Hoops season was nothing but net
Another tremendous basketball season is in the books.
The 2009-10 campaign had no shortage of drama – too much drama at times – passion and excitement. When all was said and done, teams from the city of Portland were right in the middle of things, stealing headlines from start to finish.
The Cheverus boys didn't have a dull moment, finishing 21-1 and winning a second Class A championship in three seasons, despite an ongoing eligibility saga surrounding the Stags' best player, senior Indiana Faithfull.
Deering and Portland also made it back to the tournament before losing in the quarterfinal round.
On the girls' side, unheralded Waynflete, a squad playing with just one seasoned veteran, rode that veteran, senior Morgan Woodhouse, all the way to the regional final before losing to Madison.
In Western A, Deering's quest for a three-peat was derailed by Scarborough in the regional final. The Rams advanced to that game with a narrow win over McAuley in the semifinals. The young Lions enjoyed their best season in three years and suggested that they could be the favorite next winter. Cheverus made it to the quarterfinals for the first time before its finest season to date ended at the hands of Biddeford.
Before we unlace the sneakers for good, here's one final look at the biggest and best stories of the 2009-10 campaign:
5) Cheverus girls make history
After consecutive seasons of falling just shy in the preliminary round, the upstart Cheverus girls' team finally earned a date at the Portland Expo. The young, but promising Stags started 4-0, then, after a loss to nemesis McAuley, rattled off five straight wins (including clutch victories over playoff teams Biddeford and Thornton Academy). Cheverus struggled in the second half of the season against the league's elite, but still wound up with a solid 13-5 mark, good for the No. 4 spot in Western A. In the quarterfinals, the Stags squared off with Biddeford, a regional finalist last winter. Despite 19 points from freshman Brooke Flaherty, Cheverus was ousted, 45-38, but the most successful season in program annals was in the books. Better yet, there's more triumph to come.
4) Deering edges Portland in a classic
The night of Feb. 4, the Deering boys hosted rival Portland in the regular season finale. Both teams were tournament-bound, but the Rams desperately needed a signature win after falling previously to the Bulldogs and losing twice each to Cheverus and South Portland. Early in the fourth, Deering trailed 43-32 and appeared dead in the water, but gave the home folks a thrill by closing the game on a 17-5 run. When sophomore sharpshooter Jon Amabile canned a 3 with seven seconds to go, the Rams had rallied for an improbable 49-48 advantage. A last-ditch Bulldogs' prayer was off-line and Deering went into the tournament with a huge dose of momentum. The Rams had no answers for South Portland in the quarterfinals, but could be a top threat next winter. Portland never rebounded from the loss, going on to a one-sided setback against Westbrook in its quarterfinal round test.
3) Flyers make unexpected run
Waynflete's girls took Jay to the wire in the 2009 Western C Final, but graduated several key players. This year, the Flyers hoped to make it to Augusta, but they did much, much more. Behind the individual brilliance of senior standout Morgan Woodhouse, a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist, and the emergence of several others, most notably freshman twins Catherine and Martha Veroneau, Waynflete managed a 13-3 regular season and earned the No. 2 seed for the Western C tournament. There, the Flyers squeaked past St. Dom's and Hall-Dale (in overtime) to get back to the regional final. Waynflete went cold against Madison and lost, 37-23, but once again proved it will be a force for many years to come. Next year, no one will overlook the Flyers.
2) Rams reign ends in stunner
The Deering girls excelled while winning Class A state championships in 2008 and 2009. Last year, the Rams didn't lose a game, and despite a big graduation hit, they were considered a co-favorite with Scarborough entering this season. Deering was shocked early on at Sanford, then at Scarborough, but won its final 15 games to go 16-2 and earn the No. 2 seed for the tournament. Behind senior Claire Ramonas and junior Kayla Burchill, the Rams defeated Thornton Academy and McAuley to earn a date with the Red Storm in the regional final. There, Burchill was on fire early as Deering took the lead. The Rams were up 28-21 in the fourth quarter, but fell victim to foul trouble. Burchill fouled out on a disputed play and picked up a technical foul in the process. That inspired a late Scarborough run and Deering wasn't able to counter. When the horn sounded, the Rams were champions no more, after suffering a 37-34 setback. Burchill and the other returning players will seek to restore the program to the pinnacle in 2010-11.
1) As the Stags turn
The Cheverus boys were under the microscope all winter. After last year's undefeated run ended with a stunning semifinal round loss to Thornton Academy, the 2009-10 Stags were supposed to be very good, but perhaps not state championship material. That perception was quickly shoved aside as Cheverus eked out a close win over Westbrook and pummeled everyone else en route to a 13-0 start. Then, senior point guard Indiana Faithfull, an Austrlian native, was declared ineligible and everything changed. Faithfull had used up the eight consecutive semesters per the Maine Principals' Association decree and the Stags had to play their final five regular season games without him. Cheverus managed to go 4-1 in that stretch, but lost at South Portland in the finale. Regardless, the Stags earned the top seed in Western A and were viewed as a second banana to Westbrook. Then, just hours before the start of the tournament, Faithfull was reinstated after a lawsuit claiming discrimination based on the country of his origin brought by his family was upheld. Faithfull was relatively quiet in wins over Scarborough and Windham in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, but he spearheaded a second half rally against Westbrook in the regional final and had 23 points in a 55-50 state championship game win over Edward Little. The MPA is expected to go to court and the title could be taken away, but there's no doubt that Faithfull (and his teammates) persevered in a fishbowl, came up huge in the midst of great personal difficulty and got to celebrate the winning of a Gold Ball.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org