Portland Bulldogs Winter Athletes of the Year

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2010-11 Winter Male Athlete of the Year:

MIKE HERRICK, Junior-Basketball

* SMAA All-Star, second team

In a year which saw the Portland boys’ basketball team rise from the forgotten to become one of the premier teams in Western Class A come tournament time, one scorer helped the Bulldogs find their way.

Mike Herrick made his presence known early in the season, had a performance for the ages in arguably the season’s most memorable game, then led Portland to a near upset of the defending champions in the semifinals.

He was more than just a scorer, however, playing great defense throughout and his all-around game convinced The Forecaster to name Mike Herrick as Portland’s 2010-11 Winter Male Athlete of the Year.

Herrick grew up in Portland and started playing basketball in the fifth grade. A regular on the gridiron in the fall (he was a standout at Lyman Moore Middle School prior to coming to PHS), Herrick didn’t play organized hoops until his freshman year. He made the varsity team as a sophomore and was a starter this winter on a young Bulldogs squad that in a rarity, didn’t face expectations.

Herrick almost spearheaded an upset of highly touted Thornton Academy in the opener, but his 16 points weren’t enough. He did score 11 in a win over Noble, 14 in a loss to Cheverus, 20 in a victory over Windham and 17 against Massabesic before making his legend Jan. 19 versus South Portland. In that thriller, a triple-OT win for the Bulldogs, Herrick forced a third extra session with a buzzer-beating 3-ball and wound up with a season-high 32 points.

When Portland lost, 70-43, at Cheverus on Jan. 29 to drop to 6-7, it seemed as if the Bulldogs weren’t going to be a playoff participant, but they won their final five games (Herrick scored 28 points in a win over Scarborough, 17 versus Sanford, 23 against Biddeford and 25 in a regular season-ending win over Deering) and qualified.

In the quarterfinals, Portland knocked off South Portland with ease, behind a game-high 19 points from Herrick. In the semis, the Bulldogs had undefeated, top ranked, defending state champion Cheverus on the ropes, but the Stags rallied to escape, 45-41. Herrick was held to eight points in the loss.

Herrick finished as the seventh-leading scorer in the SMAA (at 14.9 points per game). He made 31 3-pointers and usually drew the defensive assignment of trying to slow down the opposition’s top scorer.

Herrick plays with the Boys and Girls Club AAU team and wants to play basketball in college. First, he’ll get a chance to shine as a senior with a Portland team that should be among the preseason favorites, where it’s accustomed to being.

For now, Mike Herrick, Portland’s 2010-11 Winter Male Athlete of the Year, deserves credit for carrying his team a long way — much further than anyone expected.

Coach Joe Russo’s comment: “Mike’s a scorer. There are very few. It’s really something you can’t teach. What’s unique about him is that he also plays the opponents’ best player. He’s shut down some excellent players.”

2009-10 winner: Imadhi Zagon (Indoor track)

2008-09 winner: Sam Guimond (Hockey)

2007-08 winner: Imadhi Zagon (Indoor track)

2006-07 winner: Ryan Carmichael (Basketball)

2005-06 winner: Andrew Duncanson (Basketball)

2004-05 winner: Connor Cushman (Nordic Skiing)

2003-04 winner: Eric Shone (Basketball)

2010-11 Winter Female Athlete of the Year:

NICOLETTE KAPOTHANASIS, Senior-Basketball

* SMAA All-Star first team

* SMAA Senior All-Star

One of the sweetest shooting girls’ basketball players in the city of Portland played in relative anonymity this winter, but her game turned heads throughout southern Maine.

Nicolette Kapothanasis shot her way on to the SMAA All-Star team and had a season to remember, even though her squad fell short of the playoffs.

For being a steady scorer who never hesitated to set up her teammates and for having such a passion for the sport, Nicolette Kapothanasis is The Forecaster’s choice for Portland’s 2010-11 Winter Female Athlete of the Year.

Kapothanasis took to basketball at a young age. It’s long been her top sport. After spending her freshman and sophomore years at McAuley, Kapothanasis came to Portland and has been the Bulldogs’ top scoring threat the past two seasons.

This winter, highlights included 18 points versus Thornton Academy, 14 in a win over Noble, 14 apiece versus Gorham and Westbrook, 26 against Windham, 22 versus Massabesic, 21 at South Portland, 14 at McAuley, 17 against Deering, 18 in a win over defending state champion Scarborough, 16 against Sanford, a season-high 34 in a win over South Portland (which tied a PHS single-game record) and 24 in a loss to Deering in her swan song.

For the season, Kapothanasis tied McAuley’s Rebecca Knight for fifth in scoring with 16 points per game. She also had 3.4 assists per game, shot 78 percent from the foul stripe and made 23 3-pointers. She had over 600 points in her two seasons with the Bulldogs.

Her 3-point acumen was well documented, but this season, she played an integral role at point guard and showed an uncanny knack to drive to the hoop and draw fouls. She was also a top-notch defender, often of the opponents’ best player.

Kapothanasis played for the Maine Hoops AAU team and will attend St. Joseph’s College and play basketball next year. She plans to major in exercise science and wants to become a physical therapist.

Before she moves on to the next level, here’s one final tribute to Nicolette Kapothanasis, Portland’s 2010-11 Winter Female Athlete of the Year. She was one of the most entertaining players around.

Coach Jan Veinot’s comment: “I know that if Nicolette had stayed at McAuley, she would have a state championship, but no one is more appreciative for her decision to come to PHS than I am. She flourished in her two years at PHS. Her basketball IQ is very high and she has a beautiful outside shot. She took the lead in ballhandling at the point position. A role she played quite adeptly. Her leadership, personality and multifaceted talent have positively changed my life as well as made a significant impact on our team and the Portland High community. I only wish we had two more years with her.”

2009-10 winner: Raechel Allen (Hockey)

2008-09 winner: Nyachuol Biliew (Basketball)

2007-08 winner: Nyachuol Biliew (Basketball)

2006-07 winner: Alex Perdomo (Hockey)

2005-06 winner: Regina Roberts (Indoor track)

2004-05 winner: Ashley Anderson (Basketball)

2003-04 winner: Ashley Brownlee (Basketball)

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.