Senior Amir Moss has hit some big shots for a Portland boys’ basketball team which has played in two straight state finals. Moss is hoping to lead the Bulldogs to a third.
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COACH: Joe Russo (26th year, 362-143 overall record, three state championships)
2014-15 record: 19-3 (Lost, 70-50, to Hampden Academy in Class A Final)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Joe Esposito (Senior), Amir Moss (Senior), Charlie Lyall (Junior), Terion Moss (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 11 @ Oxford Hills, Jan. 8 GORHAM, Jan. 14 @ Deering, Jan. 16 CHEVERUS, Jan. 29 DEERING, Feb. 2 @ South Portland, Feb. 5 @ Cheverus
COACH’S COMMENT: “The preseason has been productive. We’re slowly blending in the football players. We have some young talent and a few returning players. I like our team chemistry and attitude. We need some young kids to step up. The new alignment might be refreshing. It’s something different. The old saying was, ‘Win early and win often.’ This year, we have one of the toughest schedules and we’ll have to get some early wins. Everyone is going to be fired up for us. We’d like nothing more than to go to the state championship game three years in a row. If the guys do what I think they can do and we get some luck, we can do that.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Last year, Portland again stole headlines and won games in abundance, but after dramatic tournament wins over rival Deering and Falmouth, the Bulldogs’ quest for a back-to-back state title was dashed by powerhouse Hampden Academy. Portland graduated standout Steve Alex (the league’s co-MVP) and sharpshooter Liam Densmore, among others, but returns plenty of talent and should be fighting for a championship once again.
This year’s team will be led by Amir Moss, who etched his name into program lore last February with his semifinal round game-winning shot versus Deering. Moss, who played a complimentary role behind Jayvon Pitts-Young, Matt Talbot and Justin Zukowski on a state championship team in 2013-14 and who joined Alex as part of a dynamic duo last winter, will be the focal point of the opposition this time around. Moss, an honorable mention all-star last season after averaging 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, can hit from the outside and get to the rim. Esposito, still rounding into basketball shape after a sensational football season, is the other returning starter. The forward averaged 3.9 points, 4.8 boards and 2.0 assists last year. Don’t be surprised if all of those numbers increase quite a bit. Esposito is tough, has a ton of heart and knows how to win. After falling just short on the gridiron, he’d love to bow out with another basketball title. Lyall, a center, showed glimpses of greatness during the tournament a year ago. He’s ready to take the next step and should be a force on the boards. Sophomore Griffin Foley, a forward, will also see more time in the post, as will senior forward/center Ben Griffin (a JV player in 2014-15), freshman center Trey Bellew and senior forward John Williams, the big-legged football placekicker, who could be a wild card in the team’s success. Terion Moss impressed in limited action as a freshman (averaging 4.9 ppg). He’s the point guard this winter and will look to set up his brother and others. Freshman Pedro Fonseca is a promising guard who will only get better.
Portland faces some challenges at the season’s onset. First and foremost, the Bulldogs haven’t had their football players in practice. That group will need some time to hit its stride. Portland is relying on some new faces in new places, so that too will require patience. The whole landscape of Maine high school basketball has changed and the Bulldogs are now in Class AA North. While they’re lumped with familiar rivals Cheverus and Deering and will play many former SMAA foes during the regular season, they’ll also have to battle the likes of Bangor, Edward Little, Lewiston and Oxford Hills and will have to play their tournament games in Augusta, a venue which hasn’t been kind to the program. Russo is the best at getting his team to develop over the course of the season and the expectation is for the Bulldogs to once again peak in February. This squad should be one of the last teams standing and if they can figure out how to win in Augusta, they could return to the pinnacle.
COACH: Jay Lowery (second year)
2014-15 record: 9-11 (Lost, 52-41, to McAuley in Western A quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Kate Johnson (Junior), Taylor Sargent (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 8 CHEVERUS, Jan. 2 BANGOR, Jan. 8 @ Gorham, Jan. 16 @ McAuley, Jan. 18 TA, Jan. 21 WINDHAM, Feb. 2 MCAULEY, Feb. 5 DEERING
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a lot of new kids this year who worked a lot this summer. The core of the team is getting a lot better and deeper. The question is, can we get the job done? We finished strong last year. This year, we have a very difficult schedule that will push us. I’m hoping we can get at least as far as last year, if not farther. If we play good defense, I think we can do good things this year.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: It took Portland awhile to hit its stride in 2014-15, but the Bulldogs were at their best in February, winning at Cheverus in the preliminary round, then giving McAuley a mighty scare in the quarterfinals before finally bowing out. The Bulldogs graduated league all-stars Elizabeth Donato and Gabby Wagabaza, but return several key players and even added a couple transfers, suggesting they could be even stronger this time around.
Top returners include Johnson, a shooting guard and potential top scorer, and Sargent, the point guard, who isn’t shy about driving to the basket. They’re joined in the backcourt by speedy freshman Nettie Walsh. Sophomore Shayla Eubanks and senior Margaret Hatch, who spent the last two years at McAuley, will see time at guard and forward. The frontcourt includes senior Manuel Francis and junior Rose Griffin, who both saw time a year ago, junior Andrea Lynch, freshman Reagan Brown and senior Cierra Burnham, who played for Portland as a freshman and sophomore, went to Deering last winter and has returned to the Bulldogs this winter. She’ll be a difference maker who can fill the stat sheet.
Portland will be tested virtually every time out with a new and difficult schedule, but like last year, Lowery figures to get this team to reach its potential at the optimal time. If the Bulldogs can stay healthy, they’ll compete with everybody. An improved win-loss record is likely. This is a team that will be dangerous again come February and this time, Portland might not be content just reaching the quarterfinals.
COACH: Jeff Beaney (first year)
2014-15 record: 7-12 (Lost, 10-2, to Falmouth in Western A quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Zach Fortin (Senior), Alex Girsch (Senior), Mason Martell (Junior), Dominic Tocci (Junior), Cam King (Sophomore), Joe Pichette (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 10 LEWISTON, Dec. 12 @ Biddeford, Dec. 19 ST. DOM’S, Dec. 29 @ Falmouth, Jan. 16 @ Cheverus, Jan. 28 CHEVERUS, Jan. 30 SCARBOROUGH, Feb. 6 FALMOUTH, Feb. 9 @ Yarmouth, Feb. 11 @ Cape Elizabeth
COACH’S COMMENT: “We have 32 kids this year. We’re trying to build the program. We had a pretty good foundation. We want to be in the playoffs and we’d love to get home ice. We want to take the next step and be a respected program. It’s a good group of kids.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Once again, Portland and Deering will combine as a co-op team. The program has been competitive and this year welcomes an accomplished new coach in Beaney, who grew up in Lake Placid, New York, played in Europe and in the minor leagues and spent 30 years as the men’s coach at the University of Southern Maine. He inherits a squad that could do some damage in the weeks to come.
Portland-Deering has good numbers and the program appears to be heading in the right direction. That should be reflected on the ice this winter. The offense will be sparked by reigning All-Stater Tocci, who will be a force not only on offense, but possibly on defense as well. Other scorers to watch include King, Martell and Pichette. The defense features Fortin and freshman Donato Tocci. Girsch is back in goal and will be spelled occasionally by junior Sam Segal.
Portland-Deering will benefit from Beaney’s leadership and should gain confidence in the weeks ahead. While the team isn’t at the same level as the traditional top contenders, it could give those teams fits by the end of the season. A fourth straight playoff trip is likely and once there, Portland-Deering might just turn some heads.
COACH: Tim Murphy (third year)
2014-15 record: 2-15-1 (No postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Brooke Fraser (Senior), Anna Freund (Senior), Kaylyn Madore (Senior), Lauren McIntyre (Senior), Sinead Scott (Senior), Mia Thurston (Senior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 12 @ Falmouth, Dec. 16 @ Cape Elizabeth, Dec. 19 ST. DOM’S, Dec. 23 SCARBOROUGH, Dec. 30 CHEVERUS, Jan. 9 FALMOUTH, Jan. 16 @ Cheverus, Jan. 27 CAPE ELIZABETH
COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re doing better than last year’s team. With our returning players, we hope to win more than last year.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Portland-Deering girls’ co-op took positive steps a year ago and so far this winter, has been competitive, enjoying a 5-3 victory over Winslow in its most recent outing. This year’s team features some talented players and some newcomers who will be heard from as the season progresses.
This year, the offense is led by Fraser (a wing), McIntyre (a defender) and Scott (a wing). Madore and newcomers Inez Braceras and Maeve LeClair will also be heard from. Thurston, an all-state honorable mention selection in 2014-15, will anchor the defense and she possesses a good shot as well. Freund returns in goal. Junior Ludya Abdallah and freshman Ruth Lewandowski will also see time between the pipes.
Portland-Deering should continue to move forward. Look for more wins from this group and if all goes well, a playoff berth could follow. This group will give its all every time out and the future is very bright.
COACH: Carroll Nappi (15th year w/boys’ team; third year w/girls’ team)
(BOYS) No score @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 20th @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Cooper Collins (Senior), Ryan Donaldson (Senior), Alex Frank (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Chessa Hoekstra (Senior), Maggie Hosmer (Junior), Ella Altidor (Sophomore)
COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are about the same as last year. We’ll mix and match and find some combinations. We hope to be as competitive as possible. Hopefully some new kids will step up.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland is hoping to improve on last year’s results and has some solid athletes to turn to.
The boys don’t have Pavel Bobe this season, but do return Collins (sprints), Donaldson (hurdles) and Frank (200 and 400). Freshmen Brian Foley (high jump and sprints) and Suhail Majid are newcomers to watch. The Bulldogs hope to develop some of these kids into top scorers by the time February rolls around.
On the girls’ side, top jumper Madison Bolduc has graduated, but Altidor (sprints), Hoekstra (sprints) and Hosmer (800) will look to score some points. If the Bulldogs can develop some other threats, they’ll be in the hunt during the regular season and could score in consecutive seasons at states for the first time in a decade.
COACH: Lee Crocker (20th year)
(BOYS) 17th @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 21st @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Oliver Brochu (Senior), Peter Gribizis (Junior), Bryant Peterson (Junior), Ben Saloman (Junior), Reed Foehl (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Mayzie Corman (Senior), Emily Couture (Senior), Reegan Leslie (Junior), Iris Walter (Junior)
COACH’S COMMENT: “Our boys’ team has a talented freshman class that could make us competitive in the southern division. The girls’ team is thin, but I have great kids who will improve throughout the season.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland has the pieces in place to move up the standings.
The boys’ team boasts depth. Brochu and Saloman will be top sprinters. Peterson will be a threat in the distance freestyle. Foehl can swim everything from the breaststroke to the individual medley to the distance freestyle. Gribizis will contend in the backstroke. Freshmen Will Couture (backstroke, butterfly), Treavor Tucker (breaststroke) and Josh Ying (sprint freestyle and IM) make the team that much stronger. The Bulldogs haven’t finished in the top 10 at states since 1999. This team could get there.
On the girls’ side, Couture scored a year ago at states (placing 12th in the backstroke and 14th in the IM). She’s joined by veterans Corman (fly), Leslie (sprint freestyle) and Walter (breaststroke). Freshman Ava Giaquinto (distance freestyle) is a newcomer to watch. Look for steady improvement from this group, which could turn some heads by the postseason.
COACH: Aaron Duphily (sixth year)
(BOYS) 6th @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 9th @ Class A state meet
(BOYS) Brad Ravenelle (Senior)
COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys field a full team this year and hope to post respectable finishes at the big races. In addition, we have many individuals with hopes of high finishes at the state meet and qualification for postseason teams. We are excited for the race season to begin and can’t wait for the snow to fall.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland’s small program continues to hold its own and post strong showings against bigger programs. That should continue this winter.
Ravenelle was eighth in both the classical and freestyle a year ago and hopes to move up. He’s joined by freshmen Koa Farnsworth and Robby Sheils, who should help keep the Bulldogs in contention from start to finish.
The girls’ team graduated state meet scorer Bea Hesselbart, but will look to make the most of its small numbers.
COACHES: David Elowitch and Tony Napolitano (14th year)
2014-15 results: 8th @ Class A state meet
TOP RETURNER: Clautel Buba (Senior)
COACH ELOWTICH’S COMMENT: “We have a very young team with good athletes who don’t have a lot of wrestling experience. It’s a pretty solid, dedicated team. They’re working hard. We’ll cover 11 of the 14 weight classes. Hopefully 12 or 13. I think we’ll be pretty good. We’re looking to win 50 to 60 percent of our dual meets. We’ll keep getting better with our younger kids. We’re hoping Clautel can win a state title this year.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland continues to make the most of a small roster and should be very competitive again this winter.
Buba qualified for states last season and is hoping to win a state title at 170 pounds. Several newcomers also show promise. Junior Demetre Profenno (160), sophomore Quasim Abdullah (126) and freshmen Zach Elowitch (145 or 152) and Ben Levin (132/138) could quickly make a mark.
The Bulldogs will be able to compete with most of the teams on their schedule and in February, don’t be surprised if Buba steals some headlines as an individual.
Coming off a transcendent football season, senior Joe Esposito is hoping to work wonders on the hardwood this winter.
Terion Moss showed glimpses of greatness as a freshman. He’ll be called upon to take the next step this winter.
Junior Kate Johnson projects to be a top scorer for Portland this season.
Junior Taylor Sargent is a tenacious force at both ends of the floor.
Senior Margaret Hatch comes to Portland from McAuley and should play a key role for a playoff hopeful.
Senior Alex Girsch is back in goal for the competitive Portland-Deering boys’ hockey team.