Stretch run begins as January ends

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(Ed. Note: For the complete Portland-Scarborough boys’ basketball and McAuley-Westbrook girls’ basketball game stories, with box scores and additional photos, see theforecaster.net)

The winter sports season is rapidly coming to a close and once we dig out from all this snow, the final chapter of the regular season should be memorable.

The girls’ hockey regular season comes to an end this week, while basketball culminates a week from Friday. It won’t be long until swimming, track, skiing and wrestling’s postseasons begin as well.

Here’s a glimpse at where things stand as January gives way to February.

Boys’ basketball

All four city boys’ basketball teams are playoff-bound and each harbors title hopes.

Portland continues to lead the way, as its two-year win streak reached 36 with victories last week at Scarborough (78-71) and Sanford (59-43). The game against the Red Storm was a thriller from start to finish, as the Bulldogs put up 26 first quarter points, but couldn’t shake Scarborough, which took a 54-49 lead late in the third period. Portland tied the score by quarter’s end, however, and a 3 from Liam  Densmore 11 seconds into the fourth put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. While Scarborough battled to the final horn, clutch foul shooting from Steve Alex down the stretch proved to be the difference and Portland held on for the victory. Alex led all scorers with 29 points, Densmore added 20 and Amir Moss had 17.

“It was fun,” Densmore said. “I love high scoring, tight games. It could end up being like that in the tournament.”

“It was a hard, intense game,” Alex said. “We had to pull it out. The difference was free throws. We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws in practice.”

“We beat a good team tonight,” added Portland coach Joe Russo. “I expected something like this. I hoped we come out on top and we did. We got down five and I contemplated a timeout, but I wanted to see what we were made of. I wanted them to pull up their bootstraps and they did. It was nice to see. We were assertive and made tough shots. People always say you learn from losses and you can, but we take the approach that we learn from our wins. We don’t need to lose to learn.”

Alex had 20 points and Densmore added a dozen in the win at the Spartans.

The Bulldogs (14-0 and first in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) were at Windham Tuesday (weather permitting), welcome Cheverus in the home finale Friday, then close the regular season next week with showdowns at rivals South Portland and Deering.

“We know we always get the other team’s best game,” Alex said. “We have to bring it every game and be focused. We have to get better every day and listen to what Coach has to say.”

“(Being undefeated) doesn’t faze me or anyone else on the team,” Densmore said. “We just have to stay focused. We think we’re pretty good. We still need more spacing on the court. We have to get everything straightened out and we can get so much better.”

“(Being undefeated) wears on me, but I’m not sure about them, because they’re quiet kids,” Russo added. “We don’t really talk about it, but we know it’s there. It’s already in the record books. We can still play so much better. Every team comes at us and our kids are resilient. (Our remaining schedule is) a great way to end the season. You don’t want to end with easier games.”

Deering is hot on Portland’s heels. Last week, the Rams defeated host Sanford (67-55) and visiting Scarborough (77-73) to improve to 10-4 and fourth in the region. Against the Spartans, Ben Williams led the way with 17 points. Garang Majok added 14 and Raffaele Salamone and Malike White each finished with 10. In the win over the Red Storm, which saw Deering erase a six-point deficit after three quarters, White had nine of his 17 points in a fourth quarter surge, Williams finished with 27 points and Majok added a dozen, including two clinching free throws in the final minute. The Rams were scheduled to host Biddeford Tuesday, go to South Portland Friday, then close with games at Cheverus and at home versus Portland next week.

Cheverus was eighth at 8-6 when the week began. Last week, the Stags downed visiting Biddeford (61-47) and host Marshwood (56-53). Against the Tigers, Jack Casale had 20 points, Jesse Matthews added 12 and Zordan Holman finished with 11. Casale had 20 more points against the Hawks, while Austin Boudreau added 13. Cheverus is at Scarborough in a makeup game Wednesday, goes to Portland Friday, hosts Deering Tuesday of next week, then closes at home versus South Portland Feb. 5.

In Western C, defending regional champion Waynflete had a grueling weekend, eking out two critical victories to improve to 10-1 and fourth in the Heals. Friday, the Flyers survived visiting Traip Academy, 59-58, as Harry Baker-Connick had 19 points, including the winning free throws, and Tommy Silk added 11. Thirty-two minutes then weren’t enough at Old Orchard Beach Saturday, as Waynflete had to go to overtime to prevail, 61-56. Milo Belleau had 22 points, while Baker-Connick finished with 12. Waynflete was at Wells Monday, plays host to A.R. Gould Thursday, welcomes Sacopee Valley Saturday and closes next week with a home game versus Greater Portland Christian School and a trip to Hyde.

Girls’ basketball

On the girls’ side, four-time defending Class A state champion McAuley’s Opening Night loss at Thornton Academy has become a distant memory as the Lions extended their win streak to 13 last week with victories at Westbrook (55-31) and at home against Portland (60-30). At Westbrook, it took the Lions five minutes to score their first field goal and they only managed six first quarter points, but thanks to their-always excellent defense, they had a two-point lead. The offense started to come around in the second period, as freshman Emily Weisser came off to bench to spark a 9-0 run. McAuley only led by four, 21-17, at halftime and clung to just a six-point, 30-24, advantage midway through the third quarter, but a 6-0 run in less than a minute opened it up and the Lions pulled away in the fourth to prevail, 55-31. Jess Willerson led the way with 17 points, Ayla Tartre had nine, Sarah Clement eight and Weisser added seven.

“Everyone has a specific job to help the team out and mine is defense,” Weisser said. “If it’s open I shoot it, but most of the time I pass to the shooters.”

“I knew opening night would give us a shove and show us what we needed to do,” Dalphonse said. “We’ve been progressing. We still have a long way to go, but we just focus on the next game.”

“We started off slow and I asked the girls to get a little better every day and I think we have,” Lions coach Billy Goodman added. “We’re not overconfident going into any game.”

Against the Bulldogs, Willerson scored 18 points, Clement added 17 and Dalphonse had 11. McAuley (13-1 and first in Western A) was scheduled to host Bonny Eagle Tuesday, visits Marshwood Thursday, has a pivotal home showdown against Stevens Avenue rival Deering Tuesday of next week, then closes the regular season with a home tilt against rival Cheverus Feb. 5.

Sizzling Deering is hot on McAuley’s heels, extending its win streak to 10 last week by downing visiting Sanford (48-30) and host Scarborough (42-35). Against the Spartans, Amanda Brett had 15 points and Tasia Titherington added 10. Brett had 16 points to help beat the Red Storm. The Rams (12-2 and third behind McAuley and Thornton Academy in the standings) were scheduled to go to Biddeford Tuesday. They host Cheverus Friday, have a showdown at McAuley Tuesday of next week, then close Feb. 5 at Portland.

Cheverus is getting hot at the right time. The Stags made it four wins in five games by downing host Biddeford (80-45) and visiting Marshwood (60-51) last week. Against the Hawks, Emme Poulin and Anne Veroneau led the way with 13 points apiece. Cheverus (8-6 and seventh in Western A) hosts Scarborough in a makeup game Tuesday, goes to Deering Friday, welcomes South Portland Tuesday of next week, then closes at McAuley, a team the Stags have never beaten, Feb. 5.

Portland was ninth at 7-7 after a 42-33 home loss to Scarborough and a 60-30 setback at McAuley. Kate Johnson had 14 points against the Red Storm, while Gabby Wagabaza led the way against the Lions with nine points. The Bulldogs were scheduled to host Windham Tuesday, go to South Portland Friday, visit Biddeford Tuesday of next week, then close at home versus rival Deering Feb. 5.

In Western C, Waynflete was 10th with a 7-5 record at the start of the week after a 43-41 win at Traip Academy and a 52-35 home loss to Old Orchard Beach. The Flyers survived the Rangers despite the absence of senior leader Helen Gray-Bauer, as Julianna Harwood had 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Lydia Giguere added 12 points. In the loss, Harwood had 10 points, while Giguere and Annika Brooks both had eight. Waynflete is at Hebron Academy Wednesday, hosts Kents Hill Thursday, plays at Sacopee Valley Friday, visits Kents Hill Monday and closes at home versus Greater Portland Christian School Feb. 4.

Hockey

Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team began the week 8-3-1 and third behind two-time defending champion Falmouth and Scarborough in the Western A Heals. The Stags last played Jan. 17 and don’t return to the ice until a trip to Lake Region/Fryeburg/Oxford Hills Saturday. Cheverus has a big home test versus Falmouth Feb. 5.

The Portland/Deering co-op team hasn’t played since Jan. 15. Thursday, it hosts Mt. Ararat. Saturday, Portland/Deering (4-7 and seventh in Western A) goes to Lawrence/Skowhegan.

On the girls’ side, barring a dramatic reversal of fortune, both city teams will miss the playoffs.

Cheverus began the week 5-10 and seventh in the West Region, but only six teams make the playoffs. The Stags go to Gorham/Bonny Eagle Wednesday and play at defending state champion Scarborough. They also have to make up a home game versus Falmouth.

Portland/Deering was eighth at 1-12-1 after falling at York last Monday, 5-1. Portland/Deering is home with Winslow Thursday.

Indoor track

Last week’s regular season finale indoor track meet was canceled by snow.

The Southwestern Maine Activities Association championship meet, better known as Southwesterns, will be held Saturday, Feb. 7.

Swimming

Cheverus swept a swim meet against Portland last weekend. The boys prevailed, 85-60, and the girls won, 88-49.

The Stags go to Cape Elizabeth Friday and host Westbrook Monday.

The Bulldogs are home against Gorham Friday and go to Bonny Eagle Monday.

Deering’s girls edged Cape Elizabeth, 89-87, while the boys lost to the Capers, 104-55. The Rams are at Westbrook Friday.

McAuley lost to Scarborough last weekend, 124-46. The Lions finish at Greely Monday.

Waynflete closes its season Friday against Yarmouth.

Skiing

Cheverus’ girls were fifth and the boys sixth in a six-team SMAA giant slalom meet last week at Shawnee Peak. Hanna Sonesson was second individually on the girls’ side with a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 5.57 seconds. The boys were led by Schuyler Black, who came in ninth in 1:02.85.

Wrestling

Portland’s wrestling team edged Deering last week, 36-35, and lost to Bonny Eagle (60-16), Sanford (54-18) and Oxford Hills (61-6). The 7-12 Bulldogs go to Marshwood Wednesday and visit Kennebunk in the regular season finale Saturday.

Deering fell to 0-15 after losses to Portland (36-35), Bonny Eagle (48-32), Sanford (45-27) and Wells (35-28).

The regional championships are Saturday, Feb. 7 and the state meet is Saturday, Feb. 14.

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

Sidebar Elements


Portland senior Steve Alex goes up for two of his 29 points during the Bulldogs’ palpitating 78-71 win at Scarborough last week.

McAuley senior captain Olivia Dalphonse dribbles past a Westbrook defender during the Lions’ 55-31 win at Westbrook last week. McAuley then beat Portland for its 13th straight victory.

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