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THE PLAYOFFS Deering girls' basketball seeks to repeat

Sports

THE PLAYOFFS Deering girls' basketball seeks to repeat

Cheverus, McAuley, Portland compete in prelims; Waynflete top seed in Western C

By Michael Hoffer
For the first time on record, all five local girls' basketball teams have qualified for the postseason.
Undefeated defending state champion Deering and Waynflete (15-3) secured the top seeds in Western A and Western C, respectively. Both teams earned byes into the quarterfinal round.
Cheverus, McAuley and Portland believe they can make some noise as well.
In Western A, McAuley hosts Cheverus in the preliminary round Wednesday at 7 p.m., with the winner earning a date with Deering Monday at 8:30 p.m., at the Portland Expo.
Portland visits South Portland for the preliminary round Wednesday at 7 p.m. If the Bulldogs can spring an upset, they'll play Scarborough in the quarterfinals Monday at 3:30 p.m.
In Western C, Waynflete awaits the winner of a preliminary round contest between Traip and St. Dom's. The Flyers begin play next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., with the quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.
SUBHEAD-Deering ready to do it again
Deering's title defense has gone off without a hitch. The Rams welcomed new coach Mike Murphy by being even more dominant than they were a year ago.
Deering rolled through the regular season with an 18-0 mark. The Rams' closest call came Jan. 8 in a 53-43 victory at Scarborough. Deering won three other games by 11 points. In all, the Rams' average victory margin was slightly over 27 points per contest.
Deering wrapped up the regular year last week with home wins over South Portland (46-35) and Cheverus (57-22). Senior standout Diana Manduca had 15 points, junior Claire Ramonas added 14 and sophomore Kayla Burchill had 12 against the Red Riots, as Deering pulled away late. Against the Stags, the Rams led 17-2 after one quarter and 29-9 at the half, while riding Burchill's 12 points to the win.
"It's very rewarding," said Murphy. "The kids answered the bell, day in day out with a target on their back. For the most part, the kids practiced hard and sacrificed minutes. They really care for each other. Their play on the court proves it."
Deering is considered the heavy favorite in the tournament, but the Rams will be tested by the likes of Scarborough, Biddeford, Windham, Noble, South Portland and possibly its first playoff opponent, Cheverus or Stevens Avenue rival McAuley.
The Rams beat the Lions, 47-23, on Jan. 15.
Deering has never faced the Stags in the playoffs. The Rams has a history with McAuley, beating the Lions in the 2004 regional final (56-46) and losing to them in the 2001 quarterfinals (58-47) and the 2007 semifinals (47-36).
"No one will give us anything," Murphy said. "No one did in the regular season. I don't expect anything different in the tournament. Teams will come after us and they should. These guys meet the challenges. We'll take it one game at a time and continue with that thinking. We escaped with an 18-0 record, but everyone else can beat each other and I'm not excluding us. There will be some great matchups. You never know in the tournament."
The McAuley-Cheverus prelim is a delicious clash of a storied program against a nascent one seeking to make its mark.

"It will be an exciting environment," said Lions coach Wil Smith. "They'll bring a lot of fans to our small gym. It's tournament time. It's about who steps and who's ready to play. If we play solid defense and take care of the ball, we should be OK."

The teams met Jan. 10 at McAuley with the Lions winning 48-33. The Stags (8-10) have only played one playoff game in their history, a preliminary round loss at Marshwood last winter. They have have never beaten McAuley.
The Lions edged visiting Portland, 51-47, in their regular season finale Friday to finish 10-8. Freshman Alexa Coulombe had 15 points.

"I was definitely looking for more," Smith said. "We had a lot of close games. Without a true point guard those are games you lose. (Sophomore) Rebecca Knight made a huge sacrifice in taking over the point guard position. Alexa had a breakout season. We have talent. We haven't jelled offensive and defensively for a full game. Now's the time.

"I think Deering's definitely the favorite, but I hesitate to say a heavy favorite. Biddeford and Scarborough are well-coached and can match up physically. You never know. If we beat Cheverus, I won't go into the Deering game conceding that they're going to win."

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, ended up 7-11 and the No. 10 seed despite losses to Scarborough and McAuley. Portland will play at No. 7 South Portland (11-7). The teams met on Jan. 26 at the Portland Expo with the Red Riots winning 58-47.
Portland is seeking revenge in its first playoff game in four years.

"When I saw Portland play the season before I took the job, I stated 'This team
should be in the playoffs,'" said Bulldogs coach Jan Veinot. "My goal last year was to get them there. We missed
by a very small margin. This year it was a major goal of our team. We are very excited and hope to work hard on Wednesday and get the chance to
make it back to our home court. We will have to contain their post players for
they have good size inside. We will count on our defense, quickness, and
shooting. "

The Bulldogs and Red Riots have met in the postseason seven previous times, with Portland winning five of those meetings. The most recent was the 2003 quarterfinal round, a 57-50 victory for the Bulldogs.
The winner will face red-hot No. 2 Scarborough (16-2) in the quarterfinals. Portland lost 64-46 to the visiting Red Storm last Monday in a game that wasn't even that close (Scarborough led 43-12 at the half). The teams have no prior playoff history.
SUBHEAD-Waynflete leads the way
Waynflete has enjoyed an increasing amount of success each year since joining Class C. After winning 11 games and losing in a prelim its inaugural 2004-05 season, the Flyers went 18-0 in the regular season two years ago before losing to Winthrop in the quarterfinals as the No. 2 seed.
Last winter, Waynflete, led by 1,000-point standout Margaret Veroneau, played a much more difficult regular season schedule, won 15 times, earned the third seed, then advanced to the semifinals before dropping a close game to Monmouth.
This winter, the Flyers excelled from start to finish, knocking off Western B contenders Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Lake Region and Yarmouth and giving Fryeburg and Greely a scare before falling. Waynflete also lost at St. Dom's, but wound up 15-3 overall thanks to a pair of huge home wins last week, a heartstopping 47-45 triumph over Lake Region and a 52-26 victory over Hyde.
Against the Lakers, senior Mariam Qazi's late 3-pointer was the difference. Junior Morgan Woodhouse, who has emerged as one of the finest post players in the state, wound up with 20 points. Qazi added 15. Against the Phoenix on Senior Night, Qazi had 17 points and senior Annie Cutler added 15.
"It's been a great regular season when you consider that losing Margaret was difficult," said Flyers coach Brandon Salway. "It took us a little while to get used to playing without her. It's been a growing process, but if you told me we'd be 15-3, I'd take that. Their willingness to share the ball was big. We have several kids who can put up 20 points. Sometimes its Morgan, Mariam, Annie. (Senior) Nina (Russem) has had some big games and so has (senior) Zoe (Sobel).
"The two years I've been here, the seniors have been phenomenal. They've all improved and they had to improve for us to be this good. We couldn't have done much better this regular season. Now we move on and it's totally different. You can wipe out seedings. This is probably the most open tournament I've seen in a long time."
Waynflete would eagerly play St. Dom's (12-6) again. The Flyers beat the Saints 65-30 at home way back on Dec. 5, but fell 47-40 in Auburn Jan. 27. The teams have no playoff history. Waynflete beat Traip (9-8) twice this winter: 47-37 in Kittery Jan. 9 and 54-39 at home 10 days later. The Flyers and Rangers have never played in the postseason.
"Everybody knows that any team can beat anybody, we've already learned that," Salway said. "Whoever we play will be tough, but if we play our game, we should win."
SUBHEAD-Schedule
The Western A semifinals will be held Friday, Feb. 20 at 6 and 7:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Western A Final is Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., at the Civic Center. The Class A state final is Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Western C semifinals are Thursday, Feb. 19 in Augusta. Waynflete would play No. 4 Mt. Abram (12-6), No. 5 Dirigo (12-6), No. 12 Livermore Falls (9-9) or No. 13 Madison (8-10) at 4 p.m. The Western C Final is Saturday, Feb. 21 in Augusta. Tip time is 7:05 p.m. The Class C state game is Saturday, Feb. 28 in Bangor at 7:05 p.m.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

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Photo:
Waynflete senior Mariam Qazi and her teammates have their sights set on winning the Class C championship.