The 2015-16 basketball regular season was full of excitement and the upcoming tournament figures to be memorable.
There are new classifications and locations this winter, but high drama will remain the constant.
The Class AA girls’ tournament, north and south, features several teams capable of emerging as champion. That list has to include a South Portland squad coming off a stellar season.
The Red Riots capped a 15-3 campaign with a 53-38 win at Westbrook last Thursday. Senior standout Maddie Hasson had 18 points, while Meghan Graff added 12 and Lydia Henderson had 10. South Portland closed by winning 14 of 15 games, but still wound up third in Class AA South and had to face No. 6 Scarborough in a quarterfinal round game Wednesday night at the Portland Exposition Building (see theforecaster.net for game story).
“I feel like we’ve constantly improved all season and we’re reaching our potential,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “We’re confident and we know what we have to do. I think we’re ready.”
The Red Storm wound up 7-11 after closing with a 44-34 loss at Bonny Eagle (Brooke Malone had 16 points in defeat). Scarborough’s record is misleading, as it lost twice in overtime and dropped two other games by one point this winter.
“Inconsistent is probably the word to describe our season,” said Red Storm coach Mike Giordano. “Had we played more 32-minute games, our record would have been better. We were in almost every game. We’re young and hopefully we’ve learned.”
The Red Riots won the regular season meeting, 42-25, at home Dec. 30. Scarborough won the three previous playoff encounters, with a 45-32 triumph in the 2013 quarterfinals the most recent.
“South Portland is good enough to win it,” said Giordano, who coached the Red Riots from 1997-2013. “We’ll have to play a very good game for 32 minutes to beat them. They like to play fast. We’ll have to slow it down. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Scarborough-South Portland winner will face perennial powerhouse McAuley (16-2), the No. 2 seed, Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena (formerly known as the Cumberland County Civic Center) in the semifinals.
The Red Riots split with the Lions this year, losing the opener Dec. 4 at McAuley (46-37), then winning at home Jan. 12 (57-45). South Portland won three of the five prior playoff meetings, but McAuley took the last two, including a 39-34 semifinal round triumph a year ago.
The Red Storm lost twice to McAuley this year (63-44 at home three days before Christmas and 43-38 in Portland Jan. 26). The Lions took both prior playoff meetings: 61-43 in the 2012 regional final and 47-38 in the 2013 semifinals.
The Class AA South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at CIA.
In Class A South, Cape Elizabeth earned the ninth and final playoff spot despite closing with a 40-27 home loss to Fryeburg Academy to wind up 7-11. Carter Harvey had a team-high nine points in defeat. The Capers had to wait until Yarmouth beat Wells to learn they made the cut.
“It’s all gravy from here,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. “It was tough trying to develop an identity early in the season before Montana (Braxton) came back. We made progress and she came back for a couple games, then she was gone, so it was hard to figure out roles. Even though we snuck in, we’re playing our best basketball at the end.”
The Capers went to No. 8 Westbrook (9-9) for a preliminary round tilt Wednesday. In the regular season contest, the host Blue Blazes prevailed, 48-36. The teams have no playoff history.
“Westbrook is a tough matchup for us,” Casterella said. “They’re big and physical and aggressive. A lot has changed since we played them in the regular season. We have a plan. Hopefully our shots will fall.”
If Cape Elizabeth advanced, it will meet top-ranked York (18-0) in the quarterfinals Monday at 8:30 p.m. at the Expo. The Capers lost, 76-51, at the Wildcats Jan. 12. York has won four of five previous playoff games, with a 47-39 victory in the 2013 quarterfinals the most recent.
“I’d love for us to do the same thing as last year (Cape Elizabeth was the number nine seed in Western B and made a stunning run to the regional final), but comparing the teams isn’t fair,” Casterella said. “We don’t have Montana, Ashley (Tinsman) or Hannah (Sawyer). Last year’s role players are major impact players this year.”
The Class A South semifinals are Wednesday of next week at CIA. The regional final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at the same location.
In Class D, Greater Portland Christian School earned the eighth and final playoff spot after finishing 6-12 with a 47-28 loss at Highview Christian. Clarissa Jones had 19 points and set a new girls’ school record with 929 points for her career (eclipsing Jen Allen, Class of 1986, by a single point).
The Lions face top-ranked Rangeley (17-1) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. GPCS lost both games with the Lakers this year, 62-22 at home and 72-29 in Rangeley.
The Class D South semifinals are Thursday of next week and the regional final is Saturday, Feb. 20. Both rounds are in Augusta.
Cape Elizabeth’s boys won the Class B state championship last winter on a buzzer-beating layup from Ethan Murphy. Due to reclassification, the Capers are in Class A South this season, but they hope to go all the way again.
Last Thursday, Cape Elizabeth won, 61-47, at Fryeburg Academy to cap a 14-4 campaign. Marcus Donnelly and Justin Guerette had 12 points each and Finn Bowe added 10.
“We won the ones we were supposed to this year, but not many were easy,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray.
The Capers earned the No. 3 seed behind Greely and Falmouth in Class A South and will face No. 6 York (9-9) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Expo. The Capers won, 68-51, at York Jan. 12. Cape Elizabeth has won six of nine playoff meetings dating back to 1968 with a 58-35 Wildcats’ triumph in the 2013 quarterfinals the most recent encounter.
“York’s tough,” Ray said. “They always play hard and physical. We’ll see if we can match their toughness. In the first game, we had a couple runs early, but they didn’t quit. We had another run and ended up winning. We expect a tough game.”
If the Capers advance, they’ll likely meet No. 2 Falmouth (14-4) in the semifinals Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Arena. The Yachtsmen won both games this year, 69-66 at home and 44-42 at Cape Elizabeth. Falmouth won three of the previous five playoff meetings, with a 53-40 triumph in the 2010 Western B Final the most recent.
“There won’t be any easy games in this region,” Ray said. “It’s easier to play as an underdog. It will come down to bounces here and there. We want to play well. It’ll be fun.”
In Class AA South, Scarborough and South Portland both took part in quarterfinals Thursday evening at the Expo (see theforecaster.net for game stories).
The Red Riots wound up fourth at 9-9 after closing with a 49-47 loss at Deering on a buzzer-beater. Ruay Bol had 16 points and Jack Fiorini 12 in defeat. South Portland met No. 5 Sanford (6-12) in the quarterfinals. The Red Riots won at the Spartans, 63-53, back on Dec. 30. South Portland won all seven previous playoff meetings (dating to 1975), with a 60-47 triumph in the 2013 quarterfinals the most recent.
“We’re in a much better place than people think we are,” said Red Riots first-year coach Kevin Millington. “We think we have as good a chance as anyone to come out of the South.”
Should South Portland advance, it will battle top-ranked Thornton Academy (16-2) in the semifinals Tuesday of next week at 8:30 p.m. at CIA. The Golden Trojans won, 52-42, at South Portland Jan. 20. The teams have played five previous times in the tournament dating to 1970, with the Red Riots winning three. Thornton Academy won the most recent game, 58-47, in the 2008 Western A semifinals.
Scarborough finished 6-12 and sixth in Class A South after holding off visiting Bonny Eagle, 49-46, in the finale (Emmett Peoples led the way with 23 points). The Red Storm faced No. 3 Massabesic (14-4) in the quarterfinals. In the regular season contest, the Mustangs rolled at home, 81-39, Jan. 29. Massabesic won the only prior playoff meeting, 70-42, in the 2002 Western A Southwest Division preliminary round.
If Scarborough springs the upset, it will play No. 2 Gorham (14-4) in the quarterfinals Tuesday of next week at 7 p.m. at CIA. The Rams won both regular season meetings, 60-48 at home Jan. 14 and 61-42 at Scarborough Jan. 26. Gorham won three of four prior playoff games, but the Red Storm took the most recent one, 65-46, in the 2013 Western A preliminary round.
The Class AA South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at CIA.
In Class D South, GPCS wound up 6-12 after a 59-36 win at Highview Christian. The Lions finished 11th, but only nine teams qualified for the playoffs.
Senior Maddie Hasson has done a little of everything for South Portland’s girls’ basketball team this winter and will look to lead the Red Riots to their first state title in 30 years.
Finn Bowe and his Cape Elizabeth teammates are hoping for another title run.