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Portland’s Lewis Gaddas and Deering’s Darryl Germain fight for possession during the Rams’ 64-40 victory in last week’s regular season finale. The teams will meet again in the Class AA North quarterfinals Thursday.
If you’re a high school basketball fan, this is your time of the year.
The tournament is underway and there are an abundance of compelling story-lines to follow.
Deering’s boys’ team surged into the postseason by beating host Cheverus (70-54) and visiting Portland (64-40) last week to finish the regular season 12-6, good for the No. 4 seed in Class AA North.
In the win over the Stags, Ben Onek overcame foul trouble to score 20 points, Darryl Germain added 19 and Mike Randall finished with 15.
“I wanted to get back on the floor really bad,” Onek said. “I know I can help the guys, but I can’t do that when I’m on the bench. I was hot tonight.”
“We play together, we take good shots, we win games,” said Rams coach Todd Wing. “These guys don’t have an ounce of quit in them. They do their job.”
Deering then snapped a six-year, 14-game skid against the Bulldogs, never trailing, as Germain hit two quick 3s to set the tone. Max Morrione, who hit six 3s, had 21 points, Onek added 20 and Germain finished with 15.
“It feels awesome,” said Onek, who was in the sixth grade the last time Deering beat Portland. “We came out with energy, we stuck with the energy and that’s what gave us the lead. This means a lot for the program. We needed this one.”
“It feels good,” Germain said. “This is a great win, good momentum for us going into the playoffs.”
“This feels amazing,” Morrione said. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve thought about it since last time we played. We came in ready.”
The Rams were “rewarded” for finishing fourth in the region by having to host No. 5 Portland (10-8) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 6 p.m. (see theforecaster.net for game story). The teams split this year, with the Bulldogs prevailing, 55-32, in the other meeting Dec. 27 at the Portland Exposition Building.
“We have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing,” Randall said. “We’ve had some unlucky bounces here or there. We have to hope the bounces will go our way. We have the utmost confidence we can make a run.”
“You want to peak going into the tournament,” Wing said. “We’ve played well for awhile. We’ll keep doing what we do. We’ll stick to our game plan and believe in each other.”
Portland wound up 10-8 (its fewest victories in a decade) and fifth in the region after closing with a 51-39 home win over South Portland and a 64-40 loss at Deering. Against the Red Riots, Pedro Fonseca scored 20 points and Trey Bellew added a dozen. In the setback, Simon Chadbourne had 15 points and Fonseca added 11, but the Bulldogs turned the ball over 20 times.
“We started slow and (the Rams) were extremely hot from the outside,” said Portland coach Joe Russo. “They shot lights-out and we couldn’t score. We missed a lot of shots. Our goal was to keep it close in the first half, but we didn’t.”
The Bulldogs and Rams will meet in the playoffs for the 15th time, dating to 1930. Portland holds a 9-5 all-time record, including a 70-39 win in the 2016 AA North Final, the most recent encounter.
“We’ll come back here and we’ll have our heads up,” Russo said.
Cheverus ended the regular season with losses to visiting Deering (70-54) and host South Portland (67-60, in overtime) and wound up 9-9 and sixth in Class AA North. In the loss to the Rams, Owen Burke had 22 points, while Matt Duchaine and Patrick Foster each added 11.
“We scored six points in the third quarter,” lamented Cheverus coach Ryan Soucie. “We didn’t make shots we made all year long.”
Against the Red Riots, Nick Galli had 19 points.
The Stags go to third-ranked Oxford Hills (12-6) for the quarterfinals Wednesday. On Jan. 23, Cheverus lost, 54-49, at the Vikings. The teams have split four prior playoff encounters, with a 53-50 overtime triumph for Oxford Hills in the 2017 Class AA North quarterfinals the most recent.
“This season is all about matchups,” Soucie said. “We’ll game plan for it and play our best game of the year.”
In Class C South, Waynflete wound up 14-2, marking the ninth year in a row the Flyers posted double-digit regular season victories. Waynflete’s stellar season ended with decisive road wins at St. Dom’s (77-23) and North Yarmouth Academy (68-17). Alex Saade and Finn Scott each had 16 points against the Saints. In the win over the Panthers, Dominick Campbell and Askar Houssein had 17 points each and Saade and Solomon Levy both added 11.
The Flyers earned the No. 2 seed in the region and will face either No. 7 Old Orchard Beach (8-10) or 10th-ranked Madison (8-10) in the quarterfinals Monday at 5 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center (see theforecaster.net for game story). Waynflete swept the Seagulls this season, winning 82-28 on the road and 68-45 at home. The teams have split two prior postseason encounters, with a 51-46 Flyers’ win in the 2017 Class C South preliminary round the most recent. Waynflete didn’t play Madison this year. The Bulldogs won the only prior playoff meeting, 52-47, in the 2017 Class C South semifinals.
“If you go by the Heal Point totals and the prognosticators, it’s supposed to be a three-team race, but I know all too well that anything can happen in a particular game and you look past an opponent at your own risk,” said Flyers coach Rich Henry. “Obviously, both Winthrop and Hall Dale are excellent teams, playing very well throughout the season. I think the potential exists for some interesting things to happen in the prelims, perhaps in the quarters as well, depending on matchups.
“In terms of our team, we have the potential to have a very good showing in Augusta. Fifty percent of our regular season schedule was against Class B schools, four of whom made that division’s tournament, so we’ve been tested. The key for us will be if we’re able to stay composed when our opponent makes a run. Can we execute with a little pressure being applied to us in a ‘neutral’ environment? So far, we’ve been relatively injury and illness free, so our depth should be a factor in our favor. We’ve been working pretty hard with this part of the season in mind, so I’m excited for this next phase.”
Looking ahead, the Class AA North semifinals are Tuesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, while the Class C South semifinals are Thursday of next week in Augusta.
On the girls’ side, three of four city teams qualified for the playoffs.
In Class AA North, Portland finished 9-9 and fourth after losing at home to South Portland (40-27) and rallying to win at Deering (49-36). In the setback, Jill Joyce had a team-high 10 points. Against the Rams, the Bulldogs closed on a 34-13 run and were led by Amanda Kabantu’s 13 points and 10 points from Gemima Motema.
Portland will host fifth-seeded Edward Little (10-8), the defending Class AA champion, in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 5 p.m. The teams met Jan. 4 in Auburn, a 43-35 Red Eddies’ victory. The Bulldogs won two of three prior playoff meetings, but last year in the semifinals, Edward Little prevailed, 58-38.
“If we can execute, make some shots and defend for 32 minutes against EL, like we did against Gorham earlier this season, at Scarborough recently, the first quarter of our South Portland game last week and how we closed out Deering in the second half, I like our chances to win at Gold Ball,” said Portland coach Gerry Corcoran. “I’m excited.”
Cheverus wound up sixth in Class AA North at 5-13 following losses to visiting Deering (48-36) and host South Portland (58-24). Against the Rams, Meg Kelly had 11 points and Julia Kratzer added nine.
“Overall, we had a game plan and we stuck to it and we did a good job, but all of a sudden, they hit some long 3s and in a tight game, those things make a difference,” said Stags’ first-year coach Brian Heal.
In the loss to the Red Riots, Kelly had a team-high 12 points.
Cheverus goes to No. 3 Bangor (11-7) for the quarterfinals Thursday. The visiting Rams won the lone regular season meeting, 49-47, Dec. 28. Bangor won the only prior playoff meeting, 46-44, two years ago in the Class AA North quarterfinals.
Deering won at Cheverus, 48-36, then fell at home to Portland, 49-36, to finish 4-14 and seventh in Class AA North. In the victory, Delaney Haines had 18 points and Victoria Garand added 12.
“I think people are starting to realize we’re back to where we should have been,” Haines said. “We need to play as a team. We have nothing to lose. We’ve been proving everyone wrong.”
In the loss, Haines scored 19 points and Mandy Mastropasqua finished with 10.
The Rams go to No. 2 Windham (10-8) Wednesday for the quarterfinals. On Jan. 25, Deering lost at the Eagles, 49-31. The Rams are 2-1 all-time versus Windham in the playoffs with a 45-33 loss in the 2012 Western A quarterfinals the most recent.
“We’re playing with more confidence and a happier attitude,” Deering coach Mike Murphy said. “We’re just going to obviously take it one game at a time and see what happens.”
Looking ahead, the Class AA North semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
In Class C South, Waynflete finished 1-16 and 18th (only 13 teams made the playoffs) following losses to visiting St. Dom’s (61-38) and host NYA (62-25). Margaret Ojut had 15 points and Kilee Sherry added 10 in the loss to the Saints. Against the Panthers, Kilee Sherry and Devan Sherry both had five points, while Avis Akers and Jessica Connors added four apiece.
The Flyers missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign.