Senior Benedict Williams has been unstoppable at times and hopes to lead Deering’s boys’ basketball team to a championship this winter.
More photos below.
(Ed. Note: For boys’ and girls’ ice hockey, see the Portland High preview)
COACH: Todd Wing (third year, 27-14 overall record)
2014-15 record: 14-7 (Lost, 59-57, to Portland in Western A semifinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Max Chabot (Senior), Malik White (Senior), Benedict Williams (Senior), JeanClaude Nzenza (Junior), Raffaele Salamone (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Jan. 2 CHEVERUS, Jan. 8 @ South Portland, Jan. 14 PORTLAND, Jan. 18 OXFORD HILLS, Jan. 22 @ Cheverus, Jan. 29 @ Portland, Feb. 4 SOUTH PORTLAND
COACH’S COMMENT: “I’m happy so far. We’ve been waiting for this season since that painful loss back in February. Last year, we peaked at the right time. This year, we’re trying to figure things out. Which combinations work best. We graduated two starters, but we return a good core that is ready to go. I have 15 guys who could be on the floor. It’s figuring out how deep we can go. I have four or five guys who can put up 20 points, but our balance will be a strength.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: If you compare Deering’s 2014-15 results with the year before, you’d think the Rams really didn’t make any strides, but in reality, the Rams were one Amir Moss clutch shot away from playing for a regional title. Deering hit its stride late and while the sting of that loss to its fiercest rival took a long time to wear off, the Rams have channeled that disappointment into hunger for a new season, a season which could see this group finish the job if all goes well.
Williams might just be one of the state’s elite players when all is said and done. For the past two years, he’s elevated his game on the biggest stage and this winter, as a captain, he hopes to lead Deering to the Promised Land. Williams, an SMAA first-team all-star in 2014-15 after finishing fifth in the league in scoring with 17 points per game, has great energy, drive and when he’s eyeing the rim, he’s tough to stop. Williams is also active on the boards (5.6 rebounds last season) and can force turnovers (2.6 steals in 2014-15). White (11.7 ppg, 1.8 assists per game and 34 made 3-pointers) is another top returning scoring threat. Salamone, who came to life late last season and made the SMAA All-Rookie team, will be heard from down low. He averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. Salamone has plenty of company when it comes to strong post players. Senior Anthony Lobor brings his 6-foot-5-inch frame into action and could quickly make a name for himself. Senior Dom Bernard, the football standout, returns to basketball after missing his junior year. Freshman Ben Onek, a 6-foot-3 left-hander, is another potential force. He’s the first freshman Wing has ever promoted to the varsity team to start a season. Joining White in the backcourt will be Chabot, Deering’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, and the energetic Nzenza, who will share time at point guard. Junior Manny Chikuta is another athletic player who will see the floor.
This team has the pieces in place to do great things. It might take some time for the newcomers to get up to varsity speed, but the potential is undeniable. In a season of great change (Deering is now in Class AA North with traditional rivals Cheverus, Portland and Windham and new foes, Bangor, Edward Little, Lewiston and Oxford Hills), the sky is the limit. The Rams are hoping for a better regular season record and a higher playoff seed. It’s quite possible that the Bulldogs will be standing in their way once again, but this time around, Deering believes it has what it takes to get past its nemesis. This group won’t be content until and unless it gets to the biggest stage of them all.
COACH: Mike Murphy (eighth year, 114-28 overall record, one state championship)
2014-15 record: 15-4 (Lost, 49-37, to South Portland in Western A quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Amanda Brett (Junior), Abi Ramirez (Junior), Tasia Titherington (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 8 @ South Portland, Dec. 19 @ Bangor, Dec. 29 CHEVERUS, Jan. 5 WINDHAM, Jan. 12 TA, Jan. 16 @ Gorham, Jan. 22 MCAULEY, Jan. 29 SOUTH PORTLAND, Feb. 5 @ Portland
COACH’S COMMENT: “I like this group. They’re a team. Hopefully we’ll be disciplined. We hope to control the ball and take good shots. I need someone else to score other than Tasia and Amanda. Tasia, Amanda and Abi are very talented. It’s a question of who is going to fill in the other slots. I hope we can be competitive and make the playoffs. This year, the goal is to get to Augusta.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering had a strong regular season a year ago, then suffered a disappointing quarterfinal round playoff loss to South Portland. After graduation and transfers took a toll on the program, the Rams have some holes to fill, but anyone overlooking this team will come to regret it.
Brett, Deering’s reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year, and Titherington were both SMAA third-team all-stars in 2014-15 and will set the tone offensively this year. Titherington (seventh in the league in scoring a year ago with a 12.6 points per game average) can knock down outside shots (she averaged over two 3-pointers per contest) and has no qualms about driving to the basket. Brett (11th in scoring, 10.8 ppg), is one of the league’s best post players (she was seventh in the league in rebounding, 7.8 per game). Sparking the offense will be Ramirez, the spitfire point guard, who doesn’t shoot much, but brings great energy and gets the ball to her teammates in optimal spots. She creates havoc on the defensive end as well. Freshman guards Delaney Haines and Mandy Mastropasqua will be called upon to contribute right away.
While the Rams aren’t as highly touted as they’re accustomed, they do have quite an upside. While Deering might take some lumps early, Murphy and his staff will get the team where it needs to be as the season progresses. Deering will battle night in and night out and that determination could lead to big things in February as the Rams look to make the tournament for the 16th year in a row. This is a squad that no high seed will want to face in a win-or-go-home scenario.
BOYS’ COACH: Gerry Myatt (fourth year)
GIRLS’ COACH: Kevin Campbell (14th year)
(BOYS) 3rd @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 18th @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Paolo DeMarco (Senior), Jouya Mahmoudi (Senior), Roman Anderson (Junior), Ezra Chapola (Junior), Jonata Mbongo (Junior), Kevin Segal (Junior), Cade Violette (Junior), Daniel Hemminger (Sophomore), Kabala Muka (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Neilab Habibzai (Senior), Lili Kien (Senior), Caitlin Lally (Junior)
COACH MYATT’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are better than they’ve been. We’re more a traditional Deering team this year. We’d like to do well at the big meets. I’m looking forward to being a good team. It should be a lot of fun.”
COACH CAMPBELL’S COMMENT: “We have 38 kids, but only four are seniors. That bodes well for next year. Since we’re so young, I want the girls to learn how to compete and improve every week. We have talented sprinters and need distance runners to work together to score pivotal points.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Both Deering teams will be very competitive in the weeks to come.
The boys are coming off their second-best state meet showing over the past decade (the 2012 squad was runner-up) and while state champion and state record holder Hany Ramadan has graduated, the Rams’ cupboard isn’t bare. The top returner is DeMarco, who was third in both the 400 and the 55 hurdles last winter. He’ll be a top hurdler and sprinter again. Chipola, Hemminger and Mbongo, along with senior Joey Burke, junior Mason Kaserman and freshmen Songha Loth and Iessa Ramadan add depth to the sprints. Segal and Violette will also compete in the hurdles. The departure of distance runners Yahya Hussein and Iid Sheikh-Yusef will also hurt, but senior Abdi Hassan will look to fill that void. Jumpers to watch include Anderson, Chapola, Kaserman and Violette. Mahmoudi and Muka will look to produce points in the throws. The pieces are in place for another memorable season.
On the girls’ side, Lally returns after placing runner-up in the 400 last year. She hopes to take the next step and win a title this winter. Kien is a top jumper. Habibzai is a thrower to watch. Sophomore Annah Rossvoll, who missed last indoor season with injury before becoming the top freshman outdoors in the 300 hurdles, will be a top hurdler and jumper. Senior Kaitlyn DiBiase, the field hockey standout, is new to the team and will compete in middle distance races. The sprints feature juniors Maggie Healy and Nicola Ciccomancini and freshman Angela Muka. This group will steadily improve in the weeks to come and could be quite formidable by February.
COACH: Sarah Rubin (third year)
(BOYS) 25th @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 5th @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Jasper Sommer (Junior)
(GIRLS) Sofie deOlivieria (Senior), Kate Pontius (Senior)
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a small, new boys’ team. We’re swimming for the love of the sport. We have a large and diverse girls’ team with a lot of new swimmers. We have a solid core and a few top swimmers which will help us in dual meets, however, we don’t have the depth and have no divers, which makes it almost impossible to do well at Southwesterns or states.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering might not score as high as in the past but, the Rams are excited about the new season.
The boys graduated Adam Roland, who was 11th in the breaststroke a year ago, but return Sommer, who leads a team that will only get better in the weeks to come.
On the girls’ side, the Rams are coming off a strong campaign and return Pontius, who was runner-up in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 free a year ago, and de Oliveira, who was second in the breaststroke and sixth in the 200 free last winter. Those captains will look to score a lot of points and lead their teammates to big things this winter.
COACH: Aaron Duphily (sixth year)
(BOYS) No score @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Caleb Lander (Junior), Peter Jordan (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Leinani Farnsworth (Junior), Ewka Varney (Junior), Morgan Aponte-Clarke (Sophomore)
COACH’S COMMENT: “The girls have the firepower to mix it up in Class A this year. We hope to have strong finishes this season and surprise some people. We’re excited for the race season to begin and can’t wait for the snow to fall.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Deering has a nice mix of experience and newcomers this winter and will be heard from in the weeks to come.
The girls return state meet scorers Varney (third in the freestyle and eighth in the classical) and Farnsworth (sixth in the freestyle and seventh in the classical). Aponte-Clarke also returns and freshman Grace Tumavicus, coming off a stellar cross country running season, is another skier to watch. There’s enough depth and talent here for the Rams to again make a lot of noise from start to finish.
The boys bring back Jordan and Lander and hope to show steady improvement right into February.
COACH: Al Kirk (38th year)
2014-15 results: Tie-14th @ Class A state meet
TOP RETURNERS: Mike Darling (Senior), Sean Darling (Senior), Gabe Whitman (Senior), Mort Soule (Junior), Ryan Walsh (Junior)
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have 18 kids this year. We want to get some kids to states. Physical development and positive character building are key goals. That and we hope to have some fun.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Kirk and a couple accomplished assistants, former Deering stars and state champions Chris Smith and Ryan Toussaint, have a small roster, but there is promise.
Mike Darling, a captain and heavyweight, won a regional title a year ago, but did not place at states. He’s hoping to take home a state title this time around. Sean Darling (195) and Whitman (145) have their final shot at glory and should be in contention. Soule (138) and Walsh (160) also hope to improve as the season goes on and make some noise in February.
Deering has boasted 42 state champions and even one national champion, but it’s been a few years since a Ram has finished first on the big stage. That could change this year. Don’t be surprised if Deering makes the most of its small roster and moves up the standings at the big meets.
Senior Max Chabot is coming off a strong football season and hopes to hit some big shots this winter.
Junior point guard JeanClaude Nzenza will help energize the Rams’ attack this winter.
Raffaele Salamone emerged as a star late last season. As a junior, he’ll be called upon the lead the Rams deep into the playoffs.
Senior Malik White boasts a potent outside shot and is more than capable of getting to the rim.
Junior Amanda Brett is a force at both ends of the floor.
Junior Abi Ramirez brings unmatched energy to the floor for the Rams.
Junior Tasia Titherington is one of the conference’s best players.