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It seems like every winter, local basketball players up the ante in regards to drama and triumph and the 2011-12 season was no different.
All five local schools produced their share of highlights well into February and in a couple cases, into March.
Here’s one man’s opinion on the best stories in our coverage area this season.
The Cheverus girls’ team has been competitive for several seasons, but hadn’t been able to get over the playoff hump. That changed this year as after an 11-7 regular season, the Stags beat Gorham in a Western A prelim, 50-44. Cheverus had a great chance to upset Scarborough in the quarterfinals, but couldn’t hold a double-digit second half lead and fell, 39-35, as its season culminated at 12-8. With just about everyone back next winter, the Stags could be primed for an even deeper postseason run in 2012-13.
On the night of Jan. 23, the Portland boys went to Cheverus, hoping desperately to end a nine-game losing streak to its city rival. When the Bulldogs went up by 20 points early in the second half, that wish appeared attainable, but the Stags roared back and went on top, 39-38, on two free throws from senior Cam Olson with seven seconds to play. Just when hope appeared lost, however, Portland snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as junior Nick Volger raced coast-to-coast and put home a layup with 2.1 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a most exciting and gratifying 40-39 triumph.
Only a junior, Waynflete’s Martha Veroneau has already become a legend at the Augusta Civic Center. One year after setting a new record for made 3-pointers in a Western C regional tournament game, Veroneau upped the ante Feb. 23 against Boothbay in a semifinal round game. The seventh-ranked Flyers dominated the No. 3 Seahawks from start to finish as Veroneau broke her 3-point record with nine baskets from behind the arc. Even better, she finished with a mind-boggling 47 points, breaking the all-time Class C tournament record (tying legend Cindy Blodgett for the all-time record in any class). Waynflete fell just short against Hall-Dale in the regional final, but with Veroneau and plenty others returning in 2012-13, the Flyers might just finish the job. Don’t be surprised if this star scores 50 points in the process.
McAuley won its first state title in eight seasons in 2010-11 and this winter, faced the bulls-eye from start to finish. Even though the Lions got their opponents’ best effort night after night, it didn’t matter. McAuley was only seriously tested on a couple occasions and wound up 18-0 behind a superb team effort. The Lions certainly had their stars in senior Alexa Coulombe (the eventual Miss Maine Basketball winner) and sophomores Allie Clement and Olivia Smith, but the supporting cast of senior defensive standout Sadie DiPierro, junior rebounding machine Molly Mack, steady sophomore Jackie Welch and freshman star-of-the-future Victoria Lux also excelled. McAuley didn’t trail for a single second in the tournament, defeating Westbrook, Windham, Scarborough and Cony to bring home the school’s fourth Gold Ball. The Lions will aim for the program’s first ever three-peat next winter.
In a year defined by parity, the Deering boys’ team stood the tallest. The Rams lost at Cheverus and Portland and at home to the Bulldogs in the regular season, but still managed to earn the top seed in Western A with a 15-3 mark. Deering then produced plenty of excitement in the tournament. First, the Rams rallied from a halftime deficit to fend off No. 9 Biddeford’s upset bid in the quarterfinals. Deering raced to an early lead in the semis against No. 4 Cheverus, the two-time defending regional champ, and held on for dear life late to advance. That was a mere appetizer for the regional final which saw the Rams storm back from a second half deficit, but find themselves tied as time wound down. Then, senior Pat Green became a folk hero, draining a 3-pointer as time expired to help Deering escape Bonny Eagle. In the state final, the Rams struggled early against a Hampden Academy squad which had more size, the first time Deering faced that challenge all season. The Rams were true to the test, however, as senior Jon Amabile had 27 points and juniors Labson Abwoch and Thiwat Thiwat were able to get the job done inside. A second half surge allowed Deering to cruise home to a 59-50 victory as the Rams earned the second Gold Ball in school history.
Cheverus senior Louie DiStasio and Portland sophomore Jayvon Pitts-Young were two of the better players in the city this winter.
Waynflete junior Martha Veroneau put forth a record-setting performance in the Western C tournament, helping the Flyers advance all the way to the Western C Final.
Standout McAuley sophomore Allie Clement helped the Lions repeat as Class A state champions.
The Deering boys’ basketball team celebrated the loudest after winning the Class A state title.