Michael's top five stories
5) Rams almost spring the upset
Much was made of Thornton Academy winning its first boys' state championship Feb. 28, but the Golden Trojans almost didn't make it out of the quarterfinal round of the regional tournament.
Thornton Academy ran into a determined Deering squad which had won the regular season matchup in overtime. In the quarterfinals, the teams were nip-tuck for a half before a 13-0 run put the Golden Trojans up 14 in the third. Three 3-pointers from senior Khadar Abbas rallied the Rams and when sophomore John Hardy made a layup with 25 seconds left, Deering led 48-47 and was primed to shock the world. Thornton Academy would survive, however, as senior standout James Morse hit two free throws, then, after Abbas' game-winning bid was blocked, raced in for a layup as time expired.
4) Bulldogs rediscover their bark
Portland's boys' team looked like anything but championship material when the tournament started. The Bulldogs dropped their final two regular season games (both at home) and fell to the No. 6 spot with a 12-6 record. Portland had to beat Bonny Eagle in a prelim just to advance and did so easily. The Bulldogs then rode a fourth quarter surge to knock off No. 3 South Portland by 23 and were in command most of the way in a semifinal round win over Westbrook, thanks to the resurgent play of junior Wally Stover and steady contributions from senior Ed Bogdanovich, junior Koang Thok and sophomore James Ek. Portland had its chances in the regional final against Thornton Academy, but missed too many good shots and free throws and saw its season end at 15-7 with a 49-43 setback.
3) Waynflete makes history
The Waynflete girls had never played in a Western C Final prior to this year. The Flyers weren't expected to excel after graduating standout Margaret Veroneau, but returning stars Mariam Qazi and Morgan Woodhouse were joined by Annie Cutler, who had spent the prior winter in Spain. Along with contributions from seniors Nina Russem and Zoe Sobel, the Flyers produced a stellar 15-3 regular season, which included victories over several Western B contenders.
A stirring late-season home win over three-time defending Western B champion Lake Region earned Waynflete the top seed. The Flyers avenged a regular season loss to St. Dom's in the quarterfinals and held off Mt. Abram in the semis, setting up a regional final showdown with No. 2 Jay.
Waynflete took an early lead before the Tigers rallied and the second half was close throughout. The Tigers ultimately went ahead 40-38, but the Flyers had one final chance when Woodhouse intercepted a pass at midcourt. Her prayer was almost answered, but fell just short and Waynflete's season ended at 17-4.
2) Cheverus dominates, until it matters most
From the onset of the season, the Cheverus boys' team was the talk of the Southern Maine Activities Association. The Stags, behind a dominant defense, brilliant point guard play from junior Indiana Faithfull, sizzling shooting from senior Mick DiStasio and solid contributions from everyone on the roster, crushed all comers, starting with an 86-28 trouncing of Noble. Cheverus cruised through the holiday tournament and won it for the second year in a row. The Stags then handled the meat of their schedule with aplomb, downing Deering, Portland and South Portland twice each and Thornton Academy and Westbrook once. Cheverus wound up 18-0 and earned the top seed for the tournament.
Once the postseason began, however, the Stags were a different team. They survived an upset bid from Biddeford in the quarterfinals, but couldn't answer the bell against Thornton Academy in the semifinals. DiStasio wound up fouling out and it was the Golden Trojans, not Cheverus making the plays down the stretch. The Stags bowed out 47-41, but this was a special team. There's much more to life than championships. This Cheverus squad doesn't have the hardware, but it turned heads for months.
1) Deering does it again
After winning the 2008 Class A title, the Deering girls returned virtually everyone this winter and was viewed as a favorite to repeat. The Rams would do so, but it didn't come as easily as people thought. Deering had to adjust to a new coach, Mike Murphy, who replaced Mike D'Andrea on the eve of the season. The Rams got everyone's 'A' game, but had little trouble in the regular year, going 18-0 and never winning by less than 10 points.
Deering got a stern test from McAuley in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, but survived thanks to its defense and a solid outing from sophomore Kayla Burchill. Noble in the semifinals and Biddeford in the regional final proved to be little competition. The state game started slowly as the Rams shot 1-for-16 in the first period, but the champs came to life in the second half and behind stellar performances from senior Diana Manduca, junior Claire Ramonas and Burchill pulled away for a 49-34 win which capped a perfect season and cemented Deering as an elite power in state. The Rams will now seek to make it three in a row.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org