By Michael Hoffer
Just as the winter sports season was kicking into gear, it’s taking a brief hiatus for holiday tournaments. Of course, Mother Nature has made life difficult in the early going, but even with a small sampling, it’s clear that there are many more thrills on the horizon.
Here’s a look at where things stand as the old year prepares to give way to the new.
One year after serving as one of the feel-good stories of the season, the South Portland boys’ basketball team is at it again.
The Red Riots took a 5-0 mark into Tuesday night’s home showdown with Deering. South Portland’s most recent wins were 79-62 at Marshwood last Wednesday (behind 40 points from junior standout Keegan Hyland) and 77-49 over visiting Gorham (thanks to 29 from Hyland).
The Rams had won four of their first five and the two teams would put on a show.
The first half saw nine lead changes and five ties before the hosts finally got some breathing room to take a 35-29 advantage into the break.
Hyland and junior Matt Lee proved to be too much in the second half, burying their good looks, while the Red Riots dominated defensively and on the boards, eventually pulling away to win 79-65.
“I think we had tremendous ball movement on offense in the second half and we had some guys really step up and make big shots,” said Red Riots’ second-year coach Phil Conley. “Our guys moved the ball around to get those easy looks. We really clamped down defensively on them. Every game’s a big game, but this was a huge game for us. Deering’s very athletic. They’re a good basketball team. We’re very fortunate to get a victory tonight. I’m really proud of my guys. It feels good to be 6-0.”
Hyland led all scorers with 31 points. Lee added 22 (17 in the second half).
“We’re always going to be underdogs,” Hyland added. “We always have something to prove. We have the ability to do it. If we play like this, we can beat anybody.”
South Portland will compete in the Maine Mall Holiday Classic. The Red Riots return to league play Jan. 2 at Scarborough.
The Red Storm, which won their first three games, dropped their third in a row Tuesday night at Westbrook, 66-47. Scarborough, coming off a 59-51 loss at Windham, fell behind by nine after one period and couldn’t rally despite 16 points from senior Ian Philbrick.
Scarborough is idle until hosting South Portland Jan. 2.
In Western B, defending regional champ Cape Elizabeth bounced back from its stunning late loss to Falmouth with a 59-38 victory over visiting Freeport. Senior Alex Bowe led the way with 14 points. Saturday night, however, the Capers fell 68-66 at Lake Region. Bowe had 28 points. Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth improved to 4-2 with a 72-42 home win over Poland. Bowe again led the way with a dozen points.
After taking part in the Maine Mall Holiday Classic, Cape Elizabeth returns to league play Jan. 3 at York.
On the girls’ side, Cape Elizabeth emphatically announced that it was a legitimate contender Monday night with a stunning 48-42 home win over three-time defending Western B champion Lake Region. The Capers, who lost their first three games, had gotten into the win column last Thursday with a 41-36 victory at Freeport (behind 12 points from senior Haley Thompson and 10 each from juniors Ruth Perkins and Morgan Pillsbury). Monday, Cape Elizabeth trailed 35-27, but closed the game with a huge run to shock the Lakers behind 15 points from Pillsbury and 14 from Thompson.
The Capers evened their record at 3-3 Tuesday with a 62-20 win at Poland. Junior Gabe Donahue had 18 points in the team’s largest margin of victory this century.
Cape Elizabeth (which hasn’t won four games in a season since the 1999-2000 team went 8-11) can go over the .500 mark Jan. 3 when it returns to league play against visiting York.
In Western A, Scarborough responded to its first loss with a pair of wins. Monday night, at Gorham, the Red Storm cruised to a 58-30 victory behind 19 points from junior Christy Manning and 13 from junior Jenn Colpitts. Tuesday, Scarborough improved to 4-1 with a 78-46 home win over Massabesic. Manning erupted for 31 points and Colpitts went off for 26.
Scarborough is idle until Jan. 2 when it hosts Westbrook.
South Portland takes a 4-2 mark into the break. Last Wednesday, the Red Riots squeaked past visiting Marshwood 44-41, thanks to 13 points from junior Esther Palmieri. Saturday, South Portland became the latest upset victim of upstart Windham, 44-43. The Red Riots’ scheduled home game with Cheverus Tuesday was postponed. No makeup date was announced.
South Portland returns to league play Jan. 2 when it hosts defending state champion Deering.
On the ice, Cape Elizabeth tumbled from the ranks of the unbeaten Monday after a 7-4 loss at two-time defending Class A state champion Biddeford. The Capers, coming off a 4-1 win over Cheverus and a 2-0 blanking of Leavitt, got two goals apiece from senior Sean Eubanks and sophomore Reid Douty in the setback. Cape Elizabeth (4-1) will take part in the Maine High School Hockey Invitational, then returns to league action Jan. 5 at home when it hosts Western B rival Greely.
In Western A, South Portland continues to excel, stretching its season-opening win streak to five with wins over Noble (5-1), Sanford (8-1) and Gray-New Gloucester/Poland (5-1). Against the Redskins, senior Nick Fornwalt and junior Aidan Boyce both scored twice, while sophomore Connor Igo made seven saves. Sophomore Josh Cobb had two goals and an assist against the Patriotic Knights. The Red Riots are idle until Thursday when they host Marshwood in a makeup game. They go to Gorham Jan. 3.
Scarborough finished the 2008 portion of its schedule last Wednesday with a 4-1 victory at Kennebunk. The Red Storm (4-1) go to Leavitt Jan. 3.
In girls’ action, Scarborough downed visiting Cape Elizabeth 10-4 Tuesday night to improve to 5-0-1. Junior Jordan Finley had five goals.
The Red Storm are home against Portland Saturday and host York Monday.
The Capers fell to 3-5-1. They return to action Jan. 3 at Portland.
While the Southern Maine Activities Association indoor track season doesn’t start until just after the New Year, Scarborough got a jump start last weekend at the Bowdoin Relays.
In the boys’ meet, the Red Storm were runners-up to Brunswick with 78 points. Alex Dulac won the high jump (6 feet, 1 inch). Brad Nakanishi was tops in the pole vault (13-6).
Scarborough’s girls were also second to Brunswick, scoring 62 1/2 points. The Red Storm won the mile and 1,600 relays. Catie Funk captured the shot put (36-9).
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com