February title push arrives for Southern teams
The frenetic and fun month of February is upon us and all winter sports are about to take centerstage. Swimming has already begun its postseason, while track, skiing and wrestling start up this week and the basketball tournament begins a week from Friday.
Here's where local teams stand as the calendar turns:
Just one game remains for Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland's boys' basketball teams to either secure a playoff spot or jockey for positioning.
In Western A, look out for the Red Storm, who are closing strong. Scarborough has now won four in a row and six of seven after sandwiching road upset victories at Portland (58-45) and defending state champion Thornton Academy (66-63, in double-overtime) around a 66-41 home romp over Noble.
In their first-ever win over the Bulldogs, senior Conor Sullivan erupted for 29 points, half his team's total.
"It was a lot of fun to go there and beat them on that floor," said Red Storm coach Joe Johnson.
Against the Knights, an 18-5 burst in the second quarter opened things up and gave Scarborough a 32-15 lead at the break and they cruised from there behind 13 points from junior Zach Bean and 12 from junior Peter Moore. Twelve different Red Storm players scored in the victory.
"They hung around in the first quarter, then we opened it up," said Johnson. "We're pretty athletic. The guys are turning themselves into basketball players this year. It's a mentality. We're starting to think we can win. We're trying to turn this soccer town into a basketball town. I'm pretty happy where we're headed."
Tuesday night, at Saco, Scarborough and Thornton Academy engaged in an instant classic where the Red Storm rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to force OT. After Scarborough's 7-0 run gave it a lead, the Golden Trojans hit a late basket to force a second overtime, but there, a clutch 3 from senior Brendan Sullivan put the Red Storm ahead to stay. Conor Sullivan wound up with 28 points and Brendan Sullivan added 13.
That victory gave Scarborough a 10-7 mark and tied it with Deering for the seventh spot in the Western A Heal Points standings. The Red Storm finish at home versus Kennebunk Friday and then, if the final standings fall right, will take part in a quarterfinal for the first time since 2003.
"We're in a position where we can be a tough matchup come playoff time," Johnson said.
South Portland has locked up a tournament berth, but is uncertain of where it will be seeded. The Red Riots enjoyed a 62-50 home win over Deering last Thursday behind 15 points and seven rebounds from senior Jon DiBiase, 12 points and 10 boards from senior Connor Hasson and 11 points from senior Greg Reinhold.
“(DiBiase) was terrific tonight,” said South Portland coach Phil Conley. “Like all good point guards do, he ran the show and was able to get us set up in our offense. It was nice to see.”
“This win was all about the team,” added senior Spencer Bowring. “All the big guys got on the boards and we locked them down on defense. Against all the city teams we know there going to make a run at some point. They were about to lose two games to us and that’s not a good feeling. We had to continue to match their intensity and I think we all did a good job with that tonight.”
Saturday, the Red Riots went to Westbrook for a highly anticipated showdown. Just a day after news broke that Cheverus senior standout Indiana Faithfull had been declared ineligible for the remainder of the season, suddenly South Portland and the Blue Blazes' title chances seemed a lot brighter. This night would belong to Westbrook, however. After the teams shot the lights out in the first period which saw senior Matt Lee score all 14 points for the Red Riots, only to have them trail by two, Blue Blazes junior Sean Murphy (25 points) went off with three second period 3s as Westbrook outscored South Portland 29-9 to seize control. Westbrook went on to a 66-46 win. Lee finished with a team-high 25.
"It was a tough second period, they hit their shots," Conley said. "They shot extremely well. We didn't capitalize on the other end. We'll continue to work hard and learn from this game."
Tuesday night, the Red Riots let one slip away at Portland. Leading 48-43 late, South Portland watched in horror as the Bulldogs scored the game's final six points to win 49-48. DiBiase had 17 and Lee 15 in defeat, which dropped the Red Riots to 13-4 on the season. South Portland (which finishes at home Friday night with a huge game versus Cheverus) was third in the latest Heals and will likely wind up there for a second straight year. It's possible the Red Riots and Bulldogs will square off again in the quarterfinals.
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth, the two-time defending regional champ, is battling Mountain Valley for the No. 2 spot behind Falmouth. The Capers take a 16-1 mark into Friday's finale at Falmouth, a team which beat them at home on Jan. 5, 62-55. Cape Elizabeth extended its win streak to nine with recent home wins over York, 73-62 (behind senior Andrew Dickey's 19 points) and Yarmouth, 52-51 (as junior Theo Bowe had 14 points and senior Conor Moloney added 11).
On the girls' side, Scarborough got its first stern test in weeks Tuesday night and passed to stay unbeaten on the season. The Red Storm were coming off a 56-43 home win over Portland (senior Christy Manning had 18 points, senior Jenn Colpitts added 13 and senior Brittany Ross finished with 12), but got a battle from Thornton Academy. Scarborough was down by seven at the half and by two entering the fourth, but eked out a 51-49 win on a late three-pointer from Manning (12 points). Colpitts and senior Heather Carrier each had 14 points as the Red Storm improved to 16-0 (first in the Western A Heals). Scarborough was at Noble Wednesday and closes at Kennebunk Friday. Scarborough is seeking its first No. 1 seed and first-ever undefeated campaign.
South Portland has won three straight, with the latest coming Friday (48-34 over visiting Westbrook) and Monday (46-38 over visiting Portland). Against the Blue Blazes, junior Danielle DiBiase had 15 points and classmate Abby Hasson added 14. The Red Riots trailed 23-20 at halftime to the Bulldogs, but closed the third period on an 11-1 run to take control and go on to victory. DiBiase had 11 points and Hasson, senior Tayla Genesio and sophomore Libby Grant each added eight.
"This win gets us in," said South Portland coach Mike Giordano. "We played well in the second half."
The Red Riots (10-7 and tied for eighth with Sanford in the Heals) closes at Cheverus Friday. A win there allows South Portland to host Sanford in a prelim game next week. A loss likely sends the Red Riots to Sanford, a team they beat 48-42 at home back on Dec. 15.
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth has a chance to secure its first winning season since 1996 when it goes to Falmouth Friday. The Capers lost 56-38 at home to undefeated, defending regional champion York Friday (senior Morgan Pillsbury had 13 points in defeat), but improved to 9-8 Tuesday after a 42-32 home win over Yarmouth. Pillsbury led the way with 14 points and classmate Gabe Donahue added 10. Cape Elizabeth was seventh in the latest Heals, but could wind up anywhere from seventh to ninth. The Capers are in the tournament regardless and might have to face Falmouth in a prelim next week. If not, Cape Elizabeth will advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since that 1996 season.
While Cape Elizabeth's boys' hockey team suffered another painful overtime loss to rival Greely (please see story), South Portland continues to dazzle. The Red Riots stayed undefeated in the 2010 portion of their schedule and stretched their win streak to nine games with wins last week over Kennebunk (3-1) and Gorham (4-3). South Portland is fourth in the Western A Heals. After playing at Sanford Wednesday, the Red Riots play host to Gray-New Gloucester/Poland Saturday.
Scarborough has dropped four of five after a pair of tough losses in recent days. Friday night, the Red Storm fell 3-2 at St. Dom's and Monday lost 3-2 (in overtime) at home to Thornton Academy. Scarborough (fifth in Western A) played host to Portland Wednesday and welcomes defending state champion Waterville Saturday.
The Scarborough girls' team is preparing for the playoffs. The Red Storm ended the year at 12-6 after wins over Portland (9-3), Deering (10-0), Gorham (5-0) and Cape Elizabeth (10-3) gave them the No. 2 spot in the West Region. Saturday at 8 p.m., Scarborough will host No. 3 Falmouth (9-5-4) in the semifinals. Back on Dec. 2, the Yachtsmen beat the host Red Storm 5-1.
The regional final is Wednesday at Portland Ice Arena. The state championship game is Saturday, Feb. 13 at the Colisee in Lewiston.
Cape Elizabeth fell short of the playoffs this year with a 4-11-3 mark, which gave them the sixth spot in the West (only five teams qualified for the postseason). The Capers ended their season with losses to Cheverus (6-0) and Scarborough (10-3) and a 3-3 tie versus Portland.
The indoor track regular season has come to a close.
Last weekend, Cape Elizabeth's girls were third and its boys sixth in a meet against Gray-New Gloucester, Greely, Poland, Traip, Yarmouth and York. The Capers will join their Western Maine Conference brethren at the league's championship meet Friday in Gorham. The Class B state meet is Monday, Feb. 15 at Bates College in Lewiston
Scarborough defeated Gorham, Westbrook and Windham's boys and girls in its finale. South Portland competed against Cheverus, Deering, McAuley and Portland. The boys came in second and the girls placed third. Saturday, both schools compete in the SMAA championship meet at the Portland Expo. The boys begin at 8 a.m. The girls' competition starts at 3:30 p.m.
Cape Elizabeth took part in the Western Maine Conference Alpine championships Monday at Shawnee Peak. The boys placed sixth in the slalom and giant slalom and came in fifth as a team. Jack Barber came in ninth in the giant slalom and 10th in the slalom. On the girls' side, the Capers were eighth in the slalom and seventh in the giant slalom to come in eighth overall.
Cape Elizabeth's Nordic team competed in the annual Sassi Memorial at Black Mountain last weekend. The girls were eighth (thanks to a first-place individual finish from Emily Attwood, who completed the 5-kilometer course in 15 minutes, 28.2 seconds) and the boys came in 16th.
Scarborough will take part in the Western A wrestling regionals Saturday at Deering High School. The Class A state championships are the following Saturday.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com