 125. Windham (25) edged Scarborough (26) for first place. Portland was paced by Carter Williams (who was 10th individually with a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 18.82 seconds). Cheverus’ top finisher was Spencer Reynolds (13th, 1:19.89).

On the girls’ side, Cheverus (61 points) came in third. Kennebunk (27) was first.  Katie Drake was the top Stag (sixth, 1:21.25).

Wrestling

Portland’s best wrestling season in ages continued last week when the Bulldogs defeated Kennebunk in a tri-meet, 48-36, before losing to Westbrook, 36-28. They also took part at the Redskin Invitational Tournament in Sanford Sanford and placed 17th with 13 points. Portland returns to action Wednesday at Marshwood, where it will also wrestle Windham.

Deering returns to action at home Wednesday versus Massabesic.

Cheverus hosts Sanford and Westbrook Wednesday.

In the latest SMAA weight class standings, Cheverus’ Iain Whitis is first at 112-pounds. Portland’s Evan Michalski is fourth at 135-pounds. Deering’s Cody Dow leads the 145-pound class. Teammate Henry Richards is first at 160-pounds. Deering’s Anthony Wiley is first at 171-pounds. Deering’s Connor Darling is fourth at 189-pounds.

Freelance writer Jeff Christenbury contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements


Deering sophomores Labson Abwoch (left) and Thiwat Thiwat blanket a Thornton Academy player Friday night. The Rams’ defense was stellar throughout as Deering earned a much-needed 50-48 victory.

Portland left wing Zach Luce has his scoring bid blocked by the pad of Scarborough senior goalie Doug Pitts during Thursday’s battle. The Bulldogs suffered a 5-2 loss.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001.
Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net.
I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.