By Michael Hoffer
After a brief (and triumphant) break for holiday tournament action, local winter sports teams have returned to league play. With February (and the postseason) drawing closer, the news continues to be promising.
SUBHEAD-Boys’ basketball: Cheverus wins holiday tourney
A year ago, the Cheverus boys’ basketball team won the Portland High Holiday Tournament then went on to capture the Class A state title. This winter, the Stags are halfway to another delicious double.
Cheverus proved to have no peer at this year’s holiday tournament, cruising past East Boston 60-49, Greely 60-29, Cape Elizabeth 53-39 and Susan Wagner (N.Y.) 65-38.
The Stags got sensational performances from senior Mick DiStasio and junior Indiana Faithfull and also received stellar contributions from myriad other sources as they proved to be the state’s team to beat until further notice.
Friday, Cheverus returned to Southern Maine Activities Association play with a 64-39 triumph at Biddeford, improving to 5-0. DiStasio had 23 points and junior Lenny Cummings added a dozen. The Stags (fifth in the initial Western A Heal Points standings) looked to stay perfect Tuesday (too late for this edition) when they hosted Marshwood. Friday, Cheverus visits Sanford. Saturday brings a home showdown against Portland.
The Bulldogs went 2-1 in their tournament. After downing East Boston 61-48, Portland fell 65-63 in the final seconds to Susan Wagner. The Bulldogs then defeated Deering 72-61.
Friday, the Bulldogs improved to 5-1 in the league with a 74-57 victory at Massabesic. The unrivaled senior inside combination of Ed Bogdanovich (22) and Joe Violette (13) combined for 35 points. Portland (sixth in the Heals) hopes to extend its win streak to six Wednesday when it hosts Biddeford. Friday, the Bulldogs go to Marshwood. Saturday, they visit Cheverus.
Deering remains an intriguing team, capable of looking average one night, phenomenal the next. The Rams, who won their first four games this season, then took back-to-back losses to Westbrook and South Portland into the holiday tournament, defeated Marshwood 72-46 in their first game at the Expo before losing to Cape Elizabeth (61-47) and Portland.
Friday, Deering reminded the SMAA that it can beat anybody in a one-game setting. Hosting undefeated Thornton Academy, a regional finalist last year, the Rams fell behind 17-4 after one period, but rallied to force overtime before riding a pair of huge 3-pointers from senior Khadar Abbas to a stunning 59-52 win over the Golden Trojans. Abbas led all scorers with 21 points. Senior Ronald Abwoch and junior Eddie Tirabassi both added 13. Deering (second in the Heals) is at Noble Wednesday and returns home Friday to battle Bonny Eagle.
In Western C, Waynflete (which didn’t take part in a holiday tournament) dropped its fifth decision in a row Saturday, 37-33 to North Yarmouth Academy. The Flyers only mustered eight points in the first half, but rallied in the fourth quarter and pulled within a point in the final minute, but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell to 1-5. Junior John Malia and sophomore Joe Veroneau both had 10 points. Waynflete (12th in the Western C Heals) visited defending Western B champion Cape Elizabeth Tuesday (too late for this edition) and travels to Traip Friday.
SUBHEAD-Girls’ basketball: McAuley magic
While most eyes are on the defending champion Deering Rams, who reside right up Stevens Avenue (please see accompanying story, page ?), the McAuley Lions are eager to remind the girls’ basketball world that they are still a top contender.
The Lions won their first two league games this season, then fell to Massabesic and Noble before traveling to Delaware for the Diamond State Classic tournament. There, McAuley was bested by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (58-31), Ursuline Academy, Del (46-39) and Roosevelt High, Wash. (62-34).
Needing a lift, the Lions got one Friday night. Hosting dangerous Marshwood, McAuley trailed by two with time winding down, but sophomore Nicolette Kapothanasis stepped up and played the hero, canning a 3-pointer to give the Lions a stunning 40-39 win.
McAuley (3-2 and 12th in the initial Western A Heal Points) was at Sanford Tuesday (too late for this edition), plays host to vastly improved Windham Friday, then welcomes Cheverus Saturday.
The Stags have been quite a story so far. Cheverus won three games in a seven-day span right after Christmas to emphatically announce it is a legitimate contender to not just make the playoffs this winter, but to be a factor deep into the tournament.
First, the Stags downed visiting Thornton Academy 51-40 behind a 25-point eruption from senior Jamie Lowery. Last Tuesday, at Portland, Cheverus found itself down 13-2 early before coming to life. The Stags were still down three, 44-41, with just under four minutes to go, but a game-closing 10-4 run gave the visitors a 51-48 win. Two free throws from junior Theresa Hendrix put Cheverus ahead to stay. Lowery led the way with 15 points. Freshman Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy added 11.
“We have senior girls,” said Stags’ second-year coach Richie Ashley. “Portland’s a good team. They’re athletic and fast. They’re well-coached. We were lucky enough to make a couple more than they did. The kids don’t care who gets the glory. We preach that the name on the front means a lot more than the name on the back. It’s going well.”
Friday, Cheverus won its fifth game in succession when it rallied from a 20-3 first period hole to edge visiting Massabesic 51-50. Lowery had 15 points, including a free throw to put the Stags ahead to stay. Cheverus fell to 5-2 Saturday night with a 50-25 home loss to Deering. The Stags are fourth in the initial Western A Heals. After playing at Biddeford Tuesday, they host Marshwood Friday and visit McAuley Saturday.
Prior to facing Cheverus, Portland took part in a couple of holiday games at Portland High, beating Lincoln Academy (53-49) and Susan Wagner, N.Y. (77-58). In the tough loss to the Stags, senior standout Nyachuol Biliew had 22 points. Senior Alisa Sweet and junior Mariah Callender both added 10.
“Every game is going to be like that in the SMAA,” said Bulldogs’ coach Jan Veinot. “Anybody can beat anybody. The league is well-rounded. We’re in much better shape than last year. We played well, we just couldn’t finish layups.”
Portland (14th in the Western A Heals) hoped to bounce back Tuesday when it played at Massabesic. Friday brings a huge home date with Biddeford.
In Western C, Waynflete won its first four games, capped by a stunning upset at Western B favorite Falmouth. After splitting a pair of holiday games (downing Dirigo 32-28 and losing 52-50 to Oak Hill) in the Cole Farms Classic in Gray, the Flyers (playing without standout senior Annie Cutler) suffered their first loss, 37-32 at Fryeburg last Tuesday. Saturday, Waynflete got back on track and improved to 5-1 with a 43-36 win at NYA. Junior Morgan Woodhouse had 20 points as the Flyers pulled away late.
Waynflete (fifth in the initial Western C Heals) played host to improved Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and travel to Traip Friday.
SUBHEAD-Boys’ hockey: Portland edges Cheverus
On the ice, the Cheverus and Portland boys’ teams took part in the eighth annual Maine High School Hockey Invitational. Results weren’t made available to The Forecaster by press time.
The rivals also squared off in a countable game New Year’s Eve and the Bulldogs prevailed 4-2 behind third period goals from seniors Greg Leborgne and Sam Guimond. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for Portland, but the Bulldogs then dropped an 8-2 home decision to St. Dom’s Saturday to fall to 2-5 on the year. Portland welcomes undefeated Gorham Thursday and plays host to Yarmouth Saturday.
The loss to the Bulldogs was the Stags’ second straight, but they earned some confidence Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 home overtime victory over Westbrook on freshman Harry Ridge’s game-winner. Cheverus (2-3) is at St. Dom’s Wednesday and goes to defending Western B champion York Saturday.
Deering fell to 0-6 Saturday with a hard-fought 7-5 loss at Gray-New Gloucester. The Rams trailed 6-1 in the third and almost rallied. Junior Ben Rodick scored twice. Deering is idle until next Thursday when it hosts Mt. Ararat.
SUBHEAD-Girls’ hockey: Cheverus earns huge victory
On the girls’ side, Cheverus made a major statement Saturday. The Stags, who reached the Tier I Final a year ago, took a 6-0 mark into a showdown at undefeated Scarborough, last year’s unbeaten Tier II champions. Goals from juniors Grace Fitzpatrick and Maggie Grindatti proved to be too much for the Red Storm and Cheverus stayed perfect with a 2-1 victory. Wednesday, the Stags welcome York. Saturday, they host Biddeford and Wednesday of next week brings a rematch with Scarborough, this time at home.
Deering fell to 0-6 Saturday with a 1-0 loss at defending Tier I champion Biddeford. Junior Julie Pallozzi did make 11 saves.
Portland, which has been very competitive of late, lost 4-3 to visiting Cape Elizabeth Saturday and is now 1-6 on the season. Waynflete School junior Sasha Timpson scored two goals to help the Capers to the win. Rachel Allen scored twice for the Bulldogs.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com