Strong starts the theme for Portland area teams; So far, so good on hardcourt, ice and in pool
The 2009-10 winter sports season has only just begun, but it has left a lot of smiles in its wake thus far.
While Deering's boys' basketball squad is off to a perfect start (please see story), Cheverus, Portland and Waynflete have also shown positive glimpses.
The Stags, who were perfect during the regular season a year ago before being upset by Thornton Academy in the semifinal round of the tournament, have high hopes this season and passed a big early test.
After opening with a 80-35 rout at Noble behind 15 points from senior standout Indiana Faithfull, Cheverus hosted Westbrook, another preseason favorite, last Tuesday evening (please see Web site for full game story). The Stags were up 15-11 after one period and 26-24 at the break, but the Blue Blazes held a two-point advantage, 40-38, heading for the fourth, setting up a fantastic finish.
Cheverus took a 44-40 lead, but Westbrook answered with a 3. After Faithfull made a floater to make it 46-43, the Blue Blazes made another 3-ball to tie the score. With 2:59 to go, the hosts went up 48-46 on a Faithfull layup, but the visitors answered with a layup of their own. The Stags would run out the final minute-and-a-half of clock and to the surprise of no one, Faithfull was the man with the ball at the end, driving, floating and hitting a tough-angle bank shot with 7 seconds to go for a 50-48 lead. Westbrook wasn't able to answer and Cheverus had a victory.
“We didn't want to put the ball in their hands,” said Faithfull (15 points). “We wanted to make sure we got the last shot. It just happened I got a layup and luckily enough it went in. It was luck. Westbrook's a great team. For us to win this game early in the season shows a lot. We'll definitely be a contender.”
“I thought we'd get physically pushed around since (Westbrook's) bigger and stronger, but our kids didn't back down,” added Stags coach Bob Brown. “We're tall, lean and lanky, but tonight, we also were tough.”
Friday, the Stags made it three straight with a 70-29 win at Kennebunk (as Faithfull had 17). Cheverus had another big test Tuesday when it hosted Portland. Friday brings a visit from another contender, Windham. Next Tuesday, the Stags go to Massabesic in their final game before the holiday break.
Portland opened with a gutwrenching 61-58 buzzer-beater setback at defending Class A champion Thornton Academy in a rematch of last year's regional final. Senior Koang Thok had 21 (including a 3 to tie matters late) in a losing effort.
The Bulldogs then bounced back with a pair of victories, 77-38 over visiting Noble (Thok had 22) and 53-38 at home over Marshwood (senior Walter Stover led the way with 18 points). After playing at Cheverus Tuesday, Portland hosts Gorham Friday and will be at Westbrook next Tuesday in its final pre-holiday break contest.
In Western C, Waynflete, which made it to Augusta a year ago and hopes to contend in 2009-10, began its season with a 39-22 win at North Yarmouth Academy (behind 14 points from senior Bill Ngoal and 13 from classmate John Malia). The Flyers then lost to a pair of Western B contenders, 41-35 at Fryeburg (despite 21 from Malia) and 77-35 at home to Falmouth, which might wind up being one of the best teams in the state regardless of class. Against the Yachtsmen, Malia and junior Joe Veroneau each had nine points. Falmouth had 19 of the game's first 21 points and never looked back.
“I knew they'd be tough, but I have some concerns about how we played the game,' said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “We'll address some of those things in practice. Joe's a big, strong kid who hustles all the time and plays his position. John has a lot of talent. We need other guys to play within themselves.”
The Flyers tried to bounce back Tuesday at Old Orchard Beach. Next Tuesday, in the 2009 finale, Waynflete plays host to Sacopee.
The two-time defending Class A state champion Deering girls' squad came into 2009-10 with a 36-game win streak, but the Rams have found the going much tougher this winter (please see story).
Elsewhere, Cheverus, McAuley, Portland and Waynflete have been up and down.
The Stags, after back-to-back trips to the preliminary round, but no further, have high hopes this year and so far, have excelled.
Cheverus opened with wins over Noble (51-30, behind 15 points from sophomore Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy and 12 from senior Theresa Hendrix), Westbrook (49-37, as Palazzi-Leahy and freshman Brooke Flaherty both scored 16) and Kennebunk (64-35, behind 16 from Flaherty and a near triple-double from Hendrix).
Saturday night, the Stags improved to 4-0 with a 73-56 home triumph over Portland. Palazzi-Leahy set the tone with a jump shot and a 3-pointer in the game's first 30 seconds and had 16 points as the hosts built a 25-13 lead after one period. Cheverus went up 52-27 at halftime and was never tested. Palazzi-Leahy finished with 25 points.
“We expected to play really well,” said Palazzi-Leahy. “We play really well as a team. We got ready for this in the summer. We were determined to start 4-0. We have a lot of aggressive players and we work together well. Making it to the Civic Center is definitely our goal this year.”
“We played really well in the first half with 52 points, it took us a couple games to score that last year,” said Cheverus coach Richie Ashley. “I thought we were unselfish and moved the ball. Our freshmen are getting a lot of playing time. We have a lot of athletes. I'm proud of the girls for starting 4-0. No Cheverus team has ever started 4-0.”
The Stags had no trouble getting up for their trip to McAuley Tuesday. The Lions eliminated Cheverus from the playoffs last season. The Stags are at Windham Friday and play host to Massabesic in their 2009 finale Tuesday of next week.
Portland fell to 0-4 with the loss, despite a sensational individual effort from junior Nicollette Kapothanasis, who had a game-high 35 points (including 20 of 25 free throw attempts). The Bulldogs (who have been beset big-time by injury) previously lost 62-36 to Thornton Academy (despite senior Jill Russell's 10 points), 60-56 at Noble (Kapothanasis scored 21 points and Russell added 19) and 53-39 at Marshwood (despite Kapothanasis' 16). Portland goes to Gorham Friday and plays host to Westbrook Tuesday of next week.
McAuley, an expected top contender, is 2-1 to date, but nothing has come easily. The Lions opened with a 39-35 home win over Marshwood (junior standout Rebecca Knight had 16 points), then edged visiting Thornton Academy, 35-32 (behind seven points from freshman Hannah Cooke). Friday, McAuley dropped a 35-26 decision at Windham (despite seven points from junior Chantalle Desjardins). The Lions hosted Cheverus Tuesday, welcome Noble Friday, then close 2009 at powerhouse Scarborough next Tuesday.
In Western C, Waynflete has proved it once again will be right in the middle of things all season. The Flyers had a sensational opener, drubbing visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 53-26, behind 23 points, 20 rebounds and 11 steals from senior standout Morgan Woodhouse and 20 points from dynamic freshman Martha Veroneau. Waynflete then lost frustrating decisions to Western B contenders Fryeburg (41-38, in overtime, despite Woodhouse's 13 points) and Falmouth (47-44, despite 22 from Woodhouse). The Flyers looked to get back in the win column Tuesday when they hosted Old Orchard Beach. Next Tuesday, Waynflete is home against Sacopee.
While the Portland hockey team has struggled in the early going (please see story), Cheverus appears on the road back to contention. The Stags suffered a 1-0 loss to Massabesic in the opener (despite 51 shots on goal), but bounced back with a 5-2 home victory over Fryeburg (Sean Oddy scored twice) and a confidence-inspiring 2-1 triumph at Scarborough (on Oddy's late tally). Cheverus is home against Westbrook Thursday, visits Kennebunk Saturday and Deering in the 2009 finale Dec. 23.
Speaking of the Rams, they've settled for a pair of ties: 4-4 versus Marshwood and 6-6 against Massabesic. Both times, Deering failed to hold late leads. The Rams seek their first victory Thursday at home against Portland. Saturday, they host Sanford and next Wednesday, it's Cheverus.
The Cheverus girls' hockey team has set the bar high so far in 2009-10. The Stags won their first five outings by a combined 35-2 margin and faced a test Tuesday at Scarborough. Cheverus hosts Gorham Thursday and Winslow Saturday. Tuesday brings a playoff rematch at home against Biddeford.
Portland is off to a great start. The Bulldogs downed Gorham 5-2 and Deering 4-1 early on, then improved to 3-0 Saturday with a 7-2 triumph at Gorham (sophomore Raechel Allen had three goals, while Kathleen Dalbec and Drew Berry both had two). Portland has already eclipsed last year's win total and hopes to go 4-0 Wednesday when it goes to Biddeford. Saturday, the Bulldogs play at York.
Deering took an 0-4-1 record to Yarmouth Monday. The Rams scored just four times in their first four games, but erupted for six in a tie at Cape Elizabeth (Tiffany Leadbetter scored four times). Deering hosts Gorham Wednesday and welcomes Brunswick Saturday.
Waynflete doesn't have a team, but senior standout Sasha Timpson is once again lighting it up for the Cape Elizabeth team, scoring nine times to date, including the tying tally with 10 seconds left against Deering.
Bad weather delayed the start of the wrestling season for Cheverus, Deering and Portland. The Rams did come in seventh at the Westbrook Tourney.
In the pool, Cheverus swept Deering in a season-opening meet. The boys held on for an 86-78 decision while the girls were victorious, 92-70. Portland's boys enjoyed a 112-54 win over Bonny Eagle. The Bulldogs also lost 105-72 against Windham. The girls' team lost 112-60 to Windham and 92-61 to Bonny Eagle. McAuley opened with a 111-69 setback to one of the Class A favorites, Scarborough.
Indoor track and skiing begin in earnest after the first of the year.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com