By Michael Hoffer
With the arrival of a new month, local athletes and their fans can start dreaming of championships.
The frenzied month of February will feature countless highlights. For local wrestlers the postseason is already underway.
Track gets its turn Saturday with the Southwesterns.
Basketball is just days away from the conclusion of its regular season and every local squad has a shot at qualifying for playoffs.
Girls’ hockey is ready to drop the puck on its MPA-sanctioned postseason. The boys’ regular season is nearing its conclusion as well.
Here’s a snapshot:
SUBHEAD-Boys’ basketball: Flyers soaring
While Cheverus was continuing its season for the ages and Portland was beating Deering in Western Class A (please see accompanying stories, page 13), Waynflete continued its quiet climb up the Western C standings.
After losing by 30 at home to Traip on Jan. 19, the Flyers were 2-9 and appeared to be dead in the water. They’ve since won four of five, including a pair of games last week.
After downing host St. Dom’s 69-61 behind standout junior John Malia’s 28 points, Waynflete hosted Sacopee Friday afternoon. The Flyers shot to an 18-3 lead, saw the Hawks furiously rally, then restored order in the second half en route to a 60-44 decision. Malia had 19 points and junior Bill Ngoal added 13 as Waynflete improved to 6-10.
“I think we’ve been able to put some things together, but we never look past the next game,” said Flyers’ coach Rich Henry. “It’s a work in progress. We’re a young team. Mentally, they’re realizing what it takes to play. Last year they watched people play. This year they’re playing. We’re playing better teams. It’s a learning experience for everybody.”
Waynflete was at top Western B contender Lake Region Tuesday (too late for this edition) and closes the regular season at home versus Hyde Friday. The Flyers were 10th in the latest Western Class C Heal Points standings. The top 14 teams qualify. If they finish eighth or higher, they would host a preliminary round contest.
“We’re happy to get into the prelims,” Henry said. “If we can host, so much the better. We’ll be happy to welcome a team to the warm confines of the ‘Flete Center.’ I think the kids are enthused.”
SUBHEAD-Girls’ basketball: Bulldogs closing in
On the girls’ side, Portland is hoping to end a four-year absence from the postseason. The Bulldogs, who just missed the playoffs a year ago, took a major step toward making the cut Friday night at rival Cheverus.
Portland, which couldn’t hold an early lead and lost 50-48 at home to the Stags Dec. 30, got off to another solid start, then held on for the win 47-46 behind 14 points from senior Nyachuol Biliew and a dozen from senior Alisa Sweet.
The Bulldogs then fell to 7-10 Monday night with a 64-46 home loss to Scarborough in a makeup of a game snowed out last Wednesday. Portland was down 21-7 after one period and trailed 43-12 at the half. Sweet had 16 points to lead the team.
Portland is at McAuley in the regular season finale Friday. The Bulldogs were 10th in the latest Western A Heals. The top 11 teams qualify.
Friday’s loss to Portland dropped Cheverus to 8-9 this season. The Stags were coming off a 31-20 home win over Westbrook three days prior, thanks largely to Kristy Baum’s 14-point effort. Against the Bulldogs, senior Molly Grover had a team-high eight points.
Cheverus, ninth in the latest Heals, closes at home against Deering Friday.
The defending state champion Rams continue to crush all comers. Deering improved to 16-0 with a pair of road wins last week: 82-27 at Massabesic and 67-37 at Marshwood. Against the Mustangs, senior standout Diana Manduca had 20 points, while sophomore Kayla Burchill added 19. In the win over the Hawks, Manduca led the way with 16, while Burchill and junior Claire Ramonas both added a dozen.
The top-ranked Rams were home with South Portland Tuesday (too late for this edition) before closing the regular year at home versus Cheverus Friday.
McAuley has had no shortage of dramatic games this winter. The Lions came oh-so-close to sweeping rival South Portland, but despite a valiant rally, lost 41-37 in overtime to the visiting Red Riots Friday night. Sophomore Rebecca Knight had 15 points in a losing effort.
Saturday, the Lions improved to 9-7 with a 48-45 victory at Thornton Academy thanks to some late heroics from junior Caitlin Cimino. Knight led the team with 25 points and Cimino added 12.
McAuley was eighth in the latest Western A Heals and will likely host a prelim. The Lions were at Biddeford Tuesday (too late for this edition) and close the regular year at home versus Portland Friday night.
In Western C, Waynflete was upset 47-40 at St. Dom’s last Tuesday before bouncing back with a 58-23 home win over Sacopee Friday. During the loss, the Flyers couldn’t hold a five-point lead in the fourth period and fell despite 17 points from senior Annie Cutler. Against the Hawks, junior Morgan Woodhouse erupted for 20 points, 13 rebounds and five steals. Senior Mariam Qazi added 11 points.
Waynflete, 13-3 and second to Jay in the Western C Heals, has a huge home showdown against three-time defending Western B champion Lake Region Wednesday and closes the regular year at home versus Hyde Friday.
SUBHEAD-Hockey: Cheverus girls poised for playoffs
On the ice, the girls’ hockey playoffs begin Wednesday with the quarterfinal round. The semifinals will be held Friday and Saturday. Games in both rounds will be played on the home ice of the higher rated team. The regional finals are Feb. 11 at the Portland Ice Arena and the state championship game is Feb. 14 at the Colisee in Lewiston.
Cheverus has every intention of being on the ice for the final. The Stags suffered a painful 1-0 setback at Biddeford last Wednesday, but responded nicely Saturday with a home win over Falmouth. Monday, Cheverus downed visiting York 6-1 behind a hat trick from junior Alyssa Audet to finish the regular season 15-2-1, good for second in the final West Region Heal Points standings. The Stags will meet No. 3 Scarborough (12-4-2) or No. 6 Cape Elizabeth (9-8-1) in the semifinals this weekend. Cheverus swept both teams in the regular season.
Deering and Portland weren’t as fortunate.
The Rams brought the curtain down on their 1-16-1 season Saturday with a home loss to Scarborough. The Bulldogs wound up 2-15-1 after Saturday’s loss at Gorham.
In boys’ action, Portland has the best shot at a playoff berth. The Bulldogs improved to 6-6-1 Saturday after a 2-0 victory at Bonny Eagle. Portland (seventh in the latest Western A Heals) hosts Fryeburg/Lake Region Thursday and goes to Cheverus Saturday.
Speaking of the Stags, they dropped to 2-10-1 after recent losses to Gorham (1-0), Falmouth (7-0) and Scarborough (11-1). The goal against the Red Storm snapped a four-game scoreless streak. Cheverus (14th in Western A) is home with Bonny Eagle Thursday and Portland Saturday.
Deering is 1-10 after Thursday’s 7-2 home loss to Fryeburg/Lake Region. The Rams (17th in Western A) host Gray-New Gloucester/Poland Thursday, go to Marshwood Friday, Sanford Saturday and Fryeburg/Lake Region Monday.
The regular season came to a close Saturday at the Portland Expo.
Cheverus, Deering, McAuley and Portland all battled with South Portland. In the boys’ meet, Deering came in first with 112 points. South Portland was second. Cheverus (55.5 points) placed third and Portland (26) was fourth. The Rams also won the girls’ meet with 150 points. The Stags (97) were second. South Portland came in third, while the Bulldogs (41) and Lions (30) were fourth and fifth respectively. Deering’s Annie Farrell was named senior division athlete of the meet after capturing the senior 45 hurdles and the 300.
This coming Saturday brings the SMAA championships at the Expo.
At the Western Class A wrestling regionals Saturday at Noble High School, Deering placed fifth with 68.5 points. Portland, 12th out of 14 teams with 28 points, also took part.
Deering’s Ryan Toussaint won the 125-pound title with a 9-4 victory over Massabesic’s Ethan Norwald. Deering’s Tyler Debardino reached the finals of the heavyweight division but was pinned by Cape Elizabeth standout Nate Lavallee at 2:13.
In the consolation finals, Portland’s Glody Kayumba beat Sanford’s Ryan Bogan by injury default at 215-pounds. Deering’s Benjamin Sawyer lost 6-3 to Westbrook’s Stephen Sawyer in the 171-pound class.
The Class A state championship meet is Saturday in Bangor.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com