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Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

Winter Sports Previews

Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

Deering's winter athletic teams will make noise in the weeks to come. The boys' basketball team is viewed by many as not only a top contender, but perhaps the team to beat in Western Class A this winter. The girls have come oh-so-close to championships the past two years and once again will be making a run at glory. There's no hockey this winter as there weren't enough boys to field a team and the Maine Principals' Association shot down a request to have Deering players compete with Portland High, even though a girls' player (Lindsey Sneider) from the school is doing that very thing. Both track teams will be formidable, swimming features great talent and wrestling projects to produce an athlete or two who might bring home a state title.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Dan LeGage (10th year, 109-68)

2010-11 Record: 11-9 (Lost, 43-34, to Bonny Eagle in Western A semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Jon Amabile (Senior), Patrick Green (Senior), Labson Abwoch (Junior), Thiwat Thiwat (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 13 (H) MARSHWOOD, Dec. 22 (H) SANFORD, Dec. 30 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 6 @ SP, Jan. 13 @ Cheverus, Jan. 27 (H) PORTLAND, Jan. 31 (H) SP, Feb. 7 (H) CHEVERUS, Feb. 10 @ Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “It's a great bunch of kids who are working really hard. We have great chemistry. The kids are totally committed to basketball. We have the ability to put the ball in the basket. That makes it difficult for other teams. Defense is a priority. If we can play great defense and control the boards, we have the opportunity to be successful.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: After four straight frustrating tournament exits in their first game, the Rams finally made it to the Civic Center a year ago, upsetting Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals before giving Bonny Eagle a scare in the semifinals. While some key contributors graduated, Deering has a lot back and is rightly viewed as one of the league's and state's most dangerous teams. Amabile (Deering's Winter Athlete of the Year last year) was fourth in the SMAA in scoring (16.9 ppg) and was a first-team all-star in 2010-11. He also averaged 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and was tops in steals (3.2). He'll pace the offense, but will get help from Green outside and a pair of terrific talents down low, Abwoch and Thiwat. Abwoch (an All-Rookie team selection in 2010-11) averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds last year and could emerge as one of the league's top scorers this time around. Thiwat is a man-child who will be almost impossible for most defenses to contend with. That foursome gives the Rams as good an inside-outside attack as anybody. Several players who are either new to the team or will see increased playing time will also contribute. Senior Garang Ater swung up from the JV squad a year ago and will see the floor at the guard position. Sophomore Kyle Richards stands 6-foot-6 and should allow Deering to control the paint even if Abwoch and Thiwat are resting or in foul trouble. Senior Cal London will also see time in the frontcourt. Juniors Dominic Lauture and Kevin Masse and speedy sophomore Chhorda Chorn bring athleticism and promise. The Rams rolled in the opener, 62-41, at Thornton Academy, as Amabile had 22 points, Thiwat 17 and Abwoch 13. While this team might not have the star power of the school's lone championship team, in 2005-06, it should be the best equipped since then to make a title run. The offense should be consistent throughout. If the Rams work hard on the defensive end, rebound and stay hungry, there's no reason to think that they'll just make it to the Civic Center this winter, but that they could stay for three games, which would include the biggest one of the season.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Mike Murphy (fourth year, 59-5)

2010-11 Record: 19-2 (Lost, 41-40, in OT, to McAuley in Western A Final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Emily Cole (Senior), Ella Ramonas (Senior), Marissa MacMillan (Junior), Chelsea Saucier (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 13 @ Marshwood, Dec. 22 @ Sanford, Dec. 30 (H) BONNY EAGLE, Jan. 6 (H) MCAULEY, Jan. 13 (H) CHEVERUS, Jan. 16 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 24 (H) WINDHAM, Feb. 3 (H) GORHAM, Feb. 9 @ Cheverus

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have good kids who work hard. It makes for a good recipe. We play together. Last year's team was one of my top three ever with chemistry and I see that again. We do have holes to fill, but I like the results so far. We're learning to get our own identity. The kids are tough. They're looking at the season as a challenge.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: You can make the argument that Deering has been the state's premier girls' basketball program the past four years, winning Class A in 2008 and 2009 and suffering agonizing regional final defeats each of the past winters. In that span, the Rams have gone 79-7 and have produced some top-notch talent. The latest superstar, 2010-11 Winter Female Athlete of the Year, first-team league all-star, league leading scorer and Player of the Year and Miss Maine Basketball selection Kayla Burchill is now playing at the University of Vermont and leaves a big void in her wake, but anyone expecting Deering to tumble out of contention will be disappointed. There's still plenty of promise on this roster and this year's squad should be very balanced. Leading the way is Ramonas, a second-team all-star in 2010-11, who projects to score a lot of points while playing guard and forward. She was third in the league with 4.3 assists per game, grabbed 6.2 rebounds last winter and is a top-notch defender as well. Saucier (a member of the league's All-Rookie team last winter) runs the offense at the point guard spot and has a dangerous shot. She averaged 3.3 assists and sank 75 percent of her free throws last season. Cole is bombs away from the perimeter and has buried some big 3s in her career. Look for her to play an even bigger role this time around. MacMillan (another All-Rookie team selection, who averaged 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game last season) might be the wild card. Standing well over 6-feet, she's shown glimpses of becoming a dominant post player, but is battling injury as the season begins. If she can become a consistent presence down low, there are only a handful of players in the state that could attempt to combat her. Junior Alexis Stephenson will also be heard from in the paint. Junior Keneisha DiRamio (who was named to the All-Rookie team) stole headlines in the tournament a year ago, but will miss the start of the season with a knee injury. Her dynamic play will be a huge addition when she returns. Seniors Maura Densmore and Katryna Gilson will also be in the mix. Keep an eye also on sophomore Lee Ann Downs. The soccer goalkeeper, will likely become a fixture on the varsity squad, brings more scoring touch and depth. Deering was upset at home in the opener, 54-52, by a Thornton Academy buzzer beater. Ramonas had 20 points, MacMillan 12 and Cole 11, but it wasn't enough. The Rams will bounce back. They're battle tested and are hungry to avenge the past couple seasons' worth of heartache. While they aren't the favorite this time around, they'll be a February factor once again.

INDOOR TRACK

BOYS' COACH: Dick Kress (20th year)

GIRLS' COACH: Kevin Campbell (10th year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 6th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 7th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) Tom Dean (Senior), Sean Perry (Senior), Tony Sen (Senior), Bryan White (Senior), Jared Bell (Junior), Billy Farrell (Junior)

(GIRLS) Katie Donlan (Senior), Georgia Hutchins (Senior), Delaney Loring (Senior), Veronica Mitchell (Senior), Whitney Adell (Junior), Tricia Stewart (Junior), Alexis Elowitch (Sophomore), Casey Girsch (Sophomore), Edie Pallozzi (Sophomore), Rashad Zagon (Sophomore)

COACH KRESS' COMMENT: “The change of venue from the Expo to USM affects us greatly. Traditionally, our teams were built for the Expo track with numerous junior division runners and depth to cover all the events. Not so this year. This is the earliest start to the season I can remember. We lost our leading scorer to graduation, our top junior runner transferred to Biddeford, our top middle distance runner is injured and the unknown capability of newcomers are all factors to deal with. We hope to be competitive and improve during the regular season and see what happens in the postseason.”

COACH CAMPBELL’S COMMENT: “We have good numbers this season, more than in the past five years. I'm hoping that some of the young runners and jumpers will be able to complement our veteran athletes. Our philosophy is that hard work and dedication will give us the results we desire. We'd like to improve on last year's state championship finish.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: It's a very new year for the Deering track program as along with the rest of the SMAA, it's now competing at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, instead of the Expo as it had for decades. Despite the move and uncertainty, look for the Rams to hold their own this winter.

The boys, coming off an 11-1 regular season in 2010-11, are led by Sen, who's the lone returning individual state scorer (he was fourth in the 55 hurdles). He's joined in the hurdles by Farrell. The distance crew could be very good, led by Dean and Perry. Throws will also be a strength as Bell and White vie to be tops in the area. New sprinter Tony Miller will bolster those races. The Rams will struggle to find jumpers and pole vaulters at the new venue, but the rest of the crew has enough talent to be very competitive in the regular season and score some points in February.

On the girls' side, Pallozzi is the top returner. She's the reigning Class A state champion in both the 800 and the mile and projects to be one of the state's premier distance runners yet again. Donlan and newcomer Heather Hills will also look to score in the long races. Adell, Loring and Stewart (who were all part of a scoring 800 relay team at states) lead the sprint contingent and are joined by Hutchins and newcomer Darius Zagon. Mitchell is a top middle distance runner and hurdler (she was fifth in the 55 hurdles at states last winter). Girsch, Rashad Zagon and newcomers June Conley and Chantrea El also run the hurdles. Elowitch could emerge as a top thrower. Mitchell and Stewart hope to score in the jumps (Mitchell came in sixth in the high jump, Stewart sixth in the long jump a year ago). Look for Deering to be strong throughout the season and make a run at a top five finish at the state meet.

SWIMMING

COACH: Angie Marcotte (third year w/girls' team, second year w/boys' team)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 13th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 5th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SWIMMERS:

(BOYS) Dylan Farber (Junior), Eric Delmonte (Sophomore), Alex Tucci (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Jessica Blake (Junior), Genevieve Worthley (Junior), Emma Pontius (Sophomore)

COACH'S COMMENT: “The outlook is good, filled with lots of hard work at the pool. We're optimistic to improve our overall score at Southwesterns for a higher finish. We're looking forward to setting some new school, pool and state records.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Deering swim teams will be heard from this winter.

The boys are led by Delmonte, who holds the state record in the 100 and 200 LCM breaststroke. He was runner-up in the both the 500 free and the breaststroke at last year's state meet. Farber was the third-best diver in Class A. Tucci will compete in the butterfly. New senior Dominic Arris (freestyle) and junior Nick Payne (freestyle) will add depth. If all goes well for the Rams, they could move up come February.

On the girls' side, Worthley set a record in winning the state breaststroke title a year ago. She was also champion in the individual medley. Pontius finished runner-up in the butterfly and third in the backstroke and will make a run at the top spot in those events this winter. Blake competes in the butterfly. Freshman Mary Cala will compete in the backstroke and freestyle and could make an immediate impact. Worthley will lead the Rams to great things. By February, Deering could be one of the best teams in the state.

NORDIC SKIING

COACH: Aaron Duphily (second year)

2010-11 Results:

(BOYS) 7th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) No score @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING SKIERS:

(BOYS) Kuba Chandler (Junior)

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering doesn't have much in the way of returners to the Portland Nordic Club (which also includes Portland High). Chandler was 11th in the freestyle and 13th in the classic last winter. He'll look to carry the mantle for the Rams as the season progresses.

WRESTLING

COACH: Al Kirk (34th year)

2010-11 Results: Tie-20th @ Class A state meet (7th @ regionals)

TOP RETURNERS: Zack Bushey (Senior), Chad Buzzell (Senior), Connor Darling (Senior)

COACH’S COMMENT: “We'll try to achieve .500 as a team for the year and see if we can win a couple state championships individually. We're loaded with juniors. Our strength will be our senior and junior classes. We have eight freshmen.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering has plenty of experience as the 2011-12 season dawns and as always, features some wrestlers who will be in the hunt for a championship. Darling (170 pound weight class) was the regional runner-up last winter and as the captain, hopes to finish the job this time around. Bushey (152) and Buzzell (138 or 145) are also threats to make noise in February. The Rams don't have the firepower to compete with the traditional favorites, but their more modest goals are very achievable. Expect Deering to compete well throughout and be in position to put some individuals on the victory podium at the big meets. The Rams will be hosting their 33rd annual Alumni Meet on Dec. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

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

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Delaney Loring will look to leave the opposition in her wake this season.

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Georgia Hutchins will be one of the top sprinters in the league this winter.

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Junior Chelsea Saucier is a top scoring threat.

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Senior Ella Ramonas is primed to have a superb senior season.

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Junior Marissa MacMillan is an emerging star for the Rams.

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Senior Patrick Green looks to have a big season for a team hoping to make a run at a title.

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Senior sharpshooter Jon Amabile will make a run at the scoring title this winter.

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Sophomore Emma Pontius will be a top threat in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly this season.