Five local hoops teams chase a Gold Ball-Southern edition

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Ruay Bol and the South Portland boys’ basketball team is primed to make another run to the state final and this time, bring home the program’s first Gold Ball since 1992.

Five local teams have made the high school basketball tournament and all like their chances of making a deep run.

Unfinished business

Last winter, the South Portland boys’ made a spirited playoff run and nearly upset powerhouse Portland in the inaugural Class AA state final, only to fall in double overtime.

This year, the Red Riots produced a better regular season, finishing 15-3 after a decisive 54-31 home win over Deering. Moses Oreste led the way with 13 points. South Portland earned the top seed in Class AA South and a bye into the semifinals, which will be contested Tuesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. 

“We gained a lot of confidence from (late-season wins at Thornton Academy and defending state champion Portland),” said Red Riots coach Kevin Millington. “Our depth is a great asset. We don’t have a player who specializes in something. Our eight starters can all handle the ball, shoot and rebound. I like this group a lot. They play together. We don’t have one guy we rely on too heavily. They stick together the whole time.”

The Red Riots’ semifinal opponent could be No. 5 Scarborough, which finished 6-12 after a 50-42 win at Bonny Eagle in Friday’s finale. Nick Fiorillo and Emmett Peoples both had 12 points and Reece Lagerquist added 11 as the Red Storm went 6-2 down the stretch after starting the season 0-10.

Scarborough faced No. 4 Bonny Eagle (6-12) in a rematch in the quarterfinals Thursday at the Portland Exposition Building. In addition to Friday’s result, the Scots won, 61-57, Dec. 20 in Scarborough. Bonny Eagle won the only prior playoff meeting, 48-32, in the 2013 Western A quarterfinals.

If the Red Storm and Red Riots meet next Tuesday, it would mark the first such occasion in the postseason. South Portland took both regular season meetings: 82-61 at home Dec. 22 and 65-52 at Scarborough Jan. 12. 

In Class A South, Cape Elizabeth earned the No. 3 seed after an 11-7 regular season which was capped by a 60-44 loss at defending state champion Falmouth and a 51-38 home victory over Fryeburg Academy. Andrew Hartel had 16 points in the loss. Against the Raiders, Marshall Peterson led the way with 20 points.

The Capers played the second half of the season without injured junior standout Finn Bowe, but managed to persevere.

“We’re doing a lot of things well, but we need our shots to go down,” said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “We’re still adjusting (to not having Finn) and it’s hard to score points, but we’re not that far away. We have to take advantage of our opportunities.”

Cape Elizabeth faces No. 6 Brunswick (11-7) in the Class A quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Expo. The teams didn’t play in the regular season and have no playoff history.

“It’s one-and-done now,” Ray said. “It will be interesting to see how the boys perform. The first game is usually the toughest. We’ll have to get acclimated to the atmosphere and Brunswick is very good and well-coached. We played them this summer. In a lot of ways, they’re like us. Very disciplined.

“We have nothing to lose. The guys will show up, work hard and do the best they can. Now, we just have to put it together for 32 minutes.”

If the Capers advance to the semifinals Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Arena, they will likely earn a rematch with defending champion Falmouth (13-5), the No. 2 seed. The teams split in the regular season, with Cape Elizabeth winning, 40-37, on a Bowe 3-pointer at the horn, then falling, 60-44, on the road. The Capers have lost four of six previous playoff meetings against Falmouth, including last year’s 52-49 setback in the semifinals.

In Class D South, Greater Portland Christian School ended up 4-14 and 11th (only nine teams made the playoffs).

Super semifinal looms

On the girls’ side, there’s a good chance that Scarborough and South Portland could meet next Tuesday in the Class AA South semifinal round.

The Red Storm wound up third in the region after dropping their final two games to finish 15-3. Friday, Scarborough was upset by visiting Bonny Eagle, 45-35, despite 10 points from Josie Couture.

“It’s been a great year,” said Scarborough coach Mike Giordano. “We had one bad week out of 10. It was disappointing it came at the end.”

As a result, Scarborough has to face No. 6 Thornton Academy (9-9) in the quarterfinals Friday at 4:15 p.m. at the Expo (the game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but moved due to bad weather). The Red Storm won both regular season meetings: 41-39 at home Jan. 6 and 45-31 in Saco Feb. 2. The lone prior playoff meeting between the teams came two years ago when the Golden Trojans surged late to win, 43-27, in the Western A quarterfinals en route to a trip to the state final.

“TA is extremely dangerous,” Giordano said. “They’re well coached, they have tournament experience and one of the the top scorers in the conference (Alisha Aube), who can go off at any time. We’ll have our hands full.

“When we play well on defense, everything feeds off of that. We held them in the 30s both previous games. We need to do that again Friday. I’m looking forward to it.”

South Portland finished second in AA South at 16-2 after closing on a 12-game win streak which was culminated by victories at Bonny Eagle (46-29) and at home over Westbrook (62-43). Eva Mazur had 12 points against the Scots. In the win over the Blue Blazes, Mazur and Katie Whitmore both scored 11 points, while Meghan Graff, Jenna Leckie and Maggie Whitmore all added 10.

“We finished strong,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “The girls figured out their roles and Maggie came on strong down the stretch. We have a lot of kids who can score. That bodes well for us.”

South Portland lost its lone meeting with Scarborough this year, 46-41, at Scarborough Jan. 3. The teams have met four previous times in the playoffs with the Red Storm holding a 3-1 edge. Last year, the Red Riots held on for a 49-41 victory in the Class AA South quarterfinals.

If South Portland faces Thornton Academy in the semifinals Tuesday at 1 p.m., it would mark the fourth all-time postseason meeting. The Red Riots won two of the three prior games, although the Golden Trojans took the most recent, 50-30, in the 2012 Western A preliminary round. South Portland beat visiting Thornton Academy, 58-40, Jan. 20. 

Ultimately, the Red Riots want a shot at top-ranked, 18-0 Gorham, the defending Class AA champion, which is riding a 39-game win streak entering the tournament. South Portland is viewed by many as the team best equipped to challenge the Rams.

“It’s wide open except for Gorham,’ Hasson said. “It’s clear they’re the top team and they’ll be tough to beat, but we played them tough way back in December (a 44-31 road loss Dec. 15). We’ve gotten better and so have they, but before we can get to them, we’ll have our hands full in the semifinals. TA is a wild card. They have three really good players. Scarborough has good players, plays hard and is well coached. We feel like we match up well.”

In Class A South, Cape Elizabeth finished 1-17 and 12th, but only nine teams made the playoffs. The Capers closed with their lone win, 42-34, over visiting Falmouth and a 44-39 loss at Fryeburg Academy. Allison Ingalls had 11 points in the victory. Brooke Harvey had 18 points in the finale.

In Class D South, GPCS finished 4-14 and 10th, but only eight teams made the playoffs.

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

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