Portland Bulldogs Winter Athletes of the Year

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STEPHEN ALEX, Senior—Basketball


  • SMAA Senior All-Star

  • Maine McDonald’s Class A/B West Senior All-Star

  • Captain

Alex was graceful and undeniable as he became a leader who helped the Bulldogs get back to the state final this winter.

Alex was born in the Sudan and came to Portland at a young age. He took up basketball early and it quickly became his favorite sport and something at which he stood out. After spending his freshman year at Deering, Alex came to Portland and played a pivotal supporting role for a talented squad which lost in the semifinals (he was named to the SMAA All-Rookie team for his efforts). As a junior, Alex was even better, earning all-conference honors while helping the Bulldogs go 22-0 and cut down the nets. Alex was named an SMAA honorable mention all-star.

After Portland graduated program stalwarts Travis Godbout, Jayvon Pitts-Young, Matt Talbot and Justin Zukowski, it was expected to come back to the pack, but Alex made sure that didn’t happen.

Alex wound up sixth in the SMAA in scoring with a 16.6 points per game average and led the league with 4 steals per game. He also averaged 6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per contest and helped the Bulldogs establish themselves as the conference’s top-rated defense.

Highlights included 23 points in a season-opening win over Massabesic, 18 in a win at Marshwood, 15 in a victory over Gorham, 16 in a win at Thornton Academy, 19 in a victory at Cheverus, 21 against Westbrook, 25 versus Bonny Eagle, 21 points (including the go-ahead hoop) in a dramatic home win over Deering, 29 in a victory at Scarborough, 20 at Sanford, 16 versus Windham and 27 in a regular season-ending win at Deering.

In the tournament, Alex continued to shine, posting 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in a quarterfinal round victory over Windham, 14 points and 10 boards in a regional final victory over Falmouth and 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals in a state final setback to Hampden Academy.

“We only had two returning players, but the team came together,” Alex said. “We blended in the middle of the season.”

Alex, who also plays with the MBNation AAU squad, has long believed in his ability.

“I always knew I could be a good player,” Alex said. “I like to outwork the next person. I like being competitive.”

Alex hopes to play at the next level and will likely spend next year at a prep school as he weighs his options.

He was the Bulldogs’ main option this season. Stephen Alex, Portland’s Winter Male Athlete of the Year, came up big so many times and his team got to the cusp of a repeat title as a result.

Coach Joe Russo’s comment: “When I called Stephen’s number, he showed me why he was the best player in the league. In my opinion, Stephen is one of the best open-court players that the league has seen in a long time. He plays great off-ball defense, anticipates really well and helped us to three wonderful seasons.”

Previous winners:

2013-14: Ben Allen (Nordic skiing)

2012-13: Kidayer Albujyly (wrestling)

2011-12: Ben Allen (Nordic skiing)

2010-11: Mike Herrick (basketball)

2009-10: Imadhi Zagon (track)

2008-09: Sam Guimond (hockey)

2007-08: Imadhi Zagon (track)

2006-07: Ryan Carmichael (basketball)

2005-06: Andrew Duncanson (basketball)

2004-05: Connor Cushman (Nordic skiing)

2003-04: Eric Shone (basketball)


GABBY WAGABAZA, Senior-Basketball

  • SMAA all-star, third-team

  • SMAA Senior All-Star

  • Captain

Wagabaza played huge minutes for a Bulldogs team that saved its best for last and she got to bow out after earning a most delicious victory.

Wagabaza started playing at the age of five and made the varsity team her freshman year at Cheverus. She also played for the Stags as a sophomore before coming to Portland for her junior year. That season saw the Bulldogs make a quantum leap up the standings and reach the semifinals for the first time in a decade.

After a solid field hockey campaign this fall, Wagabaza returned to the hardwood this winter in a leadership role for a team with a new coach. While Portland had its ups and downs during the season, Wagabaza was a steady post presence, finishing sixth in the SMAA in scoring (13.1 points per game) and leading the league in rebounds with 10.4 per game.

Highlights included 13 points in a win over Marshwood, 19 points in a close loss at Gorham, 12 in a loss to South Portland, 15 in a victory over Cheverus, 17 in a come-from-behind win at Bonny Eagle, 15 in a loss to Deering, 17 in a second loss to South Portland and 15 in a regular season-ending home loss to Deering.

As fate had it, Portland went to Cheverus for the preliminary round. There, Wagabaza haunted her former mates by erupting for a dominant 24-point, 12-rebound performance. The Bulldogs then gave top-ranked McAuley a scare in the semifinals before losing. Wagabaza had 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in her final game.

“I’m happy we ended on such a good note,” Wagabaza said. “We proved that we could play with the top teams. I loved getting to the playoffs. Playing for a greater goal motivated me.”

Wagabaza, who volunteers at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, will play tennis this spring, then plans to attend St. John’s University in New York. She will study biology and hopes to continue playing basketball at either the club or intramural level.

She certainly delivered a memorable final high school chapter. Gabby Wagabaza, Portland’s Winter Female Athlete of the Year, helped revive a program and set the stage for future success.

Coach Jay Lowery’s comment: “We had to ask a lot of Gabby. She had to play a lot of minutes for us. She came up big for us, especially at the end of the season. She made big free throws all year. She was an inside presence all year and learned how to limit her fouls. She’s a great kid. Very smart. She has a very bright future.”

Previous winners:

2013-14: Brianna Holdren (basketball)

2012-13: Abby Popenoe (Nordic skiing)

2011-12: Kylie Dalbec (hockey)

2010-11: Nicollette Kapothanasis (basketball)

2009-10; Raechel Allen (hockey)

2008-09: Nyachuol Biliew (basketball)

2007-08: Nyachuol Biliew (basketball)

2006-07: Alex Perdomo (hockey)

2005-06: Regina Roberts (track)

2004-05: Ashley Anderson (basketball)

2003-04: Ashley Brownlee (basketball)

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

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