Winter sports fun is underway

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(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Deering, Portland-South Portland and Waynflete-Old Orchard Beach boys’ basketball, Deering-Thornton Academy, Deering-McAuley, McAuley-Gorham, McAuley-Thornton Academy and Waynflete-Traip girls’ basketball, Cheverus-Cape Elizabeth boys’ hockey and Cheverus-Capeflete girls’ hockey game stories, with additional photos, see theforecaster.net)

The new winter sports season has a couple of weeks under its belt and it’s clear that local squads are in for a lot of success.

With a mini holiday break looming, here’s a glimpse at where things stand.

Boys’ basketball

Portland’s boys’ basketball team, the defending Class A state champion, is off to another sizzling start this winter and as of press time, had stretched its win streak to 27 games.

After opening with a 72-38 home victory over Massabesic, the Bulldogs beat visiting Noble (62-44), host Marshwood (71-63), visiting Gorham (64-41) and visiting South Portland (45-43). Portland trailed the Red Riots, 43-36, with 3:42 left, but rose off the deck.

A layup from Cedric Smith and a pair of free throws from Amir Moss pulled the Bulldogs within 3 and with 2:07 to go, sharpshooter Liam Densmore tied the score with a 3-ball. After the Red Riots turned the ball over, Portland ran down the clock and held for the last shot. While Steve Alex’s bid for a winner was off the mark, the rebound came to Joe Esposito on the left side of the basket and just before the horn sounded, Esposito’s putback found its mark and Portland survived, 45-43.

“It felt really good,” Esposito said. “I played bad the whole game. I was there for the rebound. Everybody mobbed me.”

“We just listened to what Coach said and we pulled it out,” Alex said. “We got a lucky shot at the end. ‘Espo’ was in the right place at the right time. It was pretty exciting.”

“We talk about never giving up,” added longtime Portland coach Joe Russo. “As long as we give it our best shot, I’m happy. We needed a game like this. It will be dogfights all year. This will benefit us.”

The Bulldogs were back in action Tuesday at Thornton Academy and play at Cheverus Dec. 30.

Cheverus has been a pleasant surprise so far, winning four of five. After opening with a 63-55 home win over Windham, the Stags lost at Bonny Eagle (41-39), but then defeated host Thornton Academy (59-51), visiting Massabesic (49-32) and finally host Deering (45-34) Friday, in a game which saw Cheverus rally from an early 11-0 deficit. The Stags were down, 27-23, heading for the fourth period, but went on a 22-4 run. Austin Boudreau had 12 points, Zordan Holman 11 and freshman Jesse Matthews 10.

“It was eye-opening,” Matthews said. “We answered the bell. We stuck to our stuff. We knew we were capable of coming back.”

“We battled back and showed our toughness and showed what we had at the end,’ Holman said. “We got the ball inside and got it to our shooters. We did what we needed to win.”

“Obviously that start was less than impressive, but we have a bunch of young kids who haven’t been on the floor before,” added Stags coach Dan Costigan. “The kids had to be tough and they were. They were resilient and they got better as the game went on.”

Cheverus is back in action Tuesday when it hosts Portland.

Deering fell to 3-1 with the loss. The Rams had edged visiting Bonny Eagle (64-59) and host Thornton Academy (63-58) to start, then prevailed over visiting Noble (67-42). Deering couldn’t build on its fast start versus the Stags, however, and despite 15 points from Ben Williams, suffered its first setback.

“We forced the tempo in spurts and we were successful, but when we let them sit in their zone, we weren’t successful,” Rams coach Todd Wing said. “We had some good looks, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to catch the ball in the scoring area and that was the difference.”

Deering was at Westbrook Tuesday, meets Gorham Saturday in a game played at the Portland Expo and hosts South Portland Tuesday of next week.

In Western C, defending regional champion Waynflete has sparkled, winning its first five: 79-29 over visiting Greater Portland Christian, 83-33 at Sacopee Valley, 82-37 over visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 59-51 at Traip Academy and 51-37 over visiting Old Orchard Beach Friday. In that one, the Flyers were pushed throughout, but got 23 points from Milo Belleau and 10 points, eight steals and seven assists from Harry Baker-Connick.

“Overall, we brought intensity we needed to bring against a good OOB team,” said Belleau. “I thought we played well. We had adversity, but we stayed calm and stayed composed.”

“It was a great test for us, especially before break,” said Baker-Connick. “I’m glad we got the win.”

“I’m not surprised we got pushed,” added Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “It was a good game. Old Orchard played well.”

The Flyers are idle until Jan. 3 when they go to Wells. A home showdown with top Western B contender Yarmouth looms three days later.

Girls’ basketball

On the girls’ side, four-time defending Class A champion McAuley hasn’t had it easy during a season of transition, but the Lions are showing signs that they’re rounding into championship form once more.

McAuley opened with a 37-34 loss at Thornton Academy, then beat host Massabesic (66-20, thanks to 14 points apiece from Chelsea Rairdon and Sarah Clement), visiting Gorham (54-43), host Deering (49-48) and visiting Noble (65-16). Against the Rams, Ayla Tartre had 19 points, Olivia Dalphonse made the tying and winning foul shots and Jess Willerson blocked Lodia Ismail’s potential game-winning shot as time expired.

“(McAuley-Deering games are) always really intense games we look forward to,” Dalphonse said. “It’s like a playoff-style game. A lot of times we dig a hole, but we don’t give up and we keep fighting. That’s a good sign.”

“Shots weren’t falling, but we made some good plays and that’s what won us the game,” Willerson said. “It was a team effort. All of us played great together.”

“It was a good team win,” McAuley coach Billy Goodman added. “What you see is what we’ve got. We’ve got defense, we’ve got heart, but we struggle shooting. Every girl knows they can’t play scared. They all play aggressive. If they make the right decisions, I’ll be happy.”

The Lions had a showdown at Cheverus Tuesday (see theforecaster.net for game story) and visit Windham Tuesday of next week.

Deering got 14 points from Tasia Titherington against McAuley, but still dropped its seventh straight to the Lions.

“It was a game of plays that you have to make,” Rams coach Mike Murphy lamented. “Simple little plays. We missed shots and had turnovers. I think they respect us and know we’ll come out fighting. We showed we can go head-to-head with a top team.”

Deering bounced back and improved to 3-2 Friday with a 59-43 victory at Cheverus. The Rams hosted Westbrook Tuesday and welcome South Portland Tuesday of next week.

The Stags, under new coach Steve Huntington, won their first two contests, lost home to Thornton Academy (50-28), won at Massabesic (66-28), then fell at home to Deering. Cheverus hosted McAuley Tuesday and welcomes Portland Tuesday of next week.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, after winning their first three contests, they let one slip away at Gorham (51-47), then lost at home to South Portland Thursday, 65-55. Portland got 15 points from Merritt Ryan, 13 from Elizabeth Donato and 12 from Gabby Wagabaza, but it wasn’t enough.

“It wasn’t a very good first half, but the second half was better,” first-year Bulldogs coach Jay Lowery said. “We’re in the process of finding ourselves. We did things late in the game I didn’t think we could do this year.”

Portland was home against Thornton Academy Tuesday, then welcome Cheverus Tuesday of next week.

In Western C, Waynflete won its first four games: 66-28 over Greater Portland Christian School, 42-24 over Sacopee Valley, 63-12 over North Yarmouth Academy and 63-32 over Traip Academy. The Flyers then fell to 4-1 Saturday with a 72-45 loss at Old Orchard Beach. Against the Hawks, Julianna Harwood led the way with 11 points, seven rebounds and six steals. In the win over the Panthers, Helen Gray-Bauer had 15 points, Lydia Giguere added nine and Annika Brooks had 12 rebounds. Against the Rangers, Gray-Bauer led all scorers with 22 points, Brooks, Giguere and Julianna Harwood added nine points apiece and the Flyers forced 37 turnovers.

“Defense is our thing,” Giguere said. “Basically our offense is our defense. We create off of it.”

“I’ve been very impressed with how the underclassmen have stepped up,” Gray-Bauer said. “You wouldn’t know we have so many freshmen because they’ve done so well.  They’ll be phenomenal as soon as next year. I’m proud of how they’ve done.”

“Traip is a good team,” added Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “We’ve struggled at home against them for years. The girls were focused. They came out and executed.”

In the loss, Giguere had 10 points and the Flyers committed over 30 turnovers.

“(Old Orchard Beach is) very good, coaching, shooting, ball handlers, seniors, all of the pieces,” Salway said. “They’ll be a tough out.”

The Flyers are idle until Jan. 3, when they host Wells.

Boys’ hockey

Cheverus’ boys’ hockey team is off to a 4-0-1 start. The Stags opened by edging Lewiston in an overtime thriller, 3-2, then downed host South Portland (8-1) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (5-2). In that one, after being stymied early, Cheverus got two goals from James Hannigan and one each from Quinton Farr, James Kane and Matt O’Leary.

“We went into the second period (angry) and came out, found some fire in our bellies and put a couple in the net,” Hannigan said. “We all believe in each other. I know every single kid on this team can do it. It’s a great mentality.”

“It was pretty frustrating off the bat not being able to score, but we figured out what we were doing wrong,” said O’Leary. “We needed to shoot around the goalie.”

“We told the guys after the first period to not let the frustration get to them,” Cheverus coach Dan Lucas said. “I told them, ‘We’re going to win this game. We’ve had the majority of play in their end. Just be strong in the second period.’ There’s always room for improvement, but we’re happy and we’ll take it.”

The Stags then defeated visiting Thornton Academy (7-3) and settled for a 3-3 tie at Lawrence/Skowhegan. Cheverus was at Yarmouth Tuesday and plays Portland/Deering for the City Cup New Year’s Day.

Portland/Deering opened with a 5-2 loss to Biddeford, then beat Thornton Academy, 5-3. After a pair of losses to juggernaut Falmouth, the two-time defending Class A champion (11-0 and 12-0), Portland/Deering got back in the win column Saturday, downing host Westbrook, 8-2. After hosting Scarborough Tuesday, Portland/Deering welcomes Windham Tuesday of next week.

Girls’ hockey

On the girls’ side, Portland/Deering earned its first win since the 2012-13 season Thursday when it prevailed at Mt. Ararat, 2-1, to improve to 1-4. After hosting Gorham/Bonny Eagle, Portland/Deering welcomes Biddeford Tuesday.

Cheverus improved to 3-5 Saturday with an 8-0 home win over Mt. Ararat. The Stags are idle until New Year’s Day, when they play Portland/Deering in the City Cup.

Indoor track

City indoor track and field athletes have seen two meets worth of action already.

Deering’s boys, after placing third in their first meet, beat Westbrook last weekend. Rams event winners included Jonata Mbongo in the junior 200 (25.58 seconds), Luc Harrison in the junior high jump (4 feet, 8 inches), Roman Anderson in the junior long jump (17-8), Cade Violette in the junior triple jump (35-8), Joshua Kinsaka in the junior shot put (38-7.75), Paolo DeMarco in the senior 55 hurdles (8.15), senior 200 (24.23) and senior 400 (53.33), David Mathew in the senior high jump (17-5), Jouya Mahmoudi in the senior shot put (39-11.25), Hisham Ramadan in the open 600 (1 minute, 28.4 seconds), Iid Sheikh-Yusef in the open mile (4:49.50) and the open two-mile (10:49.78) and the senior 800 (1:59.62) and open 1,600 sprint medley (4:06.57) relays.

The Deering girls were second to South Portland in the first meet and second to Westbrook Saturday. The Rams got wins from Caitlin Lally in the junior 400 (1:03.88), open 55 hurdles (10.93) and junior 55 hurdles (10.04), Eavan Sibole-Little in the junior high jump (4-4), Annah Rossvall in the junior long jump (13-5), Katie Farrell in the senior 400 (1:06.50), Lili Kien in the senior high jump (4-8), Neilab Habibzai in the senior shot put (30-10) and senior long jump (14-10) and the senior 800 relay (1:58.85).

McAuley came in third in its first meet, then placed third behind Westbrook and Deering Saturday. The Lions won the open 3,200 relay (14:17.75).

Cheverus’ boys were second to Thornton Academy in the opener, then finished third behind Noble and Gorham Saturday. In that meet, the Stags got wins from Jack Wagner in the junior 55 hurdles (9.70), Gerry Wagner in the open 600 (1:21.12), Mike O’Brien in the junior triple jump (34-2), Jake Dixon in the senior 200 (23.28), Jacob Schott in the senior long jump (19-5) and senior triple jump (40-7.75), Nick White in the senior shot put (51-1.25) and the senior 800 relay (1:35.65).

Cheverus’ girls were second to Thornton Academy their first time out, then were third behind Gorham and Noble Saturday. In that one, first-place finishers included Caroline Ford in the junior 55 (7.89), Emily Turner in the junior 200 (29.04), Katelyn Gendron in the junior long jump (14-3), Sarah Mount in the senior 55 hurdles (9.89) and senior 200 (28.44), Kaitlyn Dostie in the senior 800 (2:37.94), Milena Opielowski in the senior long jump (15-10.25) and the open sprint medley relay team (4:41.13).

Portland’s boys were third behind Biddeford and Windham in their first meet. Saturday, the Bulldogs placed third behind South Portland and Bonny Eagle. First-place finishers included Ryan Donaldson in the senior 55 hurdles (9.56), Pavel Bobe in the senior 200 (24.34) and Alex Frank in the junior 55 (7.26) and junior 200 (26.23).

The Portland girls were fourth their first time out, then placed fourth behind South Portland, Bonny Eagle and Marshwood Saturday. Maggie Hosmer (junior 800, 2:39.23) and Ella Altidor (junior 55, 7.86) were event winners.

The USM Relay is this weekend. League competition returns Saturday, Jan. 3.

Swimming

Cheverus’ defending Class A boys’ swimming champion is off to a hot start this winter, having defeated South Portland (119-49), Scarborough (104-63) and St. Dom’s (84-34). The girls’ team, also defending a championship, has been equally dominant, downing South Portland (101-82), Scarborough (86-79) and St. Dom’s (52-32), while dropping  a close decision to McAuley (60-52). The Stags are back in action Jan. 3 versus Greely.

Deering’s girls won their first two meets, downing Scarborough (89-81) and McAuley (90-77) before losing to Greely (62-32). The Rams boys lost to Scarborough (123-43) and Greely (56-29). Deering hosts South Portland Friday.

McAuley lost its opener to Deering (90-77), then beat Cheverus (60-52) and St. Dom’s (60-32). The Lions welcome Cape Elizabeth Jan. 2.

Portland’s boys opened with close losses to Sanford (87-76) and Kennebunk (72-70). The girls fell to Sanford (101-76) and to Kennebunk (127-48). The Bulldogs swim at Biddeford Saturday.

Waynflete’s boys opened with losses to Bonny Eagle (88-51) and Westbrook (75-64), while the girls lost to the Scots (85-71) and the Blue Blazes (83-59). The Flyers host Sanford Jan. 3.

Wrestling

Portland’s highly touted wrestling team split its first six matches. The Bulldogs join Bonny Eagle and Scarborough at Sanford Saturday to wrap up 2014.

Deering dropped its first four matches. The Rams join Biddeford, Mt. Ararat and Thornton Academy at Windham Saturday.

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

Sidebar Elements


Cheverus senior Zordan Holman and Deering senior Garang Majok battle for a rebound during Friday’s tilt. Holman and the Stags rallied from an early 11-0 deficit to prevail, 45-34.

Portland senior Elizabeth Donato runs past a South Portland defender during the Bulldogs 65-55 loss last week.

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