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Early results promising for winter teams

Sports

Early results promising for winter teams

(Note: For the complete Cheverus-Thornton Academy, Portland-Marshwood and Portland-South Portland boys' basketball and McAuley-Thornton Academy, Portland-South Portland and Waynflete-GPCS, Waynflete-NYA and Waynflete Traip girls' basketball game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)

The 2013-14 winter sports season is underway in earnest and local squads have already made their presence felt.

Boys' basketball

City boys' basketball teams have been among the best around in the first couple weeks.

Portland, a preseason favorite, has lived up to billing, starting 5-0. The Bulldogs rolled at Massabesic in the opener, 84-31, behind 23 points from Jayvon Pitts-Young. After holding off host Noble (66-54, behind 17 points from Pitts-Young and 17 more from Matt Talbot), Portland handled Marshwood in its home opener, 65-40, as Pitts-Young and Travis Godbout both had 14 points. It then won at Gorham, 60-40, behind 16 points from Talbot and 15 from Justin Zukowski and Friday led from start to finish at South Portland, prevailing, 79-49, thanks to 21 points from Godbout and 18 from Pitts-Young, avenging last year's playoff loss in the process.

"(Last year's) something we remember every day," Talbot said. "It still hurts, but it's a new season. I love this group. We've been in contention and I'm grateful to have another shot."

"We wanted to get back at them (for last year)," said Godbout. "It feels really good to be able to do that."

"Prior to two years ago, we beat (South Portland) all the time," longtime Portland coach Joe Russo added. "The kids were fired up tonight and that's part of why we got that lead. A win's always good. Even if it wasn't always pretty. An ugly win is definitely better than a pretty loss."

The Bulldogs hosted Thornton Academy Monday night and welcome Cheverus Monday of next week.

Speaking of the Stags, a year after missing the playoffs for the first time this century, they've returned to form in a big way and won four of their first five.

Cheverus eked out a 65-62 win at Windham to start (Brad Carney had 18 points), then it almost upset visiting Bonny Eagle, a regional favorite, but dropped a 62-58 decision (despite 17 points from Carney). The Stags bounced back with a 63-44 home win over Thornton Academy, as Manny Ismail had 21 points and Carney added 18. Cheverus then downed host Massabesic (71-44, behind 21 points from Zordan Holman) and held off visiting Deering (47-46, as Holman had 16 points and Carney added 15).

"We can play with anyone," said Carney. "We've definitely got some momentum going."

Cheverus is at Portland Monday to close out the 2013 portion of its schedule.

"We have to stay focused all year and never lose sight of our big goal," Ismail said.

"It's a process," Stags coach Dan Costigan added. "We haven't seen enough teams to know who's got what. That's what this time of year's about. We'll get in shape along the way."

Deering began the Todd Wing Era with a 67-58 loss at Bonny Eagle (Patrick Lobor had 15 points and Ahmed Ali 13), then defeated visiting Thornton Academy (77-55, as Liam Densmore went off for 19 points) and host Noble (64-54, as Densmore again had 19) before the loss at Cheverus (in which Lobor had 14 points and Ali 12). The Rams were home with Westbrook Monday, play Gorham Friday (at the Portland Expo) and go to South Portland Monday of next week.

In Western C, Waynflete, a regional finalist last year, won its first four games in impressive fashion. The Flyers opened with a 92-35 home victory over Greater Portland Christian School (Serge Nyirikamba had 25 points and Harry Baker-Connick added 17). They then defeated visiting Sacopee Valley (77-23, Nyirikamba had 21), host North Yarmouth Academy (66-42, behind 26 from Nyirikamba and 16 from Abel Alemayo) and visiting Old Orchard Beach (67-51, as Milo Belleau had 21 points and Nyirikamba added 19). Waynflete was at Traip Monday and returns to action Jan. 4, when it hosts Wells.

Girls' basketball

On the girls' side, three-time defending Class A state champion McAuley took a 53-game win streak into Monday's home showdown versus rival Cheverus (please see theforecaster.net for all the details), even though things haven't always come easily for the Lions this winter.

McAuley opened with a hard-fought 51-36 home win over Thornton Academy, in a game in which it pulled away in the second half behind 16 points from standout Allie Clement, 11 from unheralded Ayla Tartre and 10 from steady veteran Jackie Welch.

"It's great to have a game like this at the beginning," Clement said. "We know we have a lot to work on. Every game will be a tough game."

"If we all go out and play our hardest, we'll be 10 times better than we are," Tartre said. "A lot of teams want to beat us this year. That gives us more drive."

The Lions then won at home over Massabesic, 68-22 (Clement had 19 points and Victoria Lux a dozen), rallied late to edge host Gorham in their closest game in two years, 65-59 (as Clement had 22 points and Lux 21), downed visiting Deering, 46-33 (Clement had 18 points and Lux 11), and rolled at Noble, 72-18 (behind 18 from Welch), to give coach Billy Goodman his 100th career victory (he's 49-0 at McAuley after 51 wins at Greely).

Clement needed three points to reach the 1,000 threshold entering the Cheverus game. The Lions play host to Windham Monday of next week.

The most pleasant surprise of the young season has been Portland, which missed the playoffs in seven of the past eight years, including last winter, which ended 6-12. This season, the Bulldogs have already nearly matched that total with a best-in-at-least-a-decade 5-0 start.

Portland opened by downing visiting Massabesic (59-36) and Noble (78-29), then beat host Marshwood (76-55), visiting Gorham (63-50) and host South Portland (50-46). Against the Mustangs, Elizabeth Donato had 17 points and Cierra Burnham 16. Burnham had 23 points and Gabby Wagabaza added 11 against the Hawks. Donato had 16 points, Burnham 15 and Brianna Holdren 12 in an impressive victory over the Rams. At the Red Riots, the Bulldogs made key plays late and held on behind 18 from Donato and 15 from Holdren.

"My freshman year, we only won two games," said Donato. "We struggled really hard. Last year, I feel like it was better. We were getting there, building. This year, we've stepped it up a lot."

" Going through three losing seasons was a lot," said Holdren, a senior. "This is an amazing feeling. Throughout fall ball, we did really well. We have strong players and I thought with the freshmen we had coming up, everything would work out. The chemistry's a lot better this year. We're more of a family. We bond better. That gives us a good vibe. This is a huge win."

"I don't know if I'd call this fun, but it was a good, hard fought game," added Portland coach Jan Veinot. "Defense kept us in it. We have 10, 11 kids who can play. They know their roles. They do what they have to do to help us win. We're not perfect, but we have faith things are going to work for us."

Portland played at Thornton Academy Monday and plays host to Cheverus in a key city battle Monday of next week.

The Bulldogs are seeking their first winning season since 2004-05 and are well on their way, even if there is still work to be done.

"Every day is a test," added Veinot. "Teams will try to take us out of our game. It will only get bigger and bigger."

Cheverus took a 4-1 mark into its showdown at McAuley. The Stags held off visiting Windham, 46-33, in the opener, thanks to 13 points each from Georgia Ford and Jess Willerson. After winning at Bonny Eagle, 68-29 (Willerson had 18 points, Jill Libby 15 and Ford 13), Cheverus fell at Thornton Academy, 47-42, despite Willerson's 24. The Stags bounced back with a 75-29 home win over Massabesic (Willerson had 20 points and Cassidy Grover 11). Friday, the Stags prevailed at Deering, 65-42, their third win in a row over the Rams, behind 20 from Willerson, 14 from Libby and 11 from Ford.

Cheverus goes to Portland Monday of next week.

Deering began the year 2-3. After a 35-29 home win over Bonny Eagle to start (Courtney Brett and Tasia Titherington both had eight points), the Rams fell, 41-27, at Thornton Academy (Mary Tadsse had a team-high 10 points). Deering got back in the win column, 52-18, over visiting Noble (Titherington had 13), then lost at McAuley (46-33, despite 13 points from Amanda Brett) and at home to Cheverus (65-42, despite 11 points apiece from Courtney Brett and Titherington). The Rams played at Westbrook Monday and visit South Portland Monday of next week.

Defending Class C champion Waynflete won its first four games: 71-38 over visiting GPCS, 51-33 at Sacopee, 78-26 over visiting NYA and 46-44 at Old Orchard Beach, before suffering its first loss in nearly a calendar year, 38-35, to visiting Traip Friday. Against GPCS, Helen Gray-Bauer had 24 points and Leigh Fernandez added 15. Julianna Harwood had 13 points and Gray-Bauer 12 against the Hawks. Fernandez scored 17 and Gray-Bauer 14 versus the Panthers and in the win at OOB, Fernandez saved the day with 22 points. In the loss, Gray-Bauer had 13 points, but the Flyers turned the ball over 22 times, shot 12-of-58 from the floor and 10-of-23 from the foul line.

"Credit Traip," said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. "They did a better job at overcoming playing back-to-back games than we did. That's the bottom line. We were dreadful and deserved to lose."

Waynflete is back in action Jan. 4 at Western B power Wells.

"Hopefully we'll respond like I think we will," Salway said. "We've got a lot of work to do. It's not easy. Hopefully we'll work harder in practice."

Against Sacopee, Harwood had 13 points and Gray-Bauer 12.

Boys' hockey

Portland's boys' hockey team finished the 2013 portion of its schedule at 2-1-1 after beating host York (8-7) and Kennebunk (4-2), losing at home to Gorham (5-1) and tying Thornton Academy (3-3). The Bulldogs are back in action New Year's Day when they host Cheverus.

Speaking of the Stags, they were 3-2 at press time, beating Marshwood/Traip (6-0), Cape Elizabeth (3-2) and York (8-0), while losing at St. Dom's (2-0) and Brunswick (2-1). Cheverus meets Portland/Deering New Year's Day.

Girls' hockey

On the girls' side, Cheverus began the week 3-4-1 after a 3-2 victory at Gorham/Bonny Eagle Saturday. The Stags are back in action Monday at Capeflete, a team which beat them, 4-3, last Thursday.

Capeflete overcame an 0-3 start to sit 3-3 at press time, thanks to wins over Falmouth (6-5), Portland/Deering (10-1) and Cheverus (4-3). Capeflete went to undefeated Yarmouth/Freeport Monday and welcomes Cheverus Monday of next week.

Portland/Deering is seeking its first victory after falling to 0-7 with an 11-3 loss to Scarborough Saturday. Portland/Deering was at Gorham/Bonny Eagle Monday and plays Cheverus New Year's Day.

Indoor track

Deering's girls won a five-team meet (McAuley was fifth) last weekend. The Deering boys came in third behind Thornton Academy and Biddeford.

Cheverus' boys were second to Gorham in a five-team meet (Portland placed fifth). The Stags girls were third behind Gorham and Bonny Eagle, while Portland came in fifth.

Teams take part in the USM Relays Saturday, then league meets resume the following weekend.

Swimming

The Cheverus boys' swim team, the defending Class A state champion, has won its first three matches: 93-51 over visiting Biddeford, 111-70 at Cape Elizabeth and 123-45 at Westbrook. The Stags take part in the Morse Invitational Friday, then host South Portland Jan. 3.

Deering is 2-0, having won at Westbrook (92-68) and South Portland (88-71). The Rams host Scarborough Friday.

Portland lost at home to Massabesic (95-56) and fell at Kennebunk (107-54) and Waynflete (86-68). The Bulldogs are back in action Jan. 3 when they host Gorham.

Waynflete not only beat Portland, but also downed host Sanford (81-65) and dropped a narrow 81-80 decision at Thornton Academy. The Flyers host Massabesic on Jan. 4.

On the girls' side, Waynflete is 2-1, having beaten host Thornton Academy (94-70) and visiting Portland (90-61) and losing at Sanford (98-59). The Flyers host Massabesic Jan. 3.

Portland not only lost to Waynflete, but also dropped an 82-66 home decison to Massabesic and a 97-54 decision at Kennebunk. The Bulldogs host Gorham Jan. 3.

McAuley started 0-3 with losses at Scarborough (118-51) and Massabesic (101-51) and a home setback against Greely (89-23). The Lions welcome Falmouth Jan. 3.

Deering opened with wins at Westbrook (112-37) and South Portland (95-70). The Rams host Scarborough Friday.

Cheverus sandwiched wins at Biddeford (101-64) and Westbrook (90-48) around a 109-73 loss at Cape Elizabeth.

Wrestling

Portland's wrestling team lost to York (45-28), beat Lincoln Academy (36-30), lost to Biddeford (52-25) and fell against Kennebunk (39-31) in early action. The Bulldogs return to action Jan. 3 at the Spartan tournament in Sanford.

Deering dropped matches against Fryeburg (60-9), Lisbon (36-30) and Monmouth (33-24). The Rams are at the Noble tournament Friday and Saturday.

Skiing

The Alpine and Nordic ski seasons begin after the new year.

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