Hoops season at the midway point

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(Ed. Note: For the full South Portland-Deering and South Portland-Thornton Academy boys’ and Scarborough-Cheverus girls’ games, visit theforecaster.net)

A high school basketball season that gets more compelling by the day has passed the halfway pole and is heating up. The tournament is less than a month away.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the eight local teams, where they stand and what’s to come.

Red hot

Little was expected of the 2010-11 South Portland boys’ team after it graduated not only standout Keegan Hyland, but also an abundance of other players who saw a ton of playing time. The Red Riots have won all but one of their first nine games, however, and have done so in exhilarating fashion of late.

Last week, South Portland rattled off three straight victories on the road. After racing to a 28-8 halftime lead en route to a 48-33 triumph at Scarborough (senior Vukasin Vignjevic had 14 points, junior Jordan Muller 11), the Red Riots led from start to finish in a 50-39 win at Deering (junior Logan Gaddar had 15 points, Vignjevic 13 and Muller a dozen).

“This summer and fall, we all made sure we all worked hard,” Gaddar said. “It’s paying off now. We work well together and everyone gets along. We have great chemistry.”

“This was a total team win,” said Red Riots coach Phil Conley. “If you look at the scoring, it was pretty balanced. What I’m most proud of, is the past two games, we’ve held good teams below 40 points. Deering’s very well coached and they’re a very good team.”

Then, in even more dramatic fashion, South Portland rallied from 19 points down at halftime and fought off tying baskets at the end of regulation and the first overtime to finally outlast highly touted Thornton Academy, 82-78, in double OT Saturday afternoon. In that one, senior Matt Russell (who made life miserable for all foes last week with his defense, rebounding and size) scored on a putback to put the Red Riots ahead to stay. Vignjevic had 31 points and Muller made 16-of-18 free throws, including the clinchers in the second extra session.

“It was amazing,” said Muller. “We just came into the locker room at halftime and said we’d get back into it. We came back and hit our free throws at the end.”

“It was an unbelievable high school basketball game,” added Conley. “Two very good teams. I’m just so proud of how my guys battled from down almost 20 at halftime. I’m so happy and proud for these kids.”

The Red Riots entered Wednesday’s game at Portland (see theforecaster.net for game story) second behind undefeated, defending state champion Cheverus in the Western Class A Heal Points standings. South Portland finally returns home Friday to host Kennebunk and welcomes Gorham Tuesday.

Scarborough has struggled of late after a fast start. The Red Storm have dropped four straight to fall to 6-5 (sixth in the region). After last week’s home loss to South Portland (senior Zach Bean had 11 points), Scarborough dropped  a close one at Thornton Academy, 61-56 (Bean and senior Kyle Kelley both finished with a dozen), lost in a rematch of last year’s postseason meeting at Cheverus, 63-48 (despite 20 points from Bean), then dropped a 56-51 home decision to Biddeford (as Bean had 17 points and senior Mike Wofford 13).

The Red Storm host Sanford Friday and go to Windham Tuesday.

In Western B, Cape Elizabeth romped at home over Freeport, 89-32 (senior standout Theo Bowe had 21, classmate Joey Doane had 21 and senior Cam Brown and sophomore Kyle Snowden both added 10) last Thursday, before seeing its four-game win streak snapped with a surprising 62-57 home loss to York (Bowe went off for 35 points in defeat) Saturday.

The Capers (8-2 and fourth in the Heals) host Waynflete Friday, have a game at Lake Region Saturday, then host top-ranked Greely in a pivotal showdown Tuesday.

In Western D, Greater Portland Christian School has a lot of work to do, quickly, to get in the playoff picture. The Lions entered the week 1-8 and 13th in the Heals (only eight teams qualify for the postseason) after dropping two games at North Haven last weekend (52-42 and 33-29). GPCS was at A.R. Gould Wednesday, hosts Acadia Christian Saturday, Islesboro Monday and Pine Tree Wednesday.

In the hunt

All four local girls’ teams still enjoy playoff hopes.

In Western A, South Portland has won four of five in the new year and entered the week 6-4 (seventh in the Heals). Last Thursday, the Red Riots nearly upset the undefeated, preseason title favorite Lions of McAuley, before falling by four at home, 43-39 (senior Danielle DiBiase had 13 points, sophomore Danica Gleason 12). Saturday, South Portland was a 56-39 home winner over Thornton Academy (behind senior Abby Hasson’s career-high 26 points).

The Red Riots were scheduled to host Portland Tuesday, but bad weather pushed that game back 24 hours. They go to Kennebunk Friday and Gorham Tuesday.

Scarborough, the defending Class A champion, lost its first five games and six of its first seven this year, but the Red Storm are showing signs of life. Last Thursday, Scarborough edged visiting Thornton Academy, 44-42, rallying from a huge early deficit behind 13 points from freshman Alisha Starbird and 10 from junior Brittany Bona. Saturday, the Red Storm hung tough with visiting challenger Cheverus before falling, 49-35 (junior Mo Hannan had 11 points and sophomore Taylor LeBorgne 10).

“I think our team played hard today against a very good Cheverus team,” Scarborough coach Jim Seavey said. “We were able disrupt them with pressure and force some tough shots. We’re a very young team, but we really competed today. We’ll be taking a lot of positives from this game. We kept it close for a large portion of the game and caused a lot of turnovers with our pressure. We just have to hit some shots and make sure not to turn the ball back over. We graduated six seniors from the state championship team, but we’re competing.”

The Red Storm (14th in Western A) visits Sanford Friday and hosts Windham Tuesday.

In Western B, Cape Elizabeth came back to Earth a bit last week, losing at Freeport (41-36) and York (50-28) to fall to 6-4 on the season (good for seventh in the standings). Senior Emily Donovan led the way in both games with 14 points.

The Capers go to Waynflete Friday, host Lake Region Saturday and welcome Greely Tuesday.

In Western D, GPCS was 5-3 and fifth in the Heals at the start of the week. The Lions swept their two games at North Haven over the weekend, 31-21 and 30-19, to increase their win streak to four. GPCS is home with Acadia Christian Saturday, Islesboro Monday, visits Waynflete Tuesday, then returns home Wednesday to meet Pine Tree.

Freelance writer Jeff Christenbury contributed to this story

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements


South Portland junior Jordan Muller (No. 3) and his teammates celebrate during Saturday’s memorable 82-78, double-overtime, come-from-behind win at Thornton Academy.

Scarborough sophomore Courtney Alofs takes the ball to the basket as she slides between Cheverus junior Morgan Cahill (left) and sophomore Mikayla Mayberry during Saturday afternoon’s 49-35 loss.

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