Portland Bulldogs Winter Sports Preview

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Portland’s boys’ basketball team won an epic double-overtime state final a year ago and is back to make a run at another championship.

File photos.

More photos below.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Joe Russo (27th year, 382-144 overall record, four state championships)

2015-16 record: 20-1 (Beat South Portland, 52-50, in double overtime, to win Class AA championship)

Top returning players: Charlie Lyall (Senior), Griffin Foley (Junior), Terion Moss (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 9 @ South Portland, Dec. 15 OXFORD HILLS, Dec. 22 @ Edward Little, Jan. 17 DEERING, Jan. 20 @ Cheverus, Jan. 24 TA, Jan. 26 WINDHAM, Feb. 3 @ Deering, Feb. 6 SOUTH PORTLAND, Feb. 8 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We’re a work in progress. It’s different from last year, but we have material to work with. We’re blending in some role players with our three returning starters. This year’s team needs to develop its own identity. We have more quickness than size, but we’re versatile. We’ll press and fastbreak. I think the league is wide open this year, which is fun. We’ll get better. Hopefully we’ll be good enough at the end to compete.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland enjoyed a magical run a season ago, winning its second state title in three years, but it sure didn’t come easily. The Bulldogs had to play eight extra minutes to survive South Portland in an epic state game that won’t soon be forgotten. Portland was then hard-hit by graduation, as SMAA Player of the Year and reigning Winter Male Athlete of the Year Amir Moss and standout Joe Esposito both departed. The Bulldogs have some holes to fill, but there’s every reason to believe they’ll be playing in the biggest games yet again.

Portland will be led this season by the Foley/Lyall/Terion Moss triumvirate. Moss is regarded as one of the state’s best players. He’s been a star since his freshman year and last season, he led the league in steals (3.2 per game) and averaged 14.8 points (13th in the league) and 3.9 assists (good for fifth) as he was named a first-team league all-star. Moss can shoot and his quickness is unmatched. He’ll handle the ball most of the time and will give the opposition nightmares. Foley’s toughness and character were evident this fall, when despite losing his father to cancer, he starred on the football field as a receiver for a Bulldogs squad which reached the state final. On the hardwood, Foley is a sharpshooter, who will play guard and forward. He can knock down shots and get to the basket. Lyall is the big man in the middle. Standing 6-foot-5, Lyall finished 13th in the league in rebounding last winter (6.6 per game). He’ll look to score more this season and he’s always tough on the defensive end. While those three are the proven commodities, Portland has much more in reserve. Sophomore guards Pedro Fonseca (an All-Rookie team selection last winter) and Manny Yugu are ready to break out and become stars. The backcourt also includes junior Quinn Clarke and sophomore Simon Chadbourne. Sophomore Trey Bellew, another All-Rookie team selection, who stands 6-4, is another budding star, one who will team with Lyall to dominate in the paint. Seniors John Bento and Thomas Joyce (who stands 6-4 and is best known for his potent bat in baseball) also join the fun, as will junior 6-3 forward-center hybrids Lino Benz and Ben Fisher. Senior Clay Hardy, who was on the team as a sophomore but didn’t play last year, is back and will see time at either guard or forward. While this group is raw, its potential is limitless.

As is often the case, everyone will be gunning for the Bulldogs. The league is deeper and stronger than it’s been of late and it’s likely that Portland will taste defeat more often than it has the past three seasons, but this group won’t be measured on what it does in December and January. Russo-coached teams are always at their best at the end of the season and he’ll get an opportunity to really coach up this squad in the weeks to come. By February, expect the Bulldogs to once again be primed for a title run. Portland hasn’t won consecutive championships since 1942-43. Don’t be surprised if this group continues the glory days and cuts down the nets once more.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Jay Lowery (third year, 11-27 overall record)

2015-16 record: 2-16 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Kate Johnson (Senior), Taylor Sargent (Senior), Shayla Eubanks (Junior), Reagan Brown (Sophomore), Nettie Walsh (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 9 DEERING, Dec. 13 @ Cheverus, Dec. 17 BONNY EAGLE, Dec. 29 GORHAM, Jan. 9 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 16 @ South Portland, Jan. 20 MAINE GIRLS’ ACADEMY, Jan. 24 @ TA, Feb. 7 @ MGA, Feb. 9 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “This group’s done a lot in the offseason and we’ve had a good preseason. I think we’ll look totally different from last year. We’ll get up and down the floor. We’re tall and we can rebound. I think we’ll score evenly from all positions. We can play a halfcourt game and we can run. We have a lot of size. Four girls who are 5-11 and have long arms. We’re ready to compete.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland struggled for most of the 2015-16 campaign, but saved its best for last, stunning Deering in the finale. The Bulldogs return a lot this winter and are primed to make a big climb up the standings, so the traditional powers had better beware.

Portland’s size will be its advantage this season. Brown, Eubanks, senior Rose Griffin, junior Dominique Hamilton and freshman Kiera Eubanks will all be called upon to wreak havoc on the opposition. Johnson and Walsh will both handle the ball and could be top scorers. Sargent is another returner at guard and she won’t hesitate to knock down shots. Sophomore Grace Stacey is primed to have a breakout season and is another backcourt player to watch.

A year ago, the Bulldogs were 13th in the 16-team SMAA in offense and 15th on defense. Both of those statistics need to improve dramatically and likely will. Portland is eager to pick up where last year’s team left off and sneak up on some teams. If the Bulldogs can earn some early confidence, look out. If you’re looking for a feel-good story and a possible February dark horse, it might just be the team in blue and white.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Jeff Beaney (second year)

2015-16 record: 5-13 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Peter Barry (Senior), Will Herboldsheimer (Senior), Mason Martell (Senior), Sam Segal (Senior), Dom Tocci (Senior), Cam King (Junior), Alex McGonagle (Junior), Sam Shaw (Junior), Walter Lewandowski (Sophomore), Jake Luce (Sophomore), Donnie Tocci (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 17 @ TA, Jan. 2 CHEVERUS, Jan. 5 SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 12 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 19 YARMOUTH, Jan. 26 @ Cheverus, Feb. 9 TA, Feb. 11 FALMOUTH, Feb. 17 @ Scarborough, Feb. 22 @ Biddeford

Coach’s comment: “I have great kids. They take care of each other. We should get stronger as the year goes on. We just missed the playoffs last year. This year, we want to be a playoff team and have home ice. I think we’ll be competitive. Barring injuries, the potential is there for a successful season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Portland/Deering co-op team (McGonagle, a defenseman/forward is the lone Ram) is starting from a solid place this winter and there is reason to believe that this team is playoff-bound.

Dom Tocci was a Class A South first-team all-star a year ago and as a captain, will anchor what could be a potent offense. King and Martell, also captains, Herboldsheimer, Lewandowski and Luce are other returning forwards to watch. That group is bolstered by the addition of freshman Miki Silva, who could step right in and make an impact. Defensively, Barry, a captain, is joined by Shaw, Donnie Tocci and junior Joe Herboldsheimer in front of Segal in goal. Segal saw some time last year and has the job all to himself this winter.

The numbers are good and the hunger is evident. Portland/Deering will have its hands full with a tough schedule, but look for this group to get stronger as the season progresses and to be in position to make some noise in the playoffs. The future is even brighter.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Tim Murphy (fourth year, 8-45-1 overall record)

2015-16 record: 6-12 (No postseason)

Top returning players: Lillian Frager (Senior), Raven Bradenday Junior), Maeve LeClair (Junior), Kit Rosmus (Junior), Inez Braceras (Sophomore), Madelyn Danse (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 10 MT. ARARAT/MORSE, Dec. 21 YORK, Jan. 2 CHEVERUS, Jan. 14 @ Cape Elizabeth, Jan. 16 @ York, Jan. 21 CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach’s comment: “We hope to continue developing as a team, to win more games than we did last year and to win the ‘City Cup.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Portland/Deering co-op team (which also features players from Casco Bay High School) has come a long way in a short time and last season, in the finale, the squad had an opportunity to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012, but lost to York and fell just short. Despite graduating reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year Lauren McIntyre and first-team all-star Mia Thurston, Portland/Deering hopes to be in the mix again.

Portland/Deering opened with a 6-5 loss to Gorham, despite three goals from Braceras. Losses to powerhouse Scarborough (6-2), Brunswick (14-6) and Cheverus (12-3) followed, but victory is right around the corner. In addition to Braceras, Bradenday (5 goals, 5 assists in 2015-16), Frager and LeClair (4 goals, 4 assists last year) will lead the offense. Rosmus is another potential scorer to watch. Forward Mikayla Fortin adds depth. Danse and new defender Elena Clifford will help the cause in front of new goalie, Ruth Lewandowski.

Portland/Deering figures to score plenty of goals in the weeks to come, it just needs to limit the scoring of the opposition. If that happens, look for this team to put it all together. Portland/Deering is eager to get to the next level and this group could be on its way.

INDOOR TRACK

Coach: Carroll Nappi (16th year w/boys’ team; fourth year w/girls’ team, one state championship)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) No score @ Class A state meet

(Girls) Tie-25th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Alex Frank (Senior)

(Girls) Maggie Hosmer (Senior), Ella Altidor (Junior), Corinna Booth (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “I have dedicated kids. The boys’ team is young and untested. I’m putting a lot of stake in Dylan (Bolduc). He could be a diamond in the rough. Several freshmen might step up for the girls. I’m hoping for the best and that we peak in February.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland doesn’t have a big indoor track team, but the Bulldogs do feature some promising athletes.

The boys’ team didn’t score at states last year, but will be much stronger this time around. Frank will compete in the 400. Football standout and Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist Dylan Bolduc, who ran track as a freshman, has come back to the sport as a senior and will be heard from in the sprints and hurdles. Other kids are awaiting their chance to shine as well. This team will show steady improvement.

On the girls’ side, Hosmer was the lone scorer last year, placing sixth in the 800. She hopes to move up this season. Altidor is a standout athlete who will be tough to beat in the sprints. Booth is back for a second year as a hurdler and will be in the mix. Several freshmen could also be heard from in the weeks to come. Look for the Bulldogs to be competitive all season and to move up at the championship meets.

SWIMMING

Coach: Morgan Dorsey (first year)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) 9th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) Tie-19th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Peter Gribizis (Senior), Ben Saloman (Senior), Will Couture (Sophomore), Reed Foehl (Sophomore), Josh Ying (Sophomore)

(Girls) Reegan Leslie (Senior), Iris Walter (Senior), Ava Giaquinto (Sophomore), Amanda Theall (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “The boys have a really strong group. We’ll be competitive in the relays. The girls have a large incoming freshman class with experience. I’m really excited to see how we do.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland’s swim program is on the rise and the Bulldogs welcome a new coach this winter in Dorsey, who is assisted by Nasra Hassan and Kelly Smith.

The boys, who placed in the top 10 at states last winter for the first time since 1999, could be a serious factor at the big meets this year behind some strong returners and a promising newcomer. Couture had a solid state meet a year ago, placing fourth in the backstroke and sixth in the butterfly. He’ll look to move up in both events this season. Foehl also enjoyed success a year ago, placing fifth in the 500 free and seventh in the breaststroke. He too will make a run at an even higher finish. Ying was part of a scoring medley relay team in 2015-16 and he’ll swim the fly and freestyle. Gribizis, the captain (freestyle, backstroke) and Saloman (sprint freestyle) also have experience. Freshman Jack Martin shows promise in the freestyle, fly and individual medley. Look for Portland to be in the hunt for a top-five state finish for the first time since 1972.

On the girls’ side, Leslie (12th in the 50 free last year) and Walter are the captains. Leslie swims the sprint freestyle and Walter swims the breaststroke and the freestyle. Giaquinto (distance freestyle, IM) and Theall (freestyle) also have experience. A quintet of freshmen will immediately help the cause. Arun Devon swims the breaststroke, Corry Hemond competes in the freestyle, Phoebe O’Rourke swims the freestyle and breaststroke, Fiona Silva competes in the freestyle and backstroke and Makeda Zabot-Hall will swim the fly and freestyle. Look for the girls to also move up from last year. If the young talent develops as hoped, the Bulldogs could be in the mix for their first top 10 state finish since 1998.

NORDIC SKIING

Coach: Aaron Duphily (seventh year)

2015-16 results:

(Boys) 6th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) No score @ Class A state meet

Top returner:

(Boys) Luca Serio (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “The boys will have enough skiers to compete as a team this year and we’re hoping to surprise some people. The girls won’t have enough skiers to score as a team, but we’re hoping to have some good individual results.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Portland High members of the Portland Nordic Ski team have a lot to look forward to this winter.

The boys will miss graduated standout Brad Ravenelle, who won the Class A freestyle a year ago and was runner-up in the classical. Serio is a veteran and freshman Liam Niles had a lot of success in middle school, so he’ll step right in and make an impact. Look for another competitive campaign from this group.

The girls’ team will be led by promising freshman Elizabeth Niles. Portland won’t score as a team, but its individuals will look to improve and do as well as possible.

WRESTLING

Coaches: David Elowitch and Tony Napolitano (15th year)

2015-16 results: 12th @ Class A state meet

Top returners: Omar Daub (Senior), Qasin Abdullah (Junior), Riley Harris (Junior), Klein Ngoga (Junior), Darien Darling (Sophomore), Zack Elowitch (Sophomore), Ben Levine (Sophomore)

Coach Elowitch’s comment: “Our team is a little smaller than I was hoping, but we have 15 dedicated kids. We have a good nucleus of returners and some new kids who have promise. We look for a .500 season in dual meets and our goal is to get five guys to states. We could have a few kids place at states.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland continues to be small, but scrappy and that trend should continue this winter.

The Bulldogs are led by Zack Elowitch, a captain, who was a first-team SMAA all-star in 2015-16. He will wrestle at either 152 or 160 pounds and should be one of the tops in the conference after winning the Class A consolation final at 152 pounds a year ago. Levine, who is coming off a solid football campaign, will be a force to be reckoned with at 138 pounds. Harris (182) is the other captain this fall. Abdullah (132), Darling (220), Daub (120) and Ngoga (138 or 145) also have experience.

Portland has some other athletes who will help fill weight classes, so it will be able to compete with just about everyone on the schedule. This will be a fun team to follow as several individuals look to turn heads and the team looks to be the best it can be while laying the foundation for even more triumph down the road.

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

Junior Terion Moss is one of the state’s finest players. He’ll carry the Bulldogs far this winter.

Look for junior Griffin Foley to knock down an abundance of big shots this winter.

Senior Charlie Lyall will be close to unstoppable in the paint, scoring points and denying the opposition.

Look for sophomore Pedro Fonseca to be much more than a role player this season.

Junior Manny Yugu will see more minutes this winter.

Reagan Brown had a strong freshman season and hopes to help guide Portland’s girls’ basketball team to the playoffs this winter.

Junior Shayla Eubanks will be a top inside presence.

Senior Kate Johnson is back for her fourth varsity season.

Senior Dom Tocci had an all-star season a year ago. This winter, he looks to lead the Portland/Deering boys’ hockey team to the playoffs.

Sophomore Donnie Tocci looks to build on his strong freshman season as an offensive-minded defenseman.

Junior Cam King is a captain and a top scoring threat this winter.

Junior Sam Shaw is a top returning defender.

Senior Sam Segal will be Portland/Deering’s last line of defense.

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