South Portland Red Riots Winter Sports Preview

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Junior Maggie Whitmore will be one of the state’s premier players and hopes to lead South Portland’s girls’ basketball team to an elusive championship this winter.

File photos.

More photos below.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Kevin Millington (fourth year, 44-20 overall record)

2017-18 record: 15-6 (Lost, 55-43, to Scarborough in Class AA South Final)

Top returning players: Tyree Bijokta (Senior), Logan Doucette (Senior), David Fiorini (Senior), Scott Lewis (Senior), Jacob Milton (Senior), Shippen Savidge (Senior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 7 @ Deering, Dec. 11 @ Cheverus, Dec. 14 GREELY, Dec. 18 @ Scarborough, Dec. 21 THORNTON ACADEMY, Dec. 29 OXFORD HILLS, Jan. 10 PORTLAND, Jan. 18 DEERING, Jan. 25 FALMOUTH, Jan. 29 @ Edward Little, Feb. 5 @ Portland, Feb. 7 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We’ve got a lot of players. We’re trying to figure out who should be on the court. A lot of guys are getting their first significant varsity minutes. We have good size and we’re pretty long. It’s the most competitive the league has been in a long time. We have a tough schedule, but I believe we’re as good as anybody. We may not finish first, but we’ll have a chance.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After consecutive trips to the state final, South Portland fell in the regional final last winter. This year, after graduating several all-star-caliber players, the Red Riots have some questions to answer, but it’s likely they’ll once again make a deep playoff run.

This year’s team has good size, as Lewis and Savidge will cause headaches for the opposition in the post. Doucette and Milton are other frontcourt players to watch. Bijokta will be the point guard and Fiorini is a shooting guard. Junior Geremi Baez, who was injured last season, could quickly become an impact player at the forward position.

While South Portland has as daunting a schedule as anyone, it has the ingredients to be a top team. The Red Riots aren’t the favorite this year, but they’re content lurking and awaiting their chance. In February, this program is always at its best and this year should be no different.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Lynne Hasson (sixth year, 82-19 overall record)

2017-18 record: 18-2 (Lost, 53-42, to Gorham in Class AA South semifinals)

Top returning players: Bela Cloutier (Senior), Jena Leckie (Senior), Katie Whitmore (Senior), Kaleisha Towle (Junior), Maggie Whitmore (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 14 @ Greely, Dec. 18 SCARBOROUGH, Dec. 28 @ Oxford Hills, Jan. 10 PORTLAND, Jan. 18 @ Deering, Jan. 23 DEERING, Jan. 29 EDWARD LITTLE, Feb. 1 GORHAM, Feb. 5 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “For this early in the season, I’m optimistic. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have experience and good size. We’re all chasing Gorham. We’re hungry. We’ll do everything we can to be there at the end. I feel like we’re due. There’s less pressure this season. Maybe it’s our year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland appeared bound for a coronation last winter before going scoreless in the first quarter and never catching up in a stunning and agonizing semifinal round playoff loss to Gorham. The Red Riots graduated three contributors: Sarah Boles, Meghan Graff and Eva Mazur, but there’s enough talent returning to suggest South Portland will again be one of the last teams standing.

Maggie Whitmore is one of the state’s elite players. She was a first-team league all-star last season and will do everything from run the point to dominate down low. She’ll score plenty and will be the focal point of opposing defenses. Katie Whitmore is a top rebounder and will score her share of points as well. Leckie has quietly been a key producer and as a senior, could be in for a breakout campaign. Towle also brings size and a rebounding ability. Cloutier can hit the 3 and will be a tenacious defender. Junior Ashlee Aceto will play a big role as a guard or forward. Sophomore Maria Degifico will be the backup point guard. Junior Olivia Cloutier could be a secret weapon. Sophomore Cora Boothby-Akilo, who stands 6-foot-4-inches, will produce some key minutes off the bench. Freshman forward Hylah Owen is a potential star of the future who will quickly made an impact.

While three-time defending regional champion Gorham remains the favorite and several other teams in Class AA South remain formidable, the opportunity is there for South Portland to do big things. The Red Riots don’t wear the bullseye this winter and that might be beneficial. Last year’s heartache remains, but this group could channel that disappointment into a cleansing celebration if all goes well.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Joe Robinson (12th year, 96-107-8 overall record)

2017-18 record: 10-8-1 (Lost, 6-3, to Biddeford in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Mitchell Adams (Senior), Austin Gross (Junior), Deven Hannan (Junior), Gus Lappin (Junior), Liam McGibbon (Junior), Willets Myer (Junior), Eric Walker (Junior), Bradley McMains (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Dec. 15 PORTLAND/DEERING, Dec. 29 FALMOUTH, Jan. 3 @ Portland/Deering, Jan. 17 @ Cape Elizabeth, Jan. 26 CHEVERUS, Feb. 2 SCARBOROUGH, Feb. 6 @ Lewiston, Feb. 14 BIDDEFORD, Feb. 16 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “At this point, we’re looking to have a very successful season and go deep into the tournament. We are a very talented team made up mostly of juniors and sophomores. We are a very tight-knit group that has worked extremely hard over the past few seasons to get where we are today. We need to just take it day by day, game by game and take nothing for granted.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete co-op team is coming off yet another playoff berth, its fifth in succession, and this year’s team doesn’t plan on just qualifying. It wants to go toe-to-toe with some of the traditional powers.

Adams was an all-state selection last winter. He’s a captain this season and will be a top forward. He’s joined by Lappin, an assistant captain, Hannan, McMains and Walker as top scoring threats. Freshman Cullen Adams will also be heard from. Defensively, the team features Gross and Myer, along with new senior Ian Souther. McGibbon has experience between the pipes. Junior Sebastian Couturier will also see time in goal.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete has reason for optimism this winter. The squad will score enough to be competitive with everyone. A victory or two over a team that usually finishes higher in the standings would be great for confidence and morale. This could be a team that no one wants to face when the playoffs commence.

INDOOR TRACK

Boys’ coach: Dave Kahill (12th year)

Girls’ coach: Karen Reardon (eighth year)

2017-18 results:

(Boys) tie-16th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 5th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Joseph Emery (Senior), Santana Garcia (Senior), T.J. Nakummun (Senior), Cliff Robbins-Sennewald (Senior), Ben Sivik (Senior), Alyas Ahmady (Junior), Jacob Dresser (Junior), Nate Ellington (Junior), Drew Lewis (Junior), Ethan McCarthy (Junior), Oscar Sullivan (Junior), Ayden Bradford (Sophomore), Bradford Redmond (Sophomore)

(Girls) Julia Banks (Senior), Rhode Niangasa-Phambu (Senior), Grace Caselden (Junior), Izzy Chase (Junior), Anna Folley (Junior), Rebekah Hunnewell-Dunphy (Junior), Jordyn Hulsey (Junior)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “We have a core of talented and hard-working upperclassmen and we hope to build on their leadership. The junior, sophomore and freshmen classes include many versatile athletes who are enthusiastic to work hard and compete. We have a lot of all-around depth that should be a base for us to be competitive all year. With continued improvement, we could compete for a top five finish at the SMAA championship.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We will be a competitive team in the league. While we lost some good athletes to graduation, I expect the growth of the team with the additions we have to help make up for the seniors we lost. A lot of of team was very young last year so it will be exciting to see what some of these girls can do as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. There are good athletes across the league and we hope to have our share of them in the spotlight. Each year, our goal is to get as many athletes qualified for the state meet throughout the season, do well at Southwesterns and put it all together for the state meet. Right now, the focus is on getting all the parts to come together as a whole and prepare them for the start of the season. The girls are working hard, we have a good group to start and we are looking forward to a good year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has an abundance of strong athletes this winter and should be a force during the league season and at the championship meets.

The boys’ squad returns Sivik, who was fifth in the 200 a year ago at states. He’s a top sprinter along with Bradford, Dresser, Emery, Lewis, McCarthy, Nakummun and freshmen William Emery and Brady Guay. Hurdlers of note include Ahmady, Bradford, Joseph Emery, William Emery, Guay, Lewis, McCarthy, Sullivan and freshman Eben Drolet. In the distance events, watch for Garcia, Robbins-Sennewald (the cross country standout), Sullivan, Drolet and newcomer Lucas Lefebvre. On the field side, Bradford, Ellington, McCarthy, Redmond and freshman Amir Broadus are top throwers. Jumpers to watch include Ahmady, Bradford, Dresser, Joseph Emery, William Emery, Guay, Lewis and McCarthy. Ahmady, William Emery and Nakummun compete in the pole vault. The Red Riots’ ability to cover all the events with multiple athletes will serve them well in the weeks to come. A strong showing in February will likely be the end result.

On the girls’ side, while distance standout and defending state champion Juliana Selser will be missed, South Portland does return Folley, who was fourth in the 800 a year ago. She’s joined in the longer races by Caselden, sophomores Rachel Kingsley, Annie Von Seggren and Kate Von Seggren and freshmen Autumn Gervais and Eva Tierney-Trevor. In the sprints, keep an eye on Banks, Chase, Francis, Hulsey, junior Tutu Oryem, sophomores Tianna Greaves, Simona Ickia-Ngaullo and freshmen Jenna Ball, Callie Jenkins, Kcebianna Jenkins, Bonny Johnston and Margarita Kissaca. Banks, Hulsey, Kissaca, sophomore Iman Adenm and freshman Katie Nakummun will be competitive in the hurdles. On the field side, Hunnewell-Dunphe was a runner-up shot putter last season and is eyeing the top spot. She’s joined in the throws by Niangasa-Phimbu, Ball, Greaves, Johnston, Nakummun and freshman Geneva Holmes. Top jumpers figure to be Adenm, Banks, Bell, Chase, Greaves, Ickia-Ngaullo, Kissaca, Oryem, Tierney-Trevor, Annie Von Seggren and Kate Von Seggren. Holmes, Hulsey and Nakummun will all compete in the pole vault. The Red Riots are looking for strong production from their proven commodities and hoping some of the new kids can step up. If so, they’ll be among the top teams in the conference.

SWIMMING

Coach: Ryan Green (sixth year)

2017-18 results:

(Boys) 8th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 7th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Mitchell Amadei (Senior), Momchil Dagarov (Senior), Brayden Gilbert (Senior), Logan Kavanagh (Senior)

(Girls) Abbie Brier (Junior), Margaret Jones (Junior), Lyla Metcalf (Junior), Kiley Matthews (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “We’ll be competitive with several returning state scorers. A large number of experienced senior boys and junior girls will help mentor and develop a large group of freshmen. The girls will contend for a top 10 spot at the state meet, while the boys could be in the top three.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both South Portland teams finished in the top 10 at the Class A state meet last year and each squad come do even better this winter.

The boys return Kavanagh, who came in fifth in the 500 freestyle a year ago. He’ll be a distance force again. Gilbert (eighth in the 50 free in 2017-18) will be a top contender in the sprint freestyle and 100 butterfly. Amadei (fly and backstroke) and Dagorov (breaststroke, individual medley and distance freestyle) also have experience and will score points. Sophomore Dennis Slobodzian (IM and freestyle) and freshmen Calvin Comeau (fly and freestyle) and Jacob Ramos (fly and freestyle) are new to the squad and will provide depth. The Red Riots last placed in the top five at states in 1998, when they were runner-up. This year’s team could be in the neighborhood.

On the girls’ side, while reigning state breaststroke champion Molly Mawhinney will be missed, Jones (fourth in the fly and fifth in the IM last season) will step up and lead the way. Brier (IM and freestyle), Matthews (freestyle) and Metcalf (distance) are other veterans. Freshman Issi Babikova (freestyle and backstroke) could dive right in and make an impact. South Portland is seeking its third consecutive top 10 state meet showing and is a good bet to accomplish that feat.

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

Scott Lewis will tower over the opposition as he looks to help South Portland’s boys’ basketball team make another deep tournament run.

Senior David Fiorini is a key returning veteran for the Red Riots.

Look for senior Tyree Bijokta to play some big minutes in the weeks to come.

Senior Katie Whitmore is a seasoned veteran, who does a little of everything, for the South Portland girls’ basketball team.

Jena Leckie is another longtime contributor who figures to have a strong senior season.

Look for junior Bela Cloutier to hit some big shots this season.

Junior Liam McGibbon will be in goal for what could be a very strong South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete boys’ hockey team.

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