Basketball season brought thrills and triumph-Portland edition

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The Portland Bulldogs, along with their classmates, celebrated winning a second consecutive Class AA state championship March 4.

Deering senior Tasia Titherington led the Rams to the Class AA North Final.

Maine Girls’ Academy senior Maddy Beaulieu made her presence felt all winter for a Lions team which got to the Class AA South semifinals.

Senior Yai Deng helped the Waynflete boys produce another strong season in 2016-17.

The 2016-17 basketball season now belongs to the history books, but it’s certainly worth revisiting.

From the second weekend in December right through the first weekend in March, local players and teams provided entertainment and thrills.

Portland’s boys came into the season expected to contend for a second straight Class AA championship and the Bulldogs didn’t disappoint, losing just twice in the regular season, then going on to capture a Gold Ball for the third time in four years.

Along the way, Portland got tested by the likes of Cheverus and Deering, teams that made it to Augusta as well. The Stags gave Oxford Hills a fight to the finish in the quarterfinals, but lost a tough overtime decision. The Rams were upset by Windham in their quarterfinal.

In Class C South, Waynflete, the defending regional champion, took the No. 7 seed into the tournament, but again made a run, getting to the semifinals before being ousted.

On the girls’ side, Deering had a challenging regular season, but the Rams saved their best for last and wound up advancing to the Class AA North Final, where they had an opportunity to knock off Oxford Hills, only to wind up falling just short in overtime.

Cheverus had a frustrating loss in Augusta as well, losing a close game to Bangor in the quarterfinals despite a valiant second half rally.

In Class AA South, Maine Girls’ Academy, formerly McAuley, didn’t have its usual powerhouse team, but the Lions consistently improved and managed to make it to the semifinals for the eighth year in a row before losing to eventual repeat state champion Gorham.

In Class C South, Waynflete punched its ticket to Augusta for the first time in four years and in the quarterfinals, gave eventual regional champion Monmouth Academy a scare, but fell just a few points short.

Here’s one last look at the best memories from this basketball season:

Michael’s Top Five Stories

5) MGA overcomes challenges

Graduation, the transfer of a top player and injuries made a for a difficult season for the Maine Girls’ Academy Lions, but they overcame and played hard throughout. The Lions were solid on defense all season and while offense was often a struggle, they managed to win enough games, with a stunning come-from-behind victory over Deering the most impressive, to qualify for the Class AA South tournament as the No. 4 seed. MGA then downed Sanford in the quarterfinals and stymied Gorham much of the way before losing in the semifinals. Coach Billy Goodman got the most out of his charges and the Lions extended their streak of getting to the semifinals to eight years. MGA figures to return to its accustomed top contender perch next winter.

4) Casale carries Cheverus

Cheverus’ boys’ team might have featured the state’s best senior player this winter. Jack Casale, fresh off a starring role at quarterback on the football team, was a dynamic scorer, leading the league in points per game, and also excelled on the glass and defensively. Casale led the Stags to a winning record and to the quarterfinals in Augusta, where Cheverus, despite playing without standout Jesse Matthews, took Oxford Hills to overtime before suffering a tough defeat. Following the season, Casale was named the Southwestern Maine Activities Association Player of the Year.

3) Waynflete boys win in Augusta again

Waynflete wasn’t able to repeat as Class C South champion this winter, but the Flyers didn’t go down without a fight. Waynflete had to win a preliminary round playoff game against Old Orchard Beach just to get to the big stage and once there, they sent No. 2 Richmond packing behind a flurry of 3-point shots and some clutch defensive plays and free throw shooting at the end. In the semifinals, the Flyers started strong against third-ranked Madison, but this time couldn’t hold on and a potential game-tying 3 in the final minute was barely off-target and Waynflete was eliminated.

2) Deering girls nearly win regional title

Deering’s girls entered the season as one of the favorites in Class AA North, but after senior post standout Amanda Brett went down with a leg injury, the Rams struggled to an 11-7 record. Deering did show signs of life late in the regular season, earning a key road win over Scarborough, and the Rams rode that momentum into the tournament. In the quarterfinals, Deering held off Lewiston, then, in the semis, the Rams got Brett back and beat Edward Little to get to their first regional final in six seasons. There, Deering fell behind top-ranked Oxford Hills early, roared back to lead and the game went to the final seconds deadlocked. There, the Rams had three great looks to win it, but couldn’t do so and the Vikings prevailed in overtime.

1) Portland’s golden again

Portland’s boys’ program is in the midst of arguably the greatest run in its long history. The Bulldogs have now won three titles in four seasons, an unparalleled run of success. Portland took some time to fully hit its stride this winter, but its skill, athleticism and nonpareil coaching proved to be too much for the opposition to handle and the Bulldogs only lost twice in 18 regular season games, at Edward Little and at home to South Portland. As the top seed in Class AA North, Portland had a bye into the semifinals, then eliminated Oxford Hills with ease. Edward Little gave the Bulldogs a test for a half in the regional final, but Portland pulled away in the second half for a dose of revenging. After avenging that earlier loss, Portland got to avenge its other setback when it played South Portland in a state game. A year after winning a double-overtime epic, the Bulldogs had a much easier time of it as the Red Riots made just 4 of 34 first half shots and behind 22 points from junior standout Terion Moss, rolled to a 60-38 victory. Portland figures to be the favorite again in 2017-18.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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