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For goalies, puck stops are all in a day's work

Sport:   Posted: March 6th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

For goalies, puck stops are all in a day's work
Different styles, attitudes abound

By Sapna Pathak, Globe Correspondent  |  March 6, 2008

Her position on the ice prompts quick responses that are right to the point.

And Meghan Grant expects nothing less.

"Whenever I tell people I'm a goalie, they say I have to be crazy," said Grant, a junior on the girls' hockey team at Austin Prep in Reading.

"I mean, you kind of do have to be crazy to want to get shot at constantly by the best players in the state. You also have to not be sensitive to accept criticism and in your own world so you stay focused even if you let a goal in."

There is arguably no more important position on the ice than between the pipes. Stellar play propels teams to great heights while subpar performances can derail high hopes. Grant is just one of a number of area goalies who have put together sensational seasons.

A two-year starter for the Cougars, Grant got her first taste of the position when she stepped into goal in matches against her two older brothers, Peter and Matt. At age 8, she joined her first travel team. At 10, she was working with her first goalie coach, Mike Gergosian, who mentors the goalies on the Boston University men's team.

Gergosian helped develop Grant's upright stance while refining her movement, positioning, and skating skills.

"Each goalie has their own style and stance, so a coach really tries to improve on that," said Grant. "I would say my style is original. It looks like I've never been coached to a point where someone can tell. I'm a standup goalie because I think I do better in that position, I can see the ice easier."

A year ago, Grant backstopped Austin Prep to the Division 1 finals against Arlington Catholic. The 1-0 loss did nothing to rattle her confidence and everything to propel her to train even harder during the off-season. She spent four days a week working on leg strength in the weight room and cardiovascular endurance through running short, timed sprints.

Grant finished the regular season ranked second in the Catholic Central League with a 1.10 goals-against average. Before his team fell to Wakefield, 3-1, in Sunday's Division 1 quarterfinal, Cougars head coach Jim McGonagle simply called his keeper "the best goalie in girls' hockey in the state."

"What she did for us as a sophomore in last year's state championship was amazing," said McGonagle. "She's by far one of the best players on our team, and she really carried the defense with a strong sense of leadership."

When the 5-foot-6-inch Grant takes the ice, it's with a pregame conversation with brother Matt fresh in her mind. A former goalie at Melrose High, Matt gives his sister advice about keeping the right mindset before each game.

"He talks to me and tells me a relaxed goalie is a good goalie," said Grant. "Aside from crazy, I'd say a good goalie also has to be focused and in the zone."

Jeff Wyer is the two-year starter for the Reading High boys' team. After playing goalie during tournaments on his youth hockey team, Wyer came to revel in the responsibility that comes with being the final line of defense.

"I like the idea of being able to control a game with how you're playing that night," said Wyer. "Being the center of attention can be nice, but it can also be tough when you could possibly be the reason your team lost. It can be real hard to let things go because you're the last line on defense. Part of being a good goalie, though, is learning how to put it behind you."

On Saturday, Wyer preserved a 2-1 win over BC High, the only team to defeat the Rockets in the regular season. Tonight, the 21-1-0 Rockets take on Catholic Memorial in Super Eight action at Tsongas Arena.

Wyer uses a butterfly style derived from working with a private goalie coach, Brian Daccord, for the past eight years. Although Reading was outshot last Saturday, Wyer's aggressive approach kept his nerves intact.

"I like to go down to my knees on a shot, throw my hands up and take up as much space as I can. It's a lot easier if a shooter can see less of the net," said Wyer. "When I was younger, me and Brian worked off of athleticism, but as you get older, you work on movement and perfecting the technical positions."

Nina Riley's first time in net was unforgettable.

"I was 6 and we were playing at Stoneham Rink," said the Lexington High goalie. "I only let in one goal in my first game as a goalie. I loved it. I remember telling my dad on the way home that I didn't want to play hockey because I only wanted to be a goalie."

With a father who played goalie for Lexington High and an uncle who did the same before suiting up at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Riley is keeping her family's legacy alive. She just wrapped up her second season starting for Lexington.

The two-year starter recently ended her sophomore season with a 2-1 loss to Arlington in the Division 1 girls' hockey quarterfinals on Saturday. With her father, Tom, on the opposite side of the rink, Riley looked to him after the Spy Ponders scored on a deflection in the first period.

"My dad's usually there at all the games," said Riley. "When I let a goal score, I usually look at him and he'll signal with his hands, to settle down or calm down. I was more nervous last night because it was a big game, but once the puck drops, my heart beats faster and my adrenaline goes up. You have to be tough and can't get rattled in a game like that, even if you lose."

Parker helps Assumption to record-tying season

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 6th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Parker helps Assumption to record-tying season

By John Cochin
Sports Editor


staff photo by EJ Hersom Sanford's Kayla Parker lays up a shot during the 2006 Maine Class A finals. Parker is now a sophomore at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. and is one of the top players on the team, helping them post a record-tyinig 21 wins thus far this season.

SANFORD—Former Sanford High School basketball standout Kayla Parker has continued to shine at the college level.

In the final week of the regular season, she scored 14 points to help Assumption post a 59-58 win over Bentley to improve the Greyhounds' record to 21-6 at the time.

The 21 wins tied the school record for wins by a women's basketball team.

They closed out the season with a 21-8 record and drew a first round bye in the Northeast-10 Conference playoffs taking place this week.

This season, Kayla, a sophomore, led the team in blocked shots with 28 and was third in scoring with 270 points. She was second in points-per-game with a 10.0 mark, and second in rebounds with a total of 130.

Kayla's best two games were a 76-61 win over Molloy College in which she scored 23 points, and a 64-46 win over Bentley earlier in the season in which she scored 22 points.

As a varsity player last season, she was named to the Northeast-10 Conference All-Freshman team when she averaged 10.5 points per game for the Greyhounds. That season she scored in double figures in 15 games, including 11 of the final 12 games of the season.

Kayla led Sanford High to the Class A state championship in 2006 and was named Miss Maine Basketball, the highest honor a Maine schoolgirl basketball player can achieve. That was just the final honor she received that year. Previous to that, she received the Lisa Blais Manning Award given to the most outstanding player in the SMAA, the Edward "Red" McCann award, given to the outstanding player in the Western Maine Class A tournament, and was named a first team SMAA All-Star.

She averaged 17 points that year and pulled down an average of 12 rebounds per game.

One Assumption teammate, Megan Urban, was a former opponent of Parkers. Urban played for Deering High when Parker was a sophomore at Sanford. Urban, a senior at Assumption, was fifth in scoring with 212 points and second to Parker in blocked shots with 26.

Lee seniors claim another state title

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 6th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Lee seniors claim another state title

Lee Acadamy's players celebrate on the basketball court after winning against Madison Area Memorial High Schoolin the Class C Championship game at the Augusta Civic Center Wednesday evening. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)

By Jessica Bloch
Thursday, March 06, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine - Once the team picture was finished, the younger members of the Lee Academy girls basketball team got up and walked away from their spot in the Augusta Civic Center.

That left just the six seniors, who then got down on the floor with the Class C state championship gold ball, leaned in and found spots to kiss the trophy as the flashbulbs continued to pop.

It took all six of them, but the Pandas’ senior class got it done Wednesday night in the Class C state title game against Madison. Thanks to a strong second half and stellar defense down the stretch, Lee Academy earned a 59-47 victory over the Bulldogs.

Lee’s Amanda Gifford led the way with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six steals as the senior group claimed their seventh state championship in four different sports in four years. Coach Ron Weatherbee’s seniors were making their 10th appearance in a state title game.

For the group, Wednesday’s win was the most memorable considering the program’s move from Class D to Class C this year. Lee won the Class D states last year.

"I think was the most meaningful one," Gifford said. "We’ve said before it was the one right after [former Lee star Shelby Pickering] graduated, our junior year [2007] but this one is. We moved up to Class C, people thought we couldn’t do this, and it just doesn’t get better than this."

Karin Bird added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the 18-3 Pandas. Dana Houghton scored 12 points — it was the best shooting performance of her career, she said — and had 10 boards and three steals. Brooke Harris scored four points and had three steals in a tough defensive effort.

Aarika Ritchie was limited because of foul trouble, but had a key basket late in the fourth quarter. Laci McLaughlin came off the bench for four points and six rebounds.

"They have a lot of weapons when you talk about Gifford and Bird," Madison coach Al Veneziano said. "They also got some points from Houghton tonight. ... You can only shut real good players down for a short period of time."

Madison’s Margo Russell led all scorers with 25 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. The 5-foot-10 center drained a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game to cut Lee’s lead to 48-44, but the Bulldogs (20-1) managed just three points from there.

Momentum swung back and forth in the first half, but Madison went into the locker room with a 22-21 lead after scoring twice in the final 25 seconds of the second quarter. Lacey Ashbrook drove inside for the first basket of the third quarter, but the Pandas answered with a 12-2 run — Gifford had six points in that span and forced two turnovers — that gave them a 33-26 lead.

Lee had a 12-point edge at the end of the third.

"At halftime we went in and talked about our defensive intensity. The second half, we knew we needed to get some traps on and pressure the ball more," Gifford said. "Our defense was what picked up our offense."

The lead was 13 points in the fourth when Russell single-handedly tried to rally Madison. She scored off an offensive rebound and on the Bulldogs’ next possession, she put in a pass from Brittany Rich.

Russell then hit two free throws and drained a 3-pointer with 3:21 left. Gifford said the Pandas knew Russell could shoot, because she played with Russell, Ashbrook and Madison forward Briann Emery on an AAU team.

That stretch was the first time the Bulldogs were able to go inside to Russell, who was bottled up against Lee’s 2-3 zone with Houghton in the middle.

"They doubled inside and I thought they did what they had to do there," Veneziano said. "They got double-teams in there, attacked our inside players very much like they needed to."

Houghton, a 5-8 forward, was in the middle of the zone.

"We knew she was strong underneath so I knew I had to get around her," she said. "I can always count on help-side so as long as I got around her and we didn’t allow the entry pass, I always had someone helping out on defense."

Ritchie stepped in after Russell’s 3-pointer. After going 1-for-7 in the first three quarters, drove inside and dropped in a jumper in the lane with 2:53 left to push the lead back to six.

"We had that lull when they came back so I thought I’d get things going, get in the lane and maybe get fouled or throwing up a shot," Ritchie said. "I guess it kind of got things going. That, and Amanda’s awesome defense and Dana sticking those shots."

Later in the fourth, Houghton stole the ball from Russell after the center had grabbed an offensive rebound. Houghton found Gifford, who ran down the court for a layup. She made the basket and was fouled on the play, converted at the line, and the Pandas had a 55-44 lead with 1:33 left.

All that’s left for the Lee’s seniors is softball season.

Lee won Class D state basketball championships in 2005 and 2007, along with soccer states in 2005 and 2006. The Pandas also earned the 2006 state softball crown and won the 2004 cross country Class D state title, the final year that sport had Class D.

The only year they did not advance to the state final was the 2005-06 basketball season, when Lee lost to Greater Houlton Christian Academy in the EM Class D quarterfinals.

Ramblers end Devils' streak at 63

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 6th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Ramblers end Devils' streak at 63

Winthrop seniors Larry Foster (left) and Sam Leclerc (center) go for a rebound against Calais senior Nathan O'Neill in the second half of the boys' Class C State Championship against Winthrop on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at the Augusta Civic Center. The Blue Devils lost 72-62. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

By Ernie Clark
Thursday, March 06, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine - Sam Leclerc had been waiting for this opportunity for two years, since he had watched Calais carry the gold basketball off the Augusta Civic Center floor after the 2006 Class C state championship game.

Leclerc and his Winthrop Ramblers were on the losing end that night, one more victim in a 63-game Calais winning streak that had earned the Blue Devils back-to-back Class C boys basketball state titles in 2006 and 2007 and carried them back here for a third straight championship game.

Given a second chance two years later, the 6-foot-1 senior guard wasn’t about to be denied again as he returned to the site of that earlier frustration and led Winthrop to a streak-ending 72-62 victory over Calais in the 2008 state final Wednesday night.

"It means everything," said Leclerc. "Ever since the night we went home from that state game after we lost, I’ve been working hard for this one. We’ve all been working hard in the gym, and this has been our goal this year from Day 1."

Leclerc, a second-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice as a junior, scored 28 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals as the Ramblers shook off a proud Calais team that trailed nearly all the way but wouldn’t be put away until the game’s final minutes.

Leclerc lured the Calais defense to him with his four 3-point goals, then dribbled around the Blue Devils for drives to the basket or for passes to open teammates.

"When he got loose in the open court we were at his mercy," said Calais coach Ed Leeman. "He’d blow by one, then two, and the shots they were getting were uncontested 10-footers. They made a lot of them, and a lot of it was due to his dribble penetration."

Ezra Damm added 15 points and Andrew Smithgall scored 10 for Winthrop, which claimed its first state championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.

The Ramblers (21-1) succeeded despite being without 6-foot-3 senior forward Tim Gingras, another veteran of the 2006 team who was suspended for the game due to an off-court incident.

But Winthrop coach Dennis Dacus replaced Gingras by committee, and Zach Farrington, Smithgall and Skylar Whaley combined for 22 points and some solid defense against the high-scoring Blue Devils.

Calais, meanwhile, struggled with its perimeter shooting, making just 1 of 12 3-point tries and shooting just 40 percent from the field (26 of 64) for the game overall. The Blue Devils also made just 5 of 13 free throws.

"We were impatient offensively, even early on we were impatient and didn’t move really well," said Leeman. "Winthrop did a good job of denying that first entry to the post, but we just did not move and screen away. We were uncharacteristically impatient, and it hurt us.

"I thought if we could have made Winthrop play defense a little longer it probably would have helped us with the outcome of the game, but I’m not going to take anything away from Winthrop tonight. They deserved it."

Winthrop never trailed after Farrington hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Leclerc scored from beyond the arc to give the Ramblers an 11-8 lead with 2:50 left in the opening quarter.

Leclerc’s shot ignited a 12-2 Winthrop run that also featured two free throws and an assist for a layup by Damm that helped the Ramblers take a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

"When I came out and hit a couple of shots, their whole defense starting coming after me," said Leclerc, who scored 17 first-half points. "They sent a couple of double-teams while I was just at the top of the key. I was drawing them and I was able to get it to my other guys, and they were finding the open guys and we were converting."

Calais guard Sam Bell broke loose for nine points in the second quarter as the Blue Devils stayed within 36-28 at the break, but Bell and junior forward Cal Shorey each picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, leaving Calais in a considerable quandary.

But Calais (19-1) proved resilient, with Nathan O’Neill stepping up defensively and freshman Cam Shorey filling in for his brother while Eastern C tournament MVP Rod Tirrell began to find his offense.

By the time Bell and Cal Shorey returned to the lineup at the start of the fourth quarter, Calais was still within 52-47.

Shorey immediately scored on a follow-up shot to pull the Blue Devils within three, but Leclerc reassumed control of the game.

He pulled up for a fast-break jumper, then fed Damm and Whaley for short-range baskets that stretched Winthrop’s lead back to 58-49 before Tirrell answered with a layup for Calais.

Damm countered with a nice spin move through the lane, and Smithgall added two layups off feeds from David Ketchen and Leclerc to extend the margin to 64-51 with three minutes left.

The Blue Devils used defensive pressure to pull back within 66-57 as Cam Shorey converted a three-point play and Bell scored off a turnover and added 1 of 2 from the line, but that was as close as Calais got.

Bell and Tirrell each finished with 16 points for Calais, while Cal and Cam Shorey each scored nine and O’Neill added eight.

"I think they outplayed us in every aspect, to be honest with you," said Leeman. "We were hanging around, and I was kind of hoping this might be one of those where we could hang around long enough to have a chance, but they were focused. They weren’t going to let us back into it."

Sabis going to finals

Sport:   Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Sabis going to finals
Wednesday, March 05, 2008

AMHERST - This one was thrice as nice.

The Sabis International Charter School boys basketball team defeated New Leadership for the third time this season, the latest being the sweetest.

The Bulldogs were too much last night in registering a 66-50 victory in a Western Mass. Division III semifinal at Curry Hicks Cage at the University of Massachusetts.

No. 1 Sabis improved to (21-1) in its quest to win a third straight sectional title.

"It was nice (to play New Leadership), this will keep them quiet for a little while," Sabis senior forward Quinton McMillian said.

No. 4 New Leadership finished at 17-6.

Sabis advances to Saturday's final against the winner of last night's tripleheader nightcap between Frontier and Pioneer Valley regionals. Tip-off for the final is 12:30 p.m. at The Cage.

"It's a (great) rivalry, the kids all play against each other all year and our kids respond to it," Sabis coach Jim Mack said. "And it's a struggle every time against New Leadership."

Sabis took command late in the first half, but could never quite shake free of its rival in a battle of charter schools from Springfield.

"We knew they were going to come out tough, because they hadn't beaten us in a while," Sabis sophomore Andre King said.

King led all scorers with 26 points, making good on 12 of 13 foul shots. McMillian added 22 points.

The Bulldogs never led by fewer than six points after the opening minute of the second half and the final margin was their largest of the game.

Sabis pushed the lead as high as 14, at 39-25 with 2:10 left in the third, and took a 41-32 edge in the fourth.

New Leadership stayed within striking distance, despite making five field goals during the middle two quarters.

The Wildcats cut the deficit to six, at 42-36 with 6:30 to play, and were within seven with the ball before Sabis converted twice off successive steals to make it 50-39 with 4:32 left.

New Leadership built its biggest lead at 18-12 near the midway point of the second quarter, before the Bulldogs closed the half with a 12-2 run.

"We have come out slow against them every time and I think we turned it over 13 times in the first half," Mack said.

McMillian scored four straight baskets for Sabis, while its defense held New Leadership to one field goal - an offensive rebound - on its first 11 possessions of the third.

"Quinton is the heart and soul of our team ... he does so much for us on defense, and to score like he can," Mack said.

Nick Holland added nine points for Sabis, while eight-graders Kamli Bey and Jesus Sanchez played big-time minutes.

"They are grown men, they play like it," McMillian said.

Madroy Mabry led New Leadership with 11 points, and Eric Brown added 10. The Wildcats made 27 trips to the foul line, but missed 17.

Tantasqua gains Central final

Sport:   Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Tantasqua gains Central final
Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two teams that played in the season opener squared off again last night with a spot in the Central Massachusetts Division II title game on the line.

Time had not changed the relationship between the two all that much.

Senior forward Brian Vayda scored 23 points, including the 1,000th of his career on a jumper in the second quarter, and Tantasqua Regional of Fiskdale smothered Uxbridge 59-46 in a boys basketball sectional semifinal at WPI's Harrington Auditorium. The lead reached 22 at 57-35 with 4:58 left, a better reflection of the game than the final score.    

The top-seeded Warriors (22-0) are the defending state champions, and they ran their win streak to 47 games. The fourth-seeded Spartans finished at 17-7.

"Defense is what we emphasize in practice and in games," Vayda said. "Uxbridge can shoot the ball well, and they have a talented big man (Andrew Groth). We knew we needed to concentrate on that the whole way."

Second-seeded St. Bernard's (19-3) also advanced to the final, pulling away from third-seeded Oakmont (17-5) for a 68-54 victory in last night's first semifinal. Saturday's championship game is a rematch of last year's sectional final, won by Tantasqua in overtime. Game time is 5:15 back at WPI.

"This is going to be one of our biggest games ever," Vayda said. "They are a very good team."

Tantasqua and St. Bernard's did not play in the regular season, but Tantasqua and Uxbridge did. The Warriors won that first game, 53-30, and their advantage in talent and size remained front and center last night. If it wasn't the press, it was the pressure on the ball, or it was the intimidation factor inside created by the likes of the 6-foot-5 Vayda, or it was simply the overall balance and confidence of a champion.

"Offensively, we have some things to work on," Tantasqua coach Jeff Child said. "Our defense has been carrying us. I think we were a little more of an offensive threat last year. We had a three-headed monster of sorts. This year, we rely more on Brian."

Life's not so bad, though, when you have to depend on a smooth, athletic player with the ability score from underneath or from the 3-point line - not to mention any spot in between. Child would like to see a few more touches for Vayda in the post, but opponents use double teams and junk defenses to force others to carry the load.

WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS DIVISION II Taconic 66, Hoosac 52: Jeric Tyler and Jake Rand led a balanced Taconic attack with 15 points each as the top-seeded Braves advanced to the Western Massachusetts Division II basketball final with a semifinal win at Curry Hicks Cage.

Trevelle Spratling added 10 for Taconic (18-4), which will meet the winner of tonight's South Hadley-Drury game for the Division II title. Saturday's championship game at the Cage will begin at 4.

Sophomore forward Robbie Burke had a big night for fifth-seeded Hoosac (13-9), scoring 25 points.

Ron Chimelis

division 1 north semifinal: No. 2 Lowell 68, No. 3 Everett 60

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

division 1 north semifinal: No. 2 Lowell 68, No. 3 Everett 60
LAWRENCE -- For a fleeting moment, Lowell was on the ropes. Everett had stormed back from a 15-point, first-half deficit to take its first lead of the second half when Jerome Cohen laid Isaac Johnson's inbounds feed off the glass with little more than four minutes to play.

Someone had to go home. Lowell was more than happy to be that team.

The Raiders never landed a real knockout punch, but instead answered with a couple of haymakers. On the next trip down the floor, sharpshooting Jaime Shannon splashed a 3-pointer from the wing and Nathan Simpson followed with a crowd-rousting two-handed jam as Lowell regained control of the tilt and emerged with a 68-60 triumph in a Division 1 North semifinal in Lawrence.

While Everett goes home with its season over, the second-seeded Raiders head home to meet Merrimack Valley Conference rival Central Catholic in the sectional final Saturday at Tsongas Arena in the shadow of Lowell High School.

"We were able to finish the game tonight," said Lowell coach Scott Boyle, whose squad overcame a woeful second half at the charity stripe (4 for 14) to prevail. "These seniors have been with me for three or four years now and they have that big-game experience."

Lowell led by as much as 10 in the first quarter and 15 before the half as Nick Schermerhorn's 3-pointer from the corner gave the Raiders a 36-21 advantage with 3:20 to go before the intermission.

Everett simply wouldn't go away. Riding an absolute stubbornness to roll over by Johnson, the Tide rallied time and time again. A jumper by Johnson pulled Everett within three (50-47) after three quarters and, with help from Cohen, the Tide pulled ahead with 4:30 to play.

It was short-lived, however. Shannon splashed a 3-pointer when the defense collapsed on a driving Jethro Collie as Lowell regained the lead. Everett couldn't muster the tying basket with a couple opportunities and Simpson forced a turnover near midcourt. He raced in ahead of Cohen and delivered a two-handed jam that re-ignited the Lowell faithful.

Sprinkle in a steal/layup combo for Shannon, as well as a downright filthy fadeaway by the senior guard a short time later, and Lowell had some breathing room. Senior Matt Welch inserted the dagger with just over a minute to with a triple of his own that put the Raiders on top, 66-57.

It also ignited a "We want Central!" chant from the Lowell faithful. It echoed the sentiments of a similar chant those Raider supporters started as Central was dispatching top-seeded Charlestown in overtime Tuesday in Reading.

The two MVC rivals split the season series with each team winning their home game.

"They're definitely our biggest rival," said Welch. "We match up so well. It should be a great game and there should be a good crowd there."

Shannon and Welch finished with 14 points apiece Wednesday to pace the Raiders. David Brown kicked in 10 more for Lowell, which also got steady bench contributions from Collie and Julian Scott (combined 13 points).

Everett leaned on Johnson to simply remain in the game late. Big man Jerome Cohen tossed in 18 points, but fouled out with 2:19 to go and the game slipping away. Johnson scored 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. Only four players scored in the second half for Everett, while no other player besides Cohen and Johnson contributed more than a bucket.

Winthrop dethrones Calais

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Winthrop dethrones Calais
The Ramblers stop a 63-game winning streak and beat the two-time defending state champions in the Class C boys' final.

By GARY HAWKINS, Blethen Maine News Service
March 5, 2008

AUGUSTA -- Knowing it would take a nearly perfect game to end Calais' 63-game winning streak, the Winthrop' boys basketball team came up with one Wednesday night in the Class C state championship game.

Backed by the all-around play of senior point guard Sam Leclerc, the Ramblers led at every checkpoint in posting a 72-62 win for their first Gold Ball since 1993. They finished the season at 21-1, while Calais, the two-time defending state champion, finished 19-1.

Leclerc had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He scored at the end of each quarter - capping the first quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer - to help the Ramblers extend their lead.

"(Coach) told me I was going to have to take a lot of shots tonight," Leclerc said. "I came out and I was playing well, and thank God I hit some."

Leclerc had plenty of support. He needed it considering the absence of defensive stopper Tim Gingras, who didn't play after violating the school's conduct code.

"We weren't happy with it," Winthrop Coach Dennis Dacus said of Gingras. "But once we got over it, we said 'you know what, we've been a team of step-ups all year ....' I know the kids were going to step up and that's exactly what happened."

Dacus rotated juniors Andrew Smithgall and Skyler Whaley through Gingras' position, and they produced at both ends of the floor.

"My role was to go in and shut down (Rod) Tirrell," Smithgall said. "If I didn't do it, then Skyler came in and played good defense. We didn't allow him to shoot the 3."

Tirrell, who made five 3-pointers in the Eastern Maine championship game, finished with 16 points and didn't make a 3-pointer. Smithgall finished with 10 points, many of those off penetration from Leclerc, while Whaley added three points and three rebounds.

The Ramblers got off to a quick start as Zach Farrington and Leclerc each hit a pair of 3s to stake them to a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Leclerc hit a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play in the second quarter and also got Calais guard Sam Bell into foul trouble.

"We didn't have an answer for him tonight," Calais Coach Ed Leeman said. "He's a great player and he just was not going to be denied. I think that was his mind-set tonight."

Calais beat Winthrop in the state final two years ago, in part because Leclerc fouled out late in the game after the Ramblers had taken the lead. He finished with four fouls, as did Bell, but didn't come off the floor.

The Blue Devils made a run at the lead midway through the third quarter and tied the score at 38 on a basket by Nathan O'Neill and two from Tirrell.

But senior Ezra Damm, who finished with 15 points, converted a three-point play on a tough drive in traffic, and the Ramblers led from that point on.

Leclerc, held scoreless for most of the third quarter, closed with a 3-pointer from the right side and a foul-line jumper to give the Ramblers a 52-47 lead.

Smithgall scored a pair of layups in the fourth quarter off assists from David Ketchen and Leclerc, and Larry Foster also scored four points, finishing with seven for the game along with 12 rebounds.

"These guys are big and they're strong, but our quickness just hurt them," Foster said.

Poor free-throw shooting also hurt the Blue Devils, who went 5 of 13 from the line, while the Ramblers made 13 of 19.

"If the foul shooting was a little bit better, that game gets a little tighter," Leeman said. "Instead of being eight or 10 (points), it might have been four or six. Then who knows, maybe those uncontested shots they have, they think about them a little bit, but maybe not.

"They were ready to play. I think they outplayed us in every aspect."

Gary Hawkins - 621-5638

Madison falls at finish

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Madison falls at finish

Lee Academy holds off a comeback bid by the Bulldogs to win the Class C state championship.

Blethen Maine News Service
March 5, 2008

Blethen Maine News Service
Blethen Maine News Service
Briann Emery, right, of Madison scrambles for a loose ball with Amanda Gifford of Lee Academy during the second half of Lee's 59-47 victory in the Class C girls' basketball state championship game Wednesday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

AUGUSTA -- The Madison girls started five seniors this season, and all of them were fully aware that Wednesday night´s Class C state final was their last game together.

Trailing Lee Academy by 13 points, the Bulldogs went on an all-or-nothing run, scoring nine straight points to get within four with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.

But it was also the last game for Lee´s all-senior starting five, and as Madison´s Margo Russell prepared to take a free throw in the middle of that stretch, Lee guard Amanda Gifford glanced at a teammate and said, "We´re not gonna lose this."

Thanks to Gifford, Brooke Harris, Aarika Ritchie and Karin Bird, Lee didn´t. Those four Pandas combined for the next 11 points as Lee salted away a 59-47 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.

It's the second consecutive state title for Lee (19-3), which won the Class D Gold Ball last year. Madison, which has never won a boys' or girls' basketball state title, finished 20-2.

"I can´t even talk right now -- I´m so emotional," said Gifford, who finished with 18 points and created several steals. "Senior year, there´s nothing left. We wanted to leave it all on the floor."

The teams appeared evenly matched from the outset. Madison had an inside advantage with Russell, a 5-foot-10 senior, but Lee also had some firepower. The Pandas often used two players on Russell, but she still finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.

"Our hope was that we could play defense enough on the interior to force them to either shoot the 15-footer or the (3-pointer)," Lee Coach Ron Weatherbee said. "We haven´t played much zone this year, but we played some zone, even thinking, 'Hey, if we pack it in and have them shoot, it's 15 feet. See if they can make those.' "

In the first half, Madison made enough of those shots to take a 22-21 lead. Lacey Ashbrook (10 points) made two 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Briann Emery also made a 3 in the second quarter.

In the final minute of the first half, Emery made a brilliant play to save a rebound from going out of bounds and, in the same motion, hit a cutting Ashbrook for a layup. When Jessica Hayden followed with a short jumper, Madison led at the break.

Madison pushed that lead to three points when Ashbrook began the third quarter with a driving layup, but the Pandas won the game in the next five minutes.

Gifford, a lefty shooter who is heading to Bates College, hit three straight baskets to give Lee a 27-24 lead. Dana Houghton (12 points) began knocking down jumpers from the right corner, and the Pandas began showing their offensive talents.

In all, Lee had five players score baskets in the third quarter, combining to shoot 9 for 15. After scoring just 21 points in the first half, the Pandas put 24 on the board in the third quarter to go ahead 45-33.

"In that first half, we had some good looks. We just didn´t finish at times," Weatherbee said. "In the second half, Dana, for one, made a number of shots from 10, 12, 14 feet that she missed in the first half."

While Lee was on fire, Madison went cold. The Bulldogs committed four straight turnovers after Ashbrook´s basket, then followed that up by missing three consecutive 3-pointers as the lead slipped away. Russell, meanwhile, went nearly four minutes without taking a shot.

"(The 3-pointers) were the same shots we took earlier, and they did go in, so you´ve got to feel good about those," Madison Coach Al Veneziano said. "I always look to go inside, but that´s a decision they´re making on the run. They went earlier, we´ll accept that."

Lee led 48-35 with a little more than five minutes to play before Madison went on its 9-0 run. All nine points were scored by Russell, who had 19 of the Bulldogs´ 25 points after the break.

Russell´s points came on two inside baskets, a pair of free throws and a deep 3-pointer to pull Madison within 48-44 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds to play.

But Lee responded with a runner by Ritchie, two foul shots by Harris and a three-point play by Gifford off a steal by Houghton.

Russell, Emery, Ashbrook, Brittany Rich, Danielle Hebert, Jessica Hayden, Jennifer Hutchings and Mykayla Stoutamyer each played their final game for Madison, and the scene of the Bulldogs bench in uncontrollable tears belied Madison´s remarkable season.

"It´s very emotional for them, because they put a lot of time and effort into everything they do," Veneziano said. "They answered every challenge. They played very hard, every single game."

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

Gifford leads Pandas to Class C state championship

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Gifford leads Pandas to Class C state championship

Lee Academy including seniors Aarika Ritchie (left) and Brooke Harris (second from right) celebrate their 59-47 win over Madison following the girls' Class C State Championship game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

By Jessica Bloch
Wednesday, March 05, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine - Amanda Gifford scored 18 points to go with 12 rebounds and six steals as the Lee Academy girls basketball team held off Madison 59-47 Wednesday night in the Class C state championship game at the Augusta Civic Center.

It was the third state title in four years for the Pandas, whose six seniors were making their 10th appearance in a state championship in four years in four different sports, including the Class C state soccer final last fall.

Lee won the Class D state basketball title last year before moving up a classification this year.

The Pandas (18-3) also got 14 points from Karin Bird and 12 from Dana Houghton. Madison's Margo Russell led all scorers with 25 points to go with 15 rebounds. The 5-foot-10 center drained a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left in the game to cut Lee's lead to 48-44, but the Bulldogs (20-1) managed just three points from there.

Madison had a 22-21 lead at halftime after they scored twice in the final 25 seconds of the second quarter. Madison's Lacey Ashbrook scored the first basket of the third quarter, but the Pandas answered with a 12-2 run that gave them a 33-26 lead. Lee had a 12-point lead at the end of the third.

Bird also had 11 rebounds and Houghton had 10 to go with three steals.

Lee won Class D state basketball championships in 2005 and 2007, along with soccer states in 2005 and 2006. The Pandas also earned the 2006 state softball crown and won the 2004 cross country Class D state title, the final year that sport had Class D.

The only year they did not advance to the state final was the 2005-60 basketball season, when Lee lost to Greater Houlton Christian Academy in the EM Class D quarterfinals.

Cheverus defeats Bangor boys

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Cheverus defeats Bangor boys

 Bangor senior Lee Suvlu (center) looks for a way around Chevrus junior Ian Barwise (left) and senior Christopher Hendrix (right) in the first half of Tuesday's Class A State Championship at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown

By Ernie Clark
Wednesday, March 5, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

PORTLAND - Mick DiStasio had no interest in advancing the Bangor boys basketball team’s pursuit of perfection.

So the 6-foot-3 junior forward did what he does best after intermission Tuesday night, scoring 19 of his game-high 23 points as Cheverus of Portland rallied past the previously undefeated Rams 49-41 in the Class A state championship game at Cumberland County Civic Center.

The win gave 19-3 Cheverus its first state title since 1997 and ended 21-1 Bangor’s pursuit of a second-straight crown along with the Rams’ 31-game winning streak.

"The beauty of Bangor is they’re so far up [north] that we didn’t know they were supposed to be unbeatable," said Cheverus coach Bob Brown.

"You’d be surprised how many of my kids told me they knew they were going to win."

Bangor had control of this game at intermission, as senior guard Jon McAllian scored the final eight points of the second quarter on a deep jumper and two 3-point goals to give the Rams a 24-14 lead.

Cheverus had gone 0-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc before intermission, but made 6-of-9 from long range after the break as the Stags began setting more screens to free up DiStasio and Co.

"They hit their shots down the stretch, and we were unable to get a hand in their face on a lot of shots in the second half," said Bangor center Ryan Weston, one of 11 Ram seniors playing their final high school game. "They’re a great team. Take nothing away from them. They executed better than we did in the second half, and we couldn’t get the momentum back."

That execution came on both ends of the court, as Cheverus also heightened its defensive pressure in the second half, and that prevented Bangor from developing consistency in its halfcourt offense.

Bangor managed just 17 points after the break — and only five field goals.

"We’re a pretty good defensive team, and in the first half we didn’t have our hand above the ball and they were hitting threes on us," said DiStasio. "In the second half we were getting our hands above the ball, and they couldn’t get their shots off as easy."

DiStasio, the Western A tournament MVP, hit a jumper from the left wing and the first of his three 3-pointers of the final half as Cheverus halved Bangor’s lead in the opening 67 seconds of the third quarter.

By the end of the period, Bangor’s lead was just 30-29.

Weston did get open underneath for two early baskets in the fourth quarter, but those were the last times the Bangor center saw the ball in a halfcourt set. The Rams committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, and Cheverus took the lead for good at 37-34 on a 3-pointer by Doug Alston with 5:27 remaining.

"They had height on us and were physical and stronger than us," said DiStasio. "But we knew, if we put pressure on them they weren’t quite as quick as we were and that would get to them."

Two free throws by Lee Suvlu did pull Bangor within 37-36, but while the Rams followed with three consecutive turnovers DiStasio answered with another 3-pointer and two free throws to extend the margin to 42-36 with 2:48 to play.

"We weren’t getting him decent shots in the first half," said Brown of DiStasio. "In the second half, he got decent looks, and then when they took them away he was able to take it to the rim and create."

Cheverus followed with a 7-for-9 effort from the free-throw line in the final 2:20 and went 10 of 12 overall in the fourth quarter.

"I’m not so sure if it was what they did or what we didn’t do," said Weston. "We didn’t move the ball real well. We weren’t real patient. When we worked it around we didn’t get the shots we wanted, and we took too many quick shots. But give a lot of credit to them. They played in-your-face defense and forced us into some real bad shots."

Alston added 12 points for Cheverus, while Suvlu paced Bangor with 13 points while McAllian scored 12 and Weston contributed nine points and nine rebounds.

McAllian scored 11 of his points in the second quarter while Bangor’s halfcourt defense dominated the first half.

The 6-5 senior guard broke a 10-10 tie with a 3-pointer from the left wing early in the second quarter, then closed out the period with the long-range brand of instant offense that has earned him a scholarship from the University of Maine — an eight-point individual run capped off by a 3-pointer from beyond the NBA arc.

Cheverus, meanwhile, had almost no luck with its halfcourt offense against Bangor’s taller defense early in the game and mustered most of its first-half scoring in transition after forcing turnovers from the Rams.

Cheverus was just 7 of 20 from the field in the first half, while Bangor also had a 14-4 rebounding advantage.

"I thought our defense was very good the first half, but I think we might have gotten tired in the second half and started getting on our heels and not attacking quite as much," said Bangor coach Roger Reed. "That all plays into it. That’s why they’re 16-year-old kids.

"We didn’t have a very good game tonight. We had a great first half, but we didn’t have a very good game."

Avon sticks with the plan, shoots down Hull

Sport:   Posted: March 4th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Avon sticks with the plan, shoots down Hull
By Amanda Bruno
March 4, 2008

The Avon boys' basketball team never goes into a panic mode - no matter how high the pressure gets or how far it falls behind. The third-seeded Panthers worked their magic again last night, staging a fourth-quarter rally to beat No. 8 Hull, 76-71, in a Division 4 South semifinal in Brockton.
"We got into foul trouble, missed some shots, but then we talked about it at halftime," said Avon coach Rich Gifford. "We just have confidence in ourselves. We all believe in ourselves."

Avon (19-4) started strong as junior point guard Akeem Williams scored 6 points to spark a 10-5 run. But Hull (14-9) quickly erased the deficit as senior guard Nick Belcastro (26 points, including eight 3-pointers) hit from behind the arc before Williams scored again. Hull junior Triant Xypteras made two baskets to tie the game at 12 with 2:45 to go in the first quarter. Panthers sophomore Marquis Harris put Avon back on top before Xypteras added a free throw to bring the Pirates within 1 after one.

Hull took control at the start of the second quarter as Belcastro hit three 3-pointers and Xypteras (31 points, 28 rebounds) controlled the boards to help give their squad a 42-34 lead at halftime.

But the Panthers slowly chipped away in the third quarter and used a 16-11 run to eventually tie the score at 57 heading to the final quarter. Sophomore Deric McCottrell (25 points) stepped up for Avon as the score remained tight throughout the rest of the game. With 1:20 left, Saleek Brown sealed the deal for Avon on a breakaway layup to give it the lead for good.

"We do what we do best," said Williams, who led the Panthers with 35 points. "We don't change nothing. We just do what we did at the beginning of the season."

Avon will take on Cathedral in the South final Friday. No. 5 Cathedral (17-6) used a 28-point performance from Javon Williams to take a 78-66 win over No. 1 Westport (19-3) in Taunton.

Cathedral led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter, but was forced to hold off a late Westport surge as the Wildcats cut the lead to just 7 in the final frame.

Rob Williams had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Cathedral, and Max Barbosa added 15 points and seven assists.

division 1 north semifinal: No. 4 Central Catholic 74, No. 1 Charlestown 63 (OT)

Sport:   Posted: March 4th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

division 1 north semifinal: No. 4 Central Catholic 74, No. 1 Charlestown 63 (OT)


READING -- History suggested Central Catholic sophomores could make big plays in the clutch inside Hawkes Fieldhouse, so maybe it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Raiders coach Ricky Nault drew up a last-second, season-saving play to go to Carson Desrosiers Tuesday night.

With Central trailing top-seeded Charlestown by two with 2.1 seconds remaining, Desrosiers took a inbounds pass from fellow big man Adrian Gonzalez and banked home a turnaround in the lane to force overtime where the fourth-seeded Raiders motored away for a thrilling 74-63 triumph.

The Raiders advanced to Saturday's sectional final to meet the winner of Wednesday's Everett-Lowell tilt at Tsongas Arena.

One year after then-sophomore Billy Marsden threw his own coming out party by scoring the final seven points in the Raiders' upset of then-top-seeded Lexington in the same round of the tournament, Desrosiers punctuated Central's rally from a 16-point deficit with his last-second hoop.

In fact, the Raiders didn't lead all night until Adrian Gonzalez produced the first basket of overtime for a 62-60 advantage. Central scored the first 13 points of the extra frame before a trash-time 3-pointer with seven seconds to go broke a five-minute scoreless drought for Charlestown.

But none of that would have been possible without Desrosiers's heroics in regulation.

"We just drew it up," Nault said, acknowledging the inbounds play was improvised given Charlestown's foul situation. "We knew they'd just foul it we gave it to a guard. We had to go with a catch and shoot. (Desrosiers)'s 6-9 and he's got a soft touch."

In a game notable for its lack of whistles (the three-man referee crew did a phenomenal job letting the players play) , Charlestown was well under the limit when Central took over with a chance at a final shot with 12.2 seconds to play (this after Shabazz Napier missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation that might have iced the game).

Central needed more than half that time to simply get the ball over halfcourt and, even after one timeout, Charlestown fouled with 2.1 seconds to go when Central captain Wilfredo Pagan tried to accelerate towards the wing.

Nault called for another timeout and drew up the pivotal play. Rallying was the hard part, he figured. Nault never lost faith in his team.

"Two years in a row in this building," he said. "Two very similar games. I had the same feelings late in the game. I knew if we could just get a stop and hit some shots we could get back in this.

"Billy hit some big shots."

That might have been an understatement. Marsden, who wasn't directly involved in the game's most influential play (he ran traffic away from Desrosiers, freeing him up inside), poured in a game-high 30 points, 22 of which came in the second half and overtime.

The junior guard took over in the third quarter as he poured in 13 of the Raiders' 15 points in that frame and helped ignite the furious comeback.

After Desrosiers forced the extra frame, Marsden went back to work by scoring nine points in overtime, including a dagger of a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that put his team on top, 69-60. He added four clutch freebies to seal it before Central emptied its bench for the final 20 seconds.

Desrosiers finished with 16 points, while Gonzalez -- still nursing that strained oblique that has bothered him all season -- chipped in 10 of his 14 points after the first half.

Greg Hackett paced Charlestown with 18 points, while Napier added 15 off the bench.

The Townies opened the game on a 10-2 run and led 25-14 after the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Charlie Haymon had the Townies out front, 30-14, early in the second quarter and threatening to make this a laugher. Central trimmed its deficit to six before the intermission (34-28) and five after three quarters (48-43).

So Mr. Nault, any thoughts about utilizing Hawkes Fieldhouse as the Raiders' home court in the future?

"We're 2-0 here and beat two top seeds," he said with a big smile. "But we were undefeated at home this year, too. I like our home court."

Richmond boys fall to Central Aroostook 54-53 on last-second shot.

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 4th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Martinez dashes Bobcats' hopes
Richmond boys fall to Central Aroostook 54-53 on last-second shot.

AUGUSTA — The Richmond High School boys basketball team seemed to have everything going its way. Central Aroostook was turning the ball over, was cold from the field, and the Bobcats just weren't missing from the outside with defensive standout Eric Murrin hitting a State Class D record five 3-pointers in the first half alone.

However, the carrot that the Eastern D champs from Mars Hill dangled in front of Richmond throughout a choppy fourth quarter was pulled away as 5-foot-7 guard Emmanuel Martinez somehow arched the ball over the outstretched hand of Richmond's 6-foot-10 center Marc Zaharchuk with 1.5 seconds remaining lifting the unbeaten Panthers (22-0) past the Western D champion Bobcats (19-2), 54-53, at the Augusta Civic Center on Monday.

Martinez, who finished with a game-high 20 points, received an inbounds pass and cut left around the Richmond defense.

He drove to the net and lofted a shot as Zaharchuk leaped, nearly getting his fingertips on the ball, but the shot found nothing but net.

Richmond called a timeout, but with .8 seconds remaining on the clock, all the Bobcats could do was send a long pass the length of the court and hope for a miracle that never came.

"I thought they would get it to the (Cameron) York kid, but we talked about switching on the screen, and Martinez dribbles and penetrates and hits the shot," said Richmond coach Paul Lancaster. "He made a great shot and Central Aroostook has a great program. You have to hand it to them."

Murrin hot
In a close first half (six ties and two lead changes), both teams found their range from 3-point land. Richmond connected seven times to tie the Class D team record (four teams, most recently Central Aroostook in 2006, a 65-55 victory over Richmond) with the Panthers bombing away four times with Martinez (13 first-half points) connecting for three.

Murrin capped his 15-point first half with his fifth trey from behind the arc as the teams went to the half tied 30-30.

"I didn't want to go to the locker room and just wanted to keep shooting," said Murrin. "In the second half, defensively, they stepped it up and kept us from getting open on the outside."

The Panthers were perfect from the free-throw line in the first 24 minutes, hitting all 12 of their freebies to stay in it.

Right out of the gates in second half, Brandon Lancaster broke the team 3-point record with Richmond's eighth 3-pointer for a 33-30 lead. Zaharchuk followed with two baskets from the paint as the Bobcats darted out to a 37-30 edge with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Richmond was winning the inside battle and Central Aroostrook's size (tallest players stand just 6-foot-1) allowed the Bobcats to hold a 20-14 edge in rebounding and a 47-42 lead after 24 minutes.

But Zaharchuk's fourth foul late in the third sent him to the bench.

"I told my team that five points isn't a lot to be behind and we have to play our best in the fourth, and we finally got some easier looks as the quarter went on," said Central Aroostook coach Tim Brewer.

The fourth began with both teams turning the ball over (four turnovers each). It wasn't until 5:11 remained that a point was scored as Martinez drained his fourth 3-pointer to cut the Bobcats' lead to 47-45. Brandon Lancaster scored Richmond's first basket of the quarter moments later to up the lead to four, 49-45, but Central Aroostook scored the next five points with Kasey Brewer hitting a 3 to give the Panthers a 50-49 lead with 2:02 left, their first lead since 1:41 remained in the first half (30-27).

Richmond immediately regain the lead as Zaharchuk took a pass from Murrin — who had hustled to keep a ball alive seconds before — and hit from the paint for a 51-50 advantage.

Central Aroostook hit the boards (the Panthers held an 8-1 rebounding advantage in the fourth) with Blake McCarthy battling inside and dishing to brother Logan McCarthy, who drove the lane and hit a runner for a 52-51 Panthers lead.

Again, Zaharchuk won a battle inside to give Richmond a 53-52 advantage. Martinez hustled the ball to midcourt and called a timeout with 8.3 seconds remaining, setting up the game-winning play.

"My kids have a tremendous amount of heart and executed our game plan to perfection," said Brewer, whose team captured a third Class D title in the last four years. "I can only set stuff up and they have to run it, and this team did a great job all season for us. There were several big shots down the stretch by both teams. It was a great game."

Murrin led Richmond with 17 points with Zaharchuk chipping in 13 and a game-high 10 rebounds. Brandon Lancaster added nine points and four assists. Richmond was 22 of 53 from the field (22 of 53), but made just one of five free throws (missed all three in the second half).

Brewer scored 12 points for Central Aroostrook, and York had 10 and dished out a game-high five assists. Blake McCarthy pulled down nine caroms. The Panthers shot 40 percent from the field (18 of 44) and held a 22-21 edge in rebounding.

Bobcats fall, 54-53

Class D State Championship
Augusta Civic Center

East champ Central Aroostook 54, West champ Richmond 53

C. Aroostook — 13 17 12 12 — 54
Richmond — 16 14 17 6 — 53

C. Aroostrook (22-0): Logan McLaughlin 1-0-2; Blake McCarthy 2-0-4; Logan McCarthy 2-2-6; Emmanuel Martinez 7-2-20; Cameron York 3-4-10; Kasey Brewer 3-4-12; Caleb Kelly 0-0-0.
Totals: 18-12-54.

Richmond (19-2): Walter Miller 0-0-0; Sam Carter 0-0-0; Marc Zaharchuk 6-1-13; Chris Holden 2-0-5; Brandon Lancaster 4-0-9; Eric Murrin 6-0-17; Nick Woods 2-0-5; Bruce Carver 2-0-4.
Totals: 22-1-53.

3-point goals: (CA) Martinez (4), Brewer (2); (R) Murrin (5), Holden, Lancaster, Woods.

Stags pull a state final stunner

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: March 4th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Stags pull a state final stunner
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND-When the Cheverus boys' basketball team dropped three straight games late in the regular season, few could have imagined what occurred Tuesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Stags, who turned their season around right on the eve of the playoffs with a renewed commitment to the team concept, capped a dream run with a shocking 49-41 victory over heavily favored Bangor in the Class A state championship game.

Cheverus rallied from 10 points down at halftime, got 23 points from junior standout Mick DiStasio and led its oppressive defense do the rest as the Stags won their first title since 1997 and their eighth in school history.

"It's incredible," said DiStasio, who had 19 points in the second half. "It means the world to me. We had our eyes on this since Day 1. To come out and do it is just amazing."

"It feels indescribably amazing," added senior Doug Alston, who finished with a dozen points. "We played as a team and had solid offense and defense in the second half and came out with the 'W.'"

Cheverus won its first 14 games this winter, then stumbled, losing at home to Thornton Academy and South Portland and at Portland. Luckily, the Stags righted their ship at the most opportune time, closing the regular year with a victory at Deering, giving them the top seed for the regional tournament.

Cheverus had little trouble with Windham in the quarterfinals, beat nemesis Portland emphatically in the semifinals then held off Thornton Academy in the Western A Final to advance.

Bangor, meanwhile, which beat Portland decisively in last year's state final, entered the season as heavy favorites to repeat. The Rams didn't disappoint, crushing virtually every foe during an 18-0 regular season. Bangor then eliminated Brunswick, Mt. Blue and Edward Little to win the regional crown.

The teams had met prior times in the state game. The first was in 1940 (a 24-17 Stags win). They also did battle in 1948 (a 35-34 Cheverus victory) and 2003 (a memorable 48-43 Bangor triumph in overtime).

The first period was even.

After DiStasio missed a 3-pointer to start the game for the Stags, the Rams took a 2-0 lead when senior Billy Zolper hit a turnaround jumper.

Cheverus then ran off six straight points as DiStasio made a layup, junior Peter Foley made a reverse layup and Alston took a pass from DiStasio and converted a layup for a 6-2 advantage.

Bangor snapped a 3 minute, 2 second scoring drought when senior Lee Suvlu made a layup with 4:02 to play in the first. Zolper made a pair of foul shots to tie the game, then Suvlu hit a leaner after a steal for an 8-6 lead.

The Stags snapped the 6-0 run and their 3 minute, 35 second drought when Alston took a pass from senior Chris Hendrix and made a layup with 1:20 to play in the quarter. With 44.4 seconds to go, Bangor senior Ryan Weston rebounded his own miss and made a layup for a 10-8 lead.

The second period belonged to senior Jon McAllian and the Rams.

After two scoreless minutes, DiStasio tied the score with a layup. With 5:35 to play in the half, McAllian got free for a 3 and buried it, putting Bangor ahead. After Alston made an up-and-under layup to cut the deficit to one, 13-12, senior Adam Bernstein made a foul shot for the Rams. Weston added a jumper to stretch the lead to four, but Alston took a pass from junior Ian Barwise and made a layup to make it 16-14 Bangor.

The Rams would get the final eight points of the half.

First, McAllian drained a long jumper, just inside the 3-point arc. On Bangor's next possession, he got free for a 3 and canned it. After a Bernstein steal, McAllian attemped a 3-pointer from way downtown, beyond the NBA line, and found nothing but net. Barwise missed a 3 as time expired and the Rams had a 24-14 advantage at the break.

McAllian had 11 points in the period. Weston grabbed six boards in the half.

Cheverus was 0-for-8 from the 3-point line in the first 16 minutes.

Alston led the Stags with eight points.

"It's the last game of the season," Alston said. "A state championship game only comes along once in a lifetime. I had a lot of open shots and they were falling, thank God."

Cheverus came out a different team in the second half.

Barwise got the rally started with a long jumper from the corner. After Suvlu missed a 3, Barwise fired a 3 which went around, around and around the rim before finally dropping through to make it 24-19. With 4:53 to play in the period, Suvlu snapped a 4:02 drought when he rebounded a Weston missed, made a layup while being fouled, then hit the free throw to complete a three-point lead, pushing the lead back to eight, 27-19.

Despite going cold, the Stags hung around as Barwise had a nice block on Weston and the Rams turned it over a couple times. With 2:43 to go in the quarter, DiStasio sank a 3-ball. After Weston made one of two free throws, DiStasio made another 3. Bernstein and DiStasio traded layups to make it 30-27. Barwise then had a good look at a 3 to tie the score, but the shot rimmed out. After a Bangor turnover (its fourth of the period), Cheverus ran down the clock for a final shot. DiStasio took it with three seconds to go, but his bid rolled off the rim. The Rams fell asleep, however, and DiStasio grabbed the rebound and laid it in as time expired to make it a one-point game, 30-29, with eight minutes to play.

"We knew with our shooting that we could come out and make 3's," DiStasio said. "That was huge for us. Coach said to start setting screens and we did. We got open shots. That was the difference. We weren't playing as a team. We turned it on. We have so many different players who can score."

"We changed our offense and up-tempoed the defense," Stags coach Bob Brown added. "They were just killing us. We started making some shots. Our shots were bad shots in the first half. In the second half, we got good shots coming off screens. We started to press with more intensity. We got better help on the big kid. At the end of the first half, they had two open looks. You can't let them have open looks."

Bangor coach Roger Reed and his players were stunned.

"We couldn't do our halfcourt stuff since we turned it over so many times," Reed said. "That was a key to the game. They hit a lot of their shots. A lot of big shots. I thought we handled the pressure well in the first half. They hit some shots early in the second half and that swung momentum. That put us on our heels a little bit."

Bangor started the fourth with an offensive foul and the Stags went back on top to stay when junior Will White canned a 3-pointer with 6:56 to play.

"I was waiting for a chance to shoot," said White, who missed much of the season with injury. "I got a nice dish and I hit the shot. It was just one shot among many big ones. It feels pretty good. I sat out most of the season. They made it easy for me to hop back in."

Weston countered with a bank shot to tie the score, but at the other end, DiStasio made a pair of free throws. After Weston tied the game again with a baseline jumper, Alston hit a 3-ball and Cheverus was up 37-34 with 5:26 remaining.

McAllian then had a breakaway dunk opportunity, but Stags' sophomore Indiana Faithfull raced back on defense and forced him to miss.

"That should have been a dunk," Reed said. "I don't think he lost the handle. That was by design, not by accident. I think they hit a lot of balls on Jon tonight. That bothered him just enough so he couldn't dunk it."

With 4:42 to go, Suvlu made two free throws, but DiStasio answered with another 3 10 seconds later for a 40-36 advantage. The Rams then turned the ball over three times in succession and with 2:48 to play, DiStasio made two free throws to push the lead to six, 42-36.

Fourteen seconds later, Suvlu made two foul shots, but Faithfull countered with two free throws, his first points of the game. With 1:26 left, McAllian was fouled by Faithfull while shooting a 3, but he missed the first two free throws before draining the third.

With 1:03 left, Foley went to the line for a one-and-one and missed the front end. With 44.6 ticks remaining, Suvlu made a layup to pull Bangor within three, 44-41, and keep hope alive.

The Stags would clinch their unexpected title at the line, however, as Alston calmly sank the front end of a one-and-one and after DiStasio stripped McAllian, Barwise hit both of his attempts and DiStasio with followed with two more to account for the 49-41 final.

"I knew we had it, we just had to play together like we can," Barwise said.

"Obviously, they're way bigger than we are," DiStasio added. "We knew we had quickness on them. Everyone said there was no chance to beat them, but that was just motivation for us."

"We thought our quickness could be a difference. It did tonight."

DiStasio and Alston combined for 35 points.

"DiStasio had a great second half," Brown said. "In the second half, we took it to the rim. He played the same game, he just didn't get good looks in the first half. He took it over. He emerged during the tournament. He was confident about being a premier player. He was great.

"Alston's the heart of the team. He plays hard."

"I thought (DiStasio) had a great game," said Reed. "He's the reason they won the game. He's a very nice player. It's a nice team. They played together well. They did everything they should have done. They played very well tonight. I thought our defense was very, very good in the first half. We might have gotten a little tired in the second half. I'm not sure. We were on our heels a little bit and didn't attack quite as much."

Barwise added seven, while White had the one pivotal 3-pointer and Faithfull and Foley finished with two points apiece.

"The beauty of Bangor is that they're so far up that we didn't know they were supposed to be unbeatable," Brown said. "We thought we're pretty good. We came in and played."

Bangor was led by Suvlu's 13 points. McAllian had 12 (with all but one coming in the second period). Weston added nine.

"He's a big boy," Barwise said, of Weston. "He played hard. He's a very good player."

Zolper had four points and Bernstein three.

"Guys went to the wrong spots on the press breaker," Reed said. "That was due to them denying the ball. They played a great second half and we did not. I thought they were very patient. They got the ball to the right shooters. They played really good defense. We had some good opportunities in the halfcourt, but didn't finish."

Bangor wound up 21-1.

"They've had a great season," Reed said, of his kids. "They've lost two games in two years and won 42. We didn't have a very good game tonight. We had a great first half, but we didn't have a good game. That's a tribute to (Cheverus) too."

Cheverus has only repeated as state champion twice in its history (1981 and 1982). With a strong core of standouts returning, the Stags have to like their chances to capture another Gold Ball next winter.

"We can do it," Barwise said. "We'll be back."

"They're all special and they're all done with special kids," Brown added. "I don't think this is any more meaningful to me. The way the season developed and the way we came together as a team, this is special. Attitude turned it around. We went from an AAU mentality to playing Cheverus team basketball where we share the ball and look for other people."

When asked if he'll return next season, the veteran coach was non-commital.

"I don't know," Brown said. "I hope I make it to tomorrow. So much can change in a high school kid's life, but we certainly have the groundwork there for another successful season."
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