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Top teams square off as crunch time arrives

Sports

Top teams square off as crunch time arrives

Call it showdown season.

Several of the top teams in the area have been, or will be, squaring off against top rivals as we've passed the midway point of the 2012-13 winter sports season.

Here's a glimpse at what's occurred and what's to come:

Boys' basketball

Portland's boys' basketball team passed a big test last week to remain the lone undefeated team in Western Class A. The Bulldogs (who dominated visiting Kennebunk, 68-33, behind 12 points from Matt Talbot) last Tuesday, hosted South Portland Friday night in a rematch of last year's disappointing playoff ouster. Portland took control early and was never seriously threatened as it went on to a 63-47 win behind 17 points from Nate Smart (see theforecaster.net for full game story, box scores and photos).

"My teammates got me the ball where I could score," said Smart, who had been slowed by flu symptoms before finding his stride Friday. "I found myself open a couple times and knocked down my shots."

"It was far from easy," said Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. "We started off nicely. We had a really nice first quarter. We're trying to put together four quarters. I thought tonight we played a good two, maybe two-and-a-half quarters. We sputtered at times and lost our focus a little bit and maybe got a little comfortable."

Portland (first in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) hosts Cheverus Wednesday (see theforecaster.net for game story), goes to Thornton Academy Friday and welcomes Westbrook Tuesday.

Deering began the week in the three spot behind Portland and Bonny Eagle with a 9-1 record after winning at Biddeford (69-51) and at home against Cheverus (71-63) last week. Against the Tigers, Labson Abwoch went off for 25 points. Ahmed Ismail Ahmed had a team-high 20 in the win over the Stags. Deering was home with Scarborough Tuesday, visits Westbrook Friday and plays host to Windham Tuesday of next week.

Cheverus' skid hit five games with losses last week to visiting Scarborough (73-51) and host Deering (71-63). Against the Red Storm, Spencer Noel led the way with 18 points. Noah Stebbins had 17 in the loss to the Rams. The Stags (3-7 and eighth in Western A) hope to get in the win column Wednesday when they go to Portland. Friday brings a trip to Windham.

In Western C, Waynflete continues to shine and is second in the standings to Dirigo with a 9-1 mark after downing visiting Old Orchard Beach (61-50, see theforecaster.net for game story) and host A.R. Gould (81-41) last week. Against the Seagulls, the Flyers raced to a 40-19 lead, then had to hold on down the stretch, but did so, in large part to 25 points and 15 rebounds from Serge Nyirikamba.

"We were playing the way we're capable of playing (in the first half)," said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. "I'd like to see us extend it to more than a quarter or two and do it for an entire game. We haven't done that all year."

In the win over A.R. Gould, Nyirikamba had 27 points and Jack Cutler added 19.

The Flyers were at defending Class B champion Yarmouth Tuesday and host Traip Friday.

"We need to be more consistent," Henry said. "We need to be mentally tougher. We need to recognize what goes well and do more of that and recognize what doesn't go well and stop doing it."

Girls' basketball

Cheverus' girls' basketball team had two huge contests last week and one more Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, the Stags went to Scarborough, the team which ousted them from the tournament in agonizing fashion a year ago, and got some revenge, even though it took forever. As it did in last year's playoff game, the Red Storm let a fourth quarter lead slip away, necessitating overtime, then another, where Brooke Flaherty saved Cheverus with a pair of clutch baskets to force a third extra session. There, with 6.1 seconds to go, Flaherty hit a free throw and the Stags survived and prevailed, 58-57, behind Flaherty's 23 points (see theforecaster.net for full game story, box score and photos).

"We could feel it slipping away and we didn't want that," said Flaherty. "We know what it's like to lose and we didn't want to lose. We flashed back to last year and how we felt sitting in the (Portland Expo) locker room. We didn't want that feeling again. We pulled together. It does feel good. (Scarborough's) a very good team. It will be interesting if we see them again."

"I don't have the words to describe what Brooke did," said Cheverus coach Richie Ashley. "She's a special player. She's extremely unselfish. She stepped up. She's a four-year starter and a two-year captain. She knows this is her time. She put on a show. She had unbelievable composure.

"Our senior leadership really proved themselves tonight. There were many times we could have folded the tent. They beat us in the fourth quarter. (Going into the third overtime) I told them it comes down to four minutes. The girls had a look (on their faces). They never got down. They had a belief they'd find a way to win. The girls deserve all the credit. They hung together. We really believe in each other. There's something (the girls) have that I don't know a lot of teams have."

The Stags hosted Deering Friday and almost beat the Rams for the first time, but ultimately dropped a 60-56 decision, despite 18 points from Georgia Ford and 17 from Flaherty.

Cheverus (9-1 and fourth in the Western A Heals) had a huge home showdown with undefeated, two-time defending state champion McAuley Tuesday (see theforecaster.net for the game story). Friday, the Stags welcome Windham.

McAuley stayed perfect, improved to 10-0 and extended its win streak to 36 last week with wins at Massabesic (86-44) and Thornton Academy (64-38). Against the Mustangs, sisters Allie and Sarah Clement engaged in an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better battle with Allie scoring 26 points and Sarah 25. Jackie Welch added 15 points. In the win over the Golden Trojans, Alile Clement had 20 points, Sarah Clement 12 and Olivia Smith added 13.

The Lions (third in Western A) had a showdown at Cheverus Tuesday, then welcomes No. 2 Scarborough Friday.

Deering began the week atop the Western A Heals with a 10-1 record after defeating visiting Biddeford (47-14) and host Cheverus (60-56) last week. In the win over the Tigers, Marissa MacMillan had a team-high 10 points. MacMillan then scored the go-ahead points in the win over the Stags. Alexis Stephenson led the Rams with 16 points, MacMillan added 15. Chelsea Saucier finished with 12 and Keneisha DiRamio tallied 11.

Deering went to Scarborough Tuesday, hosts Westbrook Friday and goes to Windham Tuesday of next week.

Portland romped at Kennebunk last Tuesday, 62-25, as Brianna Holdren had 27 points. Friday, the Bulldogs hung tough with visiting South Portland for three quarters, trailing just 40-38, but only managed three points in the fourth and lost, 55-41, despite 14 from Holdren (see theforecaster.net for game story).

"You can't score three points in the fourth quarter and expect to win," lamented Bulldogs coach Jan Veinot. "We played good defense. We just don't have an inside presence. We played hard, we played well, we played good defense. It's gotten a lot better than the beginning of the year. They're getting it."

Portland (3-8 and 11th in Western A) hosts Thornton Academy Thursday and goes to Westbrook Tuesday.

In Western C, Waynflete improved to 7-2 and third behind Madison and Boothbay in the Heals after a 50-38 win at Old Orchard Beach last Tuesday. Anne Veroneau had 13 points and Martha Veroneau added 11.

The Flyers hosted Kents Hill Monday (see theforecaster.net for game story) and Yarmouth Tuesday and visit Traip Friday.

Hockey

On the ice, the Cheverus boys continue to excel, improving to 7-1 last Wednesday with a 4-1 win at Brunswick. Cameron McLain scored twice. The Stags (third behind Scarborough and Falmouth in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) goes to Cape Elizabeth Thursday and hosts Biddeford Saturday.

Portland enjoyed a 3-2 win at Marshwood/Traip last Monday (Antonio DiPietro had the winner), then fell to 4-3 with an 11-1 home loss to Falmouth Thursday. The Bulldogs (fifth in Western A) go to Windham Friday, Gorham Saturday and host South Portland Monday.

On the girls' side, Cheverus and Portland both began the week on the outside looking in as far as a potential trip to the postseason was concerned.

The Stags improved to 3-8-1 with a 6-5 overtime home win over Brunswick Thursday, thanks to Katie Roy's overtime goal (her fourth of the game). Cheverus (seventh in the West Region Heals, where five teams make the playoffs) hosted Cape Elizabeth Monday, welcomes Lewiston Thursday and goes to Leavitt/EL Saturday.

Portland fell to 2-8-1 (and eighth) after a 7-1 loss at Falmouth last Wednesday. After going to Gorham Tuesday, the Bulldogs host York Thursday, go to top-ranked Scarborough Saturday and visit Winslow Monday.

Indoor track

Cheverus' boys were first at a five-team indoor track meet last weekend at USM. Portland came in fifth. The Stags won every relay and got wins from Jake Dixon in the junior 55 (7.08 seconds) and junior 400 (54.02). In the girls' meet, Cheverus was third behind South Portland and Thornton Academy, while the Bulldogs were fifth. The Stags got wins from Hannah Robbins in the pole vault (8 feet), Meredith Willard in the senior 55 (7.74) and Anne Slattery in the senior 200 (28.04), as well as from their 3,200 and sprint medley relays. Portland's Jessica Wolfe took the junior shot put (25-1).

McAuley was fifth in a five-team meet, won by Scarborough. Elsa Curran won three events: the senior 55 hurdles (9.94), senior triple jump (27-7.25) and senior shot put (29-1.5). Akech Allolding took the junior shot put (25-5.5).

Deering's girls won a four-team meet, while the girls were second to Gorham. Boys' multiple event winners included Razel Gavin (junior 55, 7.12; junior 200, 26.03) and Paolo DeMarco (junior 55 hurdles, 9.28; junior triple jump, 34-4). On the girls' side, Darious Zagon won the junior 55 (8 seconds) and junior 200 (29.08).  Other multiple winners included Edie Pallozzi (600, 1 minute, 38.82 seconds; senior 800, 2:21.1), Rashad Zagon (senior 55 hurdles, 9.89; senior high jump, 5-0) and Chantrea El (junior 55 hurdles. 9.83; open 55 hurdles, 10.18).

Saturday's schedule includes McAuley and Portland competing against Westbrook and Windham at 1 p.m. and Cheverus and Deering taking part in a meet versus Biddeford, Gorham and Massabesic at 3:30.

Swimming

In the pool, Cheverus' highly touted boys' swim team earned another impressive victory Friday, 110-58, over defending Class B champion Greely. The Stags then gave perennial powerhouse Bangor a battle Saturday before falling, 102-83. Cheverus and Bangor will likely do battle again next month in the hunt for the top spot at the Class A state meet. The Stags swim at Falmouth Thursday.

Deering enjoyed a 108-70 win over Falmouth Friday. The Rams will compete against Hyde and Waynflete Friday.

Portland was an 86-71 winner at Bonny Eagle Thursday. The Bulldogs host Biddeford Friday.

Waynflete lost to Hyde and Kennebunk, but standout Luke Jeton won both the backstroke and butterfly. The Flyers meet Deering Friday.

On the girls' side, Waynflete handled Hyde and Kennebunk Friday, winning nearly every event. The Flyers got first place showings from Colby Harvey in the backstroke (1 minute, 2.4 seconds) and 100 freestyle (55.62 seconds), Ellen Silk in the 200 individual medley (2:26.87) and the 500 free (6:02.37), Amelia Deady in the butterfly (1:05.62) and the 200 free (2:07.11), Walker Foehl in the breaststroke (1:19.73) and the 50 free (26.36) and the 200 free relay team (1:57.58). Waynflete is home with Deering Friday.

The Rams handled visiting Falmouth, 96-81, last weekend.

Cheverus lost to defending Class B champion Greely, 89-76, Friday and to Bangor, 112-67, Saturday. The Stags go to Falmouth Thursday.

McAuley dropped a 117-56 decision to Cape Elizabeth Friday. The Lions face Gorham and Kennebunk this Friday.

Portland won at Bonny Eagle, 109-52, Friday. The Bulldogs host Biddeford Friday.

Skiing

City Nordic skiers took part in the Hornet Classic Saturday. The Portland girls were second to Maranacook in an 18-team field. Waynflete came in 15th. Laura Frank (fifth, 21 minutes, 9.2 seconds) led the Bulldogs. Marijke Rowse (37th, 23:51.5) was the top Flyer. In the boys' race, Portland was third and Deering fifth. Portland's Ben Allen was first individually (14:51.8). Deering was led by Kuba Chandler (third, 15:41.3).

Wrestling

While Deering's wrestling team didn't compete last week (the Rams host Massabesic and Wells Wednesday and travel to Noble Monday), Portland did and lost to Marshwood (78-3) and York (54-21). The Bulldogs join Noble at Windham Wednesday and compete in the Southern Maine Classic Saturday.at Biddeford.

The wrestling postseason is only a couple weeks out. The regionals are Feb. 2 and states are Feb. 9.

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