Deering Rams Winter Sports Preview

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Ben Onek is a top returner for a Deering boys’ basketball team that should be one of the top squads in Class AA North yet again this winter.

File photos.

More photos below.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Todd Wing (fifth year, 56-24 overall record)

2016-17 record: 12-7 (Lost, 51-47, to Windham in Class AA North quarterfinals)

Top returning player: Ben Onek (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 29 @ Portland, Jan. 5 @ Oxford Hills, Jan. 9 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 11 @ Cheverus, Jan. 19 SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 26 @ Windham, Feb. 6 CHEVERUS, Feb. 8 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We lost four starters, but Ben is a nice piece to start with. He’ll score points and get rebounds. It’s going to be a teaching year, which I love, but by the end of the year, we could do some damage. We’d love to host a tournament game.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering enjoyed a solid regular season again last winter, but was upset in the quarterfinals. This time around, the Rams are largely starting from scratch, but they have some raw talent and could be vastly improved by the time the year comes to an end.

Onek was an SMAA second-team all-star last year after averaging 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and will be a matchup nightmare from his forward position. He’s joined in the frontcourt by senior Paul Nthinda (a 6-foot-7 transfer from Florida), junior Junior Butera and sophomore Mike Randall. Senior Caleb Delano can play guard or forward. In the backcourt, sophomore Darryl Germain will be the point guard, while senior Ricky Despacho and sophomore Max Morrione (the soccer goalie) will also be in the mix.

Deering will have some tough games early and might suffer some growing pains, but look for this squad to make positive strides and be in position to be a formidable foe late in the regular season and in the playoffs.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Mike Murphy (10th year, 139-44 overall record, one state championship)

2016-17 record: 13-8 (Lost, 46-41, in overtime, to Oxford Hills in Class AA North Final)

Top returning players: Victoria Garand (Junior), Delaney Haines (Junior), Mandy Mastropasqua (Junior), Ashleigh Mathison (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 19 @ Gorham, Dec. 22 MAINE GIRLS’ ACADEMY, Dec. 28 @ Portland, Jan. 5 OXFORD HILLS, Jan. 9 @ Scarborough, Jan. 11 CHEVERUS, Jan. 19 @ South Portland, Feb. 6 @ Cheverus, Feb. 8 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “We lost three college players, so roles will change and it will be a learning experience. I have four kids with experience and eight others who are new. I have no seniors, which is difficult. I’d love to see the juniors step up and set an example for the sophomores. Delaney has the potential to be outstanding. We just need to get better every day.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering came one agonizing basket from playing for a state title a year ago and after saying goodbye to Amanda Brett, Abi Ramirez and Tasia Titherington, a lot of question marks loom, but the Rams will find a way to remain in contention and be at their best by the end of the year.

Haines made the SMAA second-team as a sophomore after averaging 11.9 points and 2.5 assists per game and when her shot is dropping, she can be one of the top scorers around. She’ll help anchor the backcourt with help from Mastropasqua and Mathison. Garand is experienced in the post and needs to stay out of foul trouble to keep Deering in games. Junior guard Isabel Dawson and sophomore guard Aviyonna Kim are newcomers who have shown promise in the preseason.

This team will be a work in progress, but Murphy knows how to get the most out of his players. Expect the Rams to be strong defensively and show steady improvement on offense. While most of Deering’s games are against formidable foes, it will win enough to position itself to make some postseason noise.

INDOOR TRACK

Boys’ coach: Gerry Myatt (sixth year)

Girls’ coach: Kevin Campbell (16th year)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) 3rd @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 21st @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Luc Harrison (Senior), Chris Irakoze (Senior), Nick James (Senior), Manny Lam (Senior), Jack Lynch (Senior), Kabala Muka (Senior), Yahya Nure (Senior), Jerry Mixangelo (Junior), Josh Paisley (Junior), Samacha Sam (Junior), Alec Troxell (Junior), Antonio Ciccomancini (Sophomore)

(Girls) Annah Rossvall (Senior), Angela Muka (Junior), Sreyly Sao (Junior), Darcy Lally (Sophomore)

Coach Myatt’s comment: “We have decent numbers, but we’re not as big a team as we were last year. We have most events covered. We have good sprinters. If our distance runners, throwers and jumpers come along, I believe we’ll be tough. Our talent will carry us a long way.”

Coach Campbell’s comment: “We have a young team that we hope to develop into solid athletes. Annah provides excellent leadership and we want the younger kids to emulate her dedication and love for the sport.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has several track and field athletes ready to excel in the weeks to come.

The boys will miss Ezra Chapola, who set a new school record in winning the Class A triple jump a year ago, but other state meet scorers return. Harrison (third in the 400 last winter) is a top sprinter. Ciccomancini, Lam, Lynch and Sam also return in the sprints. That group is joined by sophomores Domail Brown and Travis Soule. In the distance, Nure (fourth in last year’s mile) leads the way. Mixangelo and Troxell will also run longer races. Irakoze is a top hurdler. On the field side, Muka (fifth in the shot put last season) is a top returner. He’s joined in the throws by Paisley and Irakoze. Lam and junior Winston Denesio are top jumpers. Harrison and Lynch will compete in the pole vault. James can do a little of everything. Deering has the firepower to be one of the best teams in the SMAA and to make a run at another top-five state meet finish.

On the girls’ side, Rossvall returns as a top athlete and leader. A year ago, Rossvall set a new school record in placing fourth in the 200. She was also fifth in the 400, accounting for all of the Rams’ points at the Class A state meet. A pair of new sprinters, senior Maelle Tati-Pambou and freshman Mimi Banksmith, help the cause. Freshman Hadley Poirier will be a top distance threat. On the field side, Lally is a contender in the pole vault. Muka and Sao both look to score in the jumps. Deering should enjoy a strong regular season and don’t be surprised if Rossvall and company turn heads at states as well and climb up the ladder in the final standings.

SWIMMING

Coach: Sarah Rubin (fifth year)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) 16th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 12th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Owen McLaughlin (Sophomore)

(Girls) Nicole Whipkey (Senior), Claire Christopher (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot of swimmers, 35 total, and while we don’t have a lot of fast kids who will score at states, we have a lot of solid swimmers who can swim all the events and who score some points at meets.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering is poised to make some noise in the pool in the weeks to come.

The boys’ team features McLaughlin, a captain as a sophomore, who is a top sprinter. He’ll also contend in the fly. If some other swimmers emerge to help McLaughlin and provide depth, the Rams could move up the standings.

The girls hope to move into the top 10 this season and could do so behind Christopher, who was sixth in the 500 free and seventh in the backstroke a year ago, and Whipkey, who will look to score in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Several newcomers bring promise and Deering could be one of the feel-good stories of the season if all goes well.

NORDIC SKIING

Coach: George Aponte-Clarke (first year)

2016-17 results:

(Boys) 5th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 2nd @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Peter Jordan (Senior), William Jordan (Sophomore)

(Girls) Morgan Aponte-Clarke (Senior), Grace Tumavicus (Junior),

Coach’s comment: “The girls will again aim to be among the state’s top teams. The boys will make a run for a top spot at states. We’re excited about our many new skiers.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering, which along with Cheverus and Portland, is part of the Portland Nordic co-op team, could be a top Class A contender this winter.

The boys’ team returns Peter Jordan, who placed fourth in the classic at last year’s state meet, and William Jordan, who was 10th in the skate. They’ll produce high finishes again.

On the girls’ side, Aponte-Clarke looks to build on her eighth-place showing in the classical in last year’s state meet. Tumavicus was 13th in the classic a year ago and hopes to move into the top 10. The Rams are bolstered by the addition of a pair of freshmen, Sierra Aponte-Clarke and Ella Raymond. Deering will be vying for state meet glory once again.

WRESTLING

Coach: Ryan Hutchins (first year)

2016-17 results: 14th @ Class A state meet

Top returners: Nick Conley (Senior), Moises Perez (Senior), Travis York (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “With only three experienced wrestlers, it will be a learning and rebuilding year. Many wrestlers are new to the sport this year and are working hard to learn and are picking things up quickly. I’m already proud of how they’re working together and becoming a team. We’re excited to have seven underclassmen and we’ll look to our seniors for leadership.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering’s wrestling program begins a new era this winter, as longtime coach Al Kirk has retired after 39 years and has been replaced by one of his former standouts, Hutchins, who won the Class A state title at 125-pounds 20 years ago. Hutchins spent 10 years total coaching at Scarborough and Westbrook and is excited to come home, even though the Rams will have to climb their way up the competitive ladder.

Conley (170 pounds), Perez (220 or heavyweight) and York (152) are the experienced wrestlers and leaders. Deering has a solid group of promising newcomers who hope to soon made an impact. That group includes seniors Ahmed Aidid (195/220) and Wilder Baldwin (182/195), sophomore Bailey Eide (182) and freshmen Mohammed Al-Ahmed (220), Magnus Heisler (113), Brillant Igiraneza (145/152), Mohammed Muhee (113/120), Brady Roberts (106/113) and Davion Tali (152).

Deering’s success this winter will be measured in its growth and improvement. It won’t be long until Hutchins has the Rams back among the top programs.

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

Senior Ricky Despacho will hit some key shots this winter.

Darryl Germain is another key returner for the Rams.

Junior Delaney Haines has the potential to be a top player in the league as she hopes to lead the Deering girls’ basketball team deep into the tournament once again.

Junior Ashleigh Mathison will score her share of points as well.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.