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Getting along just swimmingly

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Getting along just swimmingly


Brian Agro

Page Beecher


Brian Agro knew of Page Beecher but didn't know him personally in high school. Beecher, from Scarborough, was a year older than Agro, a Gray native who attended Cheverus, and while both were among the state's best swimmers, they didn't know each other socially.

That changed in college when both attended Alfred University, near Rochester, N.Y. They became good friends - and two of the best swimmers the Saxons have seen in a long time.

"It was nice to have another Maine guy there," said Beecher, a senior who lost only three dual meets in four seasons. "We had a lot in common, came from the same background. We became great buddies."

"Page and I swam in the same lane every day," said Agro, a junior. "You've got to have someone when you're so far away from home."

This winter, Beecher and Agro led the Saxons to their second consecutive Empire 8 championship and New York State Collegiate Swimming Association title. Agro was named conference swimmer of the meet after winning the 100-yard breast stroke, 200 breast stroke and 200 individual medley. Beecher swam a leg on four winning relay teams and was second in three events.

Coach Brian Striker said the only disappointment was that neither was selected to swim in the NCAA championship.

"Both made provisional times," said Striker. "But it's getting very competitive at the Division III level."

Beecher, who's made provisional times since his freshman year, said he was disappointed.

"I put 100 percent effort into it, and that's all you can ask," he said.

Beecher, who will graduate in May with a degree in fine arts, said he hopes to continue swimming competitively for another couple of years.

"He has had a phenomenal career," Striker said. "He's been a guy who's produced from Day 1, not only in the little meets but the big ones, too."

Agro has one more year at Alfred, and both Beecher and Striker expect big things from him.

"He worked really hard this year," said Beecher. "I saw a lot of improvement. He really stepped up mentally and physically."

"Each year (Agro) has improved a ton," said Striker. "Hopefully, with a little more work in the weight room and another year of training, he'll be that much better."

Agro said he couldn't have succeeded without Beecher on his side. In addition to their common interests, Beecher helped Agro make the difficult leap from high school to college, where you go from practicing maybe two hours a day to putting in five hours a day.

"The initial adjustment was just so shocking," said Agro. "It was real tough for me. I almost couldn't do it."

Agro said he had to learn to trust his older teammates, including Beecher, who had been through it already.

"There were plenty of phone calls between us," said Agro. "He would check in on me and I would check in on him to make sure we were doing this and doing that."

"The freshman year is kind of tough," said Beecher. "It's nice to have a friend up there, someone who has an idea of the program."

Agro obviously adjusted well. This winter, Beecher had 14 individual firsts and Agro 13 in dual meets. The two were on eight winning relay teams.

Not bad for two swimmers that weren't even recruited. Alfred is fortunate to have a New England recruiter who works in Portland. He saw Beecher and contacted Striker, who liked what he heard and quickly contacted Beecher. A year later, the same thing happened with Agro.

"It's pretty weird to take a phone call one random day in March," said Agro, "and then to go to the school and win states two years in a row it's nothing like I ever imagined."

Swimmers compete at New Englands

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Swimmers compete at New Englands

By John Cochin
Sports Editor
Article Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008

SANFORD—The Sanford High School swim team, led by Jenni Roberts, competed well at the New Englands held a week ago.

Roberts placed first in the 200 IM with a time of 2:12.60 and in the100 backstroke with a time of 59.90. Alyssa Hodgdon placed seventh in the 500 free with a time of 5:42.55, and finished ninth in the 200 free with a time of 2:20.39.

Katie Bordeau took a sixth in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:42.11 and finished 12th in the 100 backstroke in 1:04.95. Also swimming well for Sanford was Barbara Milo who placed 11th in the 200 IM with a time of 2:37.11.

Another outstanding performance was turned in by Noble's Kaitlyn McKenna who placed fifth in the 100 butterfly and second in the 200 IM.

Sanford also took a fifth in the 200 medley relay with Roberts, Amelia Stucker, Hodgdon and Katie Bordeau, and placed sixth in the 200 free relay with Katie Bordeau, Stucker, Hodgdon and Roberts.

Zach Shain finished eighth in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:07.32.

Clarke, Eons named to All-State wrestling team

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Clarke, Eons named to All-State wrestling team

Article Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008
photo by Ed Szalejeski Massabesic's Josh Eon was named to theTelegram All-State Wrestling Team as a 171-pound wrestler and was also named to the All-SMAA First Team.

SANFORD—Sanford's Zack Clarke and Massabesic's Josh and Joey Eon were named to the Telegram All-State wrestling team it was announced Sunday.

Clarke, a junior, posted a 27-4 record this season and capped his fine year with a first place finish in the 125-pound class at the Class A state wrestling meet held at the end of the season.

Joey Eon, a junior wrestling at 140 pounds, closed out the season with a 40-2 record while winning his third Class A state title in the 140-pound class.

Josh Eon, a senior who wrestles in the 171-pound weight class, went 36-2 while winning his third Class A state championship.

In addition, Noble's Peter Bronder, a 145-pound junior, and teammate Mark Richardson, a 135 pound junior, both received honorable mention to the All-State team.

Several members of the Sanford and Massabesic teams were named to the All-SMAA team. Mustangs Josh Eon, Joey Eon, Gage DeRosier, Nick Spaulding and Peter Gilman were named to the All-SMAA First Team. Massabesic wrestlers Justin Dumond, Derek Cloutier, Ike Brochu and Alex Holland were named to the All-SMAA second team as was Sanford's Paul Rivard.

Receiving honorable mention to the All-SMAA team were Massabesic's Ethan Norwald and Sanford's Clarke.

Bickmore resigns as Tiger girls basketball coach

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Bickmore resigns as Tiger girls basketball coach
The Courier-Gazette

by Joseph Cyr
(Created: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 12:23 PM EDT)     

Rockland girls basketball coach Karen Bickmore stepped down Wednesday after nine seasons with the team. File photo
ROCKLAND — After nine years guiding the Rockland District High School girls basketball program, Karen Bickmore has decided to hang up her clipboard.

According to SAD 5 Athletic Director Jim Leonard, Bickmore gave her resignation Wednesday morning.

"Coach Bickmore has done an outstanding job with the girls basketball program during her time here," Leonard said. "She’s had a lot of success – both on and off the court. She is a person of great character, integrity and energy, and she will be difficult to replace. We wish her, and her family, all the best in their future endeavors.”


During her tenure, Bickmore guided the Tigers to the postseason in all but one of her nine seasons — her first in 1999-2000. In two of those seasons (2001/02 and 2000/01), Rockland played postseason games due to the open tournament.

She compiled a 75-87 regular season record and was 81-96 including playoff games.

Attempts to reach Bickmore for comment were not successful.

Bickmore is the fourth varsity basketball coach in the Midcoast to step down at the end of the season, joining Georges Valley boys coach Lysha Smith, Georges Valley girls coach Rusty Worcester and Vinalhaven girls coach Torry Pratt.

Rockland’s finest season with coach Bickmore came in 2004-05 when the Tigers enjoyed a Cinderella-type season. The Tigers finished 12-6 in the regular season and were the No. 8 seed in Eastern Class B.

Rockland beat No. 9 Belfast 67-58 in a preliminary playoff, shocked top-ranked (and undefeated) Presque Isle 47-44 in the quarterfinals before losing a heartbreaking 48-47 semifinal game to No. 5 Mount Desert Island.

Another of the Tigers finer seasons with Bickmore came in the 2005-06 season when Rockland finished 15-3 in the regular season and was the No. 3 seed in Eastern Class B. The Tigers earned the right to play for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship, a game Rockland lost to Midcoast-rival Camden Hills 37-26. Rockland then lost in the quarterfinals to No. 6 Waterville 49-45.

 Additional information on this developing story will appear online later and in Saturday’s edition of The Courier-Gazette.

UMAINE HOCKEY: Bishop decides to go pro

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

UMAINE HOCKEY: Bishop decides to go pro
BY JENN MENENDEZ, Blethen Maine Newspapers

University of Maine goalie Ben Bishop signed with the St. Louis Blues and was on the ice practicing with the AHL's Peoria (Ill.) Rivermen on Wednesday morning for his first day as a professional goalie.

Bishop, 21, was a junior with one year of eligibility remaining, but chose to forgo his senior season and embark on a career with the organization he grew up watching as a youngster outside St. Louis. The Blues drafted Bishop 85th overall in 2005.

"It's kind of a bittersweet thing," said Bishop's father, Ben Bishop Jr. "It's funny the way the storybook comes through. He left his high school and had success with his junior team. He comes to Maine as a freshman and not many can step in and do what he did. Hopefully, the third time's a charm."

Maine appears to have another rebuilding year in store next season -- though they will be expected to make the playoffs -- and will rely on incoming recruit Scott Darling, 19, to start in goal.

Bishop is slated to have his first pro start Friday against the Milwaukee Admirals.

He appears to be the No. 3 or 4 goalie in the organization, behind St. Louis tandem Manny Legace and Hannu Toivonen. The team's two prospects in Peoria are Marek Schwarz, the 17th overall draft pick in 2004, and Chris Beckford-Tseu.

Blues General Manager Larry Pleau said Bishop's play with Peoria will determine his status on the depth chart.

"He will define his spot based on how he plays," Pleau said. "We do like where he's at in his career.

"It's time for him to take it to the next step. He's going to need development at this level. We feel he has potential for the NHL but we're not in any hurry."

The Rivermen have 16 games left on their schedule and are in the running to make the playoffs.

The Blues want Bishop to get significant playing time right away. His longterm future will probably include several years in the minor league system, Pleau said.

"An 82-game schedule is a little different," Pleau said. "He'll have to learn what the pro game is about. It's learning the shooters, who you're playing against, the speed of the game, the hardness of the shots, the traffic up front. It all takes time. That's why I say there's no hurry. We think he's a good prospect and has a chance to play in the NHL. It's up to him to prove all those things."

Bishop grew up just outside St. Louis in Des Peres, Mo.

His journey to the pro game started when he left his high school to play junior hockey. Maine came calling, and as a freshman he was given the reigns to earn the starting job for the Black Bears.

His predecessor, Jimmy Howard, had left early to start his professional career with the Detroit Red Wings.

"We knew this was coming," Bishop Jr. said. "The Blues said three years ago if you're on this right track we'll hope you're ready. It seems to be the right way to go. (Maine coaches) Tim Whitehead and Grant Standbrook were extremely encouraging, supportive and endorsing. I think that was probably the icing on the cake so to speak. He's been close to those guys. They've been very, very good to him."

Bishop is a big goalie, 6 foot 6, and covers the net well with his size. He is aggressive and covers the angles well.

He also likes to leave the crease to play the puck, a tendency that has led to some dicey situations in his college career.

"Today's goalies all want to handle the puck," said Pleau. "That's about maturity and understanding there's nothing wrong with leaving it behind the net and not making your players confused. I do think That's something he's got to get a little better at."

Bishop went 13-18-3 this season for Maine, with a 2.43 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Maine was mathematically eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs on the final night of the regular season despite winning five of its last six games.

Bishop played his best hockey down the stretch.

"Once he started and really got on a roll down the stretch, it was clear to me that St. Louis was going to come after him quite aggressively," Whitehead said. "They had already told me prior to the season that they'd be looking for him to sign. The only thing that might stand in the way was if he had a tough year. But the way he started and the way he finished, it was clear he was ready."

Pleau said it was helpful for the organization to see Bishop handle a difficult season.

Bishop lead Maine to back-to-back Frozen Fours appearances in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, but had a much stronger cast of characters in front of him.

"He had a drastic different type of season as far as the team and the shots that were given up," Pleau said. "That's what we liked about it. He had lots of work. I'm sure the coaches weren't happy but we were looking for the next level of maturity and we think he got that this year."

His current opportunity in Peoria, his father said, is eerily reminiscent of his early days at Maine.

"It was sort of if you can handle the load we want to see if you can get us into the playoffs," Bishop Jr. said. "It was sort of like what he faced two years ago as a freshman. Can you carry us kid? The team is yours."

NOTES: Whitehead said wing Rob Bellamy may be close to signing with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bellamy was a third round pick of the Flyers in the 2004 draft. ... He said seniors Wes Clark, Kenan Hopson and Bret Tyler are all weighing offers, but may finish their classes and wait to sign with a team in the offseason that legitimately wants them, and is not simply desperate for bodies.

Cony's Mack wins Gatorade honor

Sport: Basketball (Girls)  Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Cony's Mack wins Gatorade honor
By Jessica Bloch
Thursday, March 13, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

For all the great girls basketball players and teams that have come out of Cony High School, only now do the Rams of Augusta have a Gatorade Maine Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Cony senior forward Rachael Mack has earned the honor, Gatorade and RISE Magazine announced Wednesday.

Mack, who is a Miss Maine Basketball finalist and will play for Colby College in Waterville next year, led Cony to an 18-3 record and an appearance in the Eastern Maine Class A championship game, where the Rams fell to Oxford Hills of South Paris 52-49.

She was a junior on last year’s Class A state championship squad and played a vital role as a freshman substitute on the Rams’ 2005 Class A title team.

This year the 6-foot-2 Mack averaged 18.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game. She also shot 74 percent from the free-throw line and was named a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference South division first-team player.

"She has been very dedicated to the sport," Brunswick girls coach Rita Maines said in a statement. "She’s a silent assassin on the court and a fierce competitor. She’s one of those players who doesn’t seem to be doing much, but then you look up and see that she’s got a double-double. She’s been a great role model for the kids at Cony and for the rest of the kids in the state."

Last month Mack was named to the Eastern Maine Class A all-tourney team. She was an All-Maine second-team player in 2007 and honorable mention the year before.

Mack volunteers for the United Way of Kennebec Valley and for numerous organizations in association with the Cony High Key Club. She also volunteers at the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen in Augusta. She has an A average in the classroom.

The Gatorade award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character off the court.

McDormand doubly honored

Most coaches would be honored to win a Coach of the Year award for their conference and feel satisfied with that.

Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln’s Brian McDormand picked up his second Coach of the Year award this season — and it was his second in two different states.

McDormand was named the Big East Conference Class B Coach of the Year last week, five years after the former coach at Lynnfield High in Lynnfield, Mass., named the Cape Ann League Coach of the Year.

McDormand had a 70-19 record at Lynnfield, which made it to the state championship of Division 3 at the FleetCenter in Boston one year after he earned his Cape Ann coaching award. Lynnfield has enrollment of 519 students according to the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Association.

McDormand guided Mattanawcook to a 19-3 record and Eastern Maine Class B runner-up honors this year.

Area track standouts set for national competition

Sport:   Posted: March 13th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Area track standouts set for national competition
By Ryan McLaughlin
Thursday, March 13, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

While many of Maine’s high school track and field athletes are taking a quick breather between the end of the indoor season and the start of spring track preseason practices on March 31, a select few are gearing up for the Nike Indoor Nationals and National Scholastic Indoor Classic, respectively.

Riley Masters of Bangor is among 10 Maine athletes competing in the Nike Indoor Nationals this weekend at the Prince Georges Sports Complex in Landover, Md.

The competition kicks off Saturday and runs through Sunday.

Masters will compete in the mile run, which he won at the Class A state championships last month. He went on to finish third at the New England championships with a strong clocking of 4 minutes, 19.42 seconds.

Messalonskee of Oakland’s Jesse Labreck will compete in the indoor pentathlon, consisting of the shot put, long jump, 55-meter hurdles, high jump and 800-meter run, while New England champ Becky O’Brien of Cumberland Center-based Greely is one of the favorites in the shot put.

Old Town distance ace Hilary Maxim and Cony of Augusta star pole vaulter Bethany Dumas will head up a strong contingent of 17 Maine athletes at the National Scholastic Indoor Classic, which will be held today through Sunday at the Armory in New York City.

Maxim won the Class B state championship in the mile this winter with a 5:06.09 while Dumas broke her own Class A state mark in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet, 10 inches.

Brunswick’s David Slovenski will compete in the pole vault. He, too, established a state record this winter, clearing 16-2.50.

State meet sites set

The Maine Principals’ Association has determined the locations for this spring’s outdoor track and field state championship meets on June 7.

Windham High School will host the Class A state meet, Morse of Bath the Class B meet at McMann Field while the Class C competition will be hosted by Westbrook.

The Class A championships return to Windham for the first time since 2005, when arguably one of the greatest races in the history of Maine track and field was run as former Portland runner Sintayehu Taye established a state record of 4:09.69 in the 1,600 meters, outdueling older brother Ayalew and former South Portland star Eric Giddings, both of whom ran 4:10.

This race was run in oppressive heat.

Morse hosted the Class A state meet a year ago while Westbrook last hosted a state meet in 2005 (Class C).

Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft had hosted the Class C meet the last two years.

Thornton Academy in Saco will host the New England championships June 14.

Some signs of spring

There may still be plenty of snow left on the ground from Mother Nature’s tirade over the last month or so, but spring is just around the corner and many of the area’s roads and sidewalks are almost perfect for running.

With that said, the road racing schedule around Maine will start to kick into gear later this month, while one of the state’s more popular 5Ks was held last weekend.

Six-hundred-forty-seven runners converged on the streets of Portland for the Irish Road Rover 5K with a local favorite claiming the victory.

Adam Goode of Bangor, a former University of Maine and Bangor High standout, toured the Old Port course in 16:23, seven seconds ahead of South Portland’s Dan Franek.

Cony of Augusta runner Luke Fontaine took third place, former Limestone star Robbie Gomez, now living in Orono, finished fourth and Brunswick High runner Will Geoghegan was fifth.

Local runners can head to Lamoine for a favorite on March 29 when the third annual Flattop 5K will be held at the Lamoine School.

This event honors the late Bill Pinkham, a Lamoine runner who ran many local road races. He passed away after finishing the Walter Hunt 3K in 2005.

The race features a flat, fast out-and-back course and is ideal for runners of all abilities. The event attracted 155 runners last year.

Applications are available on
www.sub5.com, and the registration fee is only $10.

This weekend, runners can head down to Saco for the Kerryman Pub 5K at noon Sunday at Thornton Academy.

Online registration is available through www.mainetrackclub.com, and the fee is $20.

Meanwhile, the Sub 5 track club’s race series will kick off on April 26 with the Orrington 10K race.


Div. 3 Girls: Bishops tough it out, Pull away in fourth

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Div. 3 Girls: Bishops tough it out, Pull away in fourth
By Joe Vieira /    |   
Wednesday, March 12, 2008    
Photo by Matthew West

It was far from the perfect victory, but Archbishop Williams will take it.

The Bishops were knocked out of their fast-break offense by a tough Pentucket defense, but settled down and made some timely adjustments in the fourth quarter to earn a 59-53 victory in the Division 3 state semifinals yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden.

The free throw situation was a telling sign of the difficulty Archbishop Williams (21-2) was having in a halfcourt set. The Bishops’ first free throws did not come until 6:21 remained.

“Our game is a transition game,” Archbishop Williams coach Jim Bancroft said. “We’re so used to that. It’s rare that we have to set up a halfcourt game and it took us out of our game plan. We weren’t aggressive enough, we weren’t going at it good enough, and that shows by not going to the free throw line, not getting the fouls.

“I think they finally realized that we’re not going to run on them (in the fourth quarter). We settled down, we started running some plays a little more effectively.”

Once they accepted what the Pentucket defense was giving them, point guard Christine Duffy (12 points) and the Bishops took over the game.

After Kirsten Daamen (16 points, 17 rebounds) had given the Sachems (21-3) their first lead at 45-43 with six minutes remaining, Duffy responded with a coast-to-coast layup. Along with Meghan Black (nine points) and Valerie Driscoll (14 points, 13 rebounds), the Bishops ran their offense more aggressively in the paint, hitting 8-of-16 free throws down the stretch, including 4-of-6 by Duffy in the final 45 seconds.

Pentucket, facing a 53-47 deficit, suffered a tough loss with 1:54 remaining when Daamen went down for the game with a left leg injury.

“Not having Kirsten in there for the defensive side really freed Duffy up to take charge of the game,” Pentucket coach John McNamara said.

The Bishop opened the game with a 10-2 run, but Daamen was quick to respond. The junior pulled down nine rebounds in the quarter and got to the line three times. She scored nine of Pentucket’s 12 points to cut the deficit to 15-12 entering the second.

Daamen’s presence in the post coupled with poor shooting from the perimeter added up to trouble for the Bishops, who held a 24-22 lead at the break.

Pentucket’s Ashley Viselli stepped up when the Bishops began to shut down Daamen in the second half. She had a game-high 20 points, all after the break, including 15 in the third.

“It was a little closer than we wanted it to be,” Bancroft said. “Luckily we found a way to win.”

D2 Girls: Raiders defense finishes champs

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

D2 Girls: Raiders defense finishes champs
By Dan Ventura
Wednesday, March 12, 2008  
Wellesley’s Jesse Miller,...
Wellesley’s Jesse Miller, Lindsay Sydness and Corley Stone celebrate their win.
Photo by Matthew West

Wellesley coach Kristin Cieri was known for her dogged intensity as a player at Norwood High.

Those traits clearly rubbed off on her team.

The Red Raiders set the tone at the defensive end from the start, allowing Lincoln-Sudbury just two points in the first quarter and went on to dethrone the defending champions, 38-32, in a Division 2 state semifinal last night at TD Banknorth Garden. Freshman Blake Dietrich came off the bench to score 10 points for Wellesley, including four free throws down the stretch.

“We’ve held people defensively all year long,” Cieri said. “That’s been the big part of our game.”

Even though the Warriors (21-4) played on the parquet a year ago, it was the youthful Red Raiders who appeared more at ease. They held Lincoln-Sudbury without a field goal in the first quarter, building a 10-2 lead.

“We knew we had to come out there and play like it was an ordinary game, even though we were playing at the Garden,” sophomore point guard Mary Louise Dixon said. “It was important for us to come out the way we did because they are an explosive team.”

Lincoln-Sudbury didn’t make its first field goal until Sarah Wetmore (13 points) hit a layup with 7:36 left in the half. Wetmore and Shatasia Kearse (10 points, 10 rebounds) were the only Warriors to crack double figures as lack of consistency on offense (9-for-37) was a game-long struggle.

“Wellesley was an aggressive defensive team and we knew they would be,” L-S coach Liza Feldman said. “We had a lot of turnovers and that threw us off a bit. I thought we had some good shots, but they just didn’t fall - it wasn’t our night.”

Despite scoring just nine points in the first half, Lincoln-Sudbury still was in the game as Wellesley (22-3) didn’t fare much better at its own offensive end. Baskets by Jesse Miller (12 rebounds) and Dietrick along with a free throw by Dixon accounted for all of the Red Raiders offense as they left the floor with a 15-9 lead.

“I looked at the scoreboard, but I didn’t expect to stay that way for too long,” Cieri said. “I knew Lincoln-Sudbury was going to make their push in the second half. Wetmore is a seasoned veteran and I just knew they would come back.”

Lincoln-Sudbury took its first lead of the game at 21-19 on a Kearse putback with 2:20 left in the third quarter, but Wellesley closed out the frame on a 6-0 run. The Warriors closed to within a point at 27-26 on a three-point play by Kearse, but the Red Raiders held down the stretch.

D1 Girls: On Golden quest, Warriors back in final

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

D1 Girls: On Golden quest, Warriors back in final
By Brian Lowe
Wednesday, March 12, 2008   

Andover’s 10 seniors had yet to begin their high school careers when the team reached consecutive state finals in 2003 and 2004, winning the first. Now, those seniors have a chance for some championship glory of their own.

The Golden Warriors coasted to a 61-34 victory over New Bedford in last night’s Division 1 state semifinal at TD Banknorth Garden, advancing to Saturday’s title game against the winner of tonight’s Westboro-Northampton matchup.

Andover (23-3) never trailed after senior Laura Renfro’s 3-pointer put the Warriors up 3-2 less than a minute into the game.

“It’s amazing,” senior Lauren Hughes said after her 11-point, 12-rebound performance. “For the last three years we lost in the same spot (North semifinals) every single year. So it’s great to get to the state finals. I don’t even know how to explain it.”

There was an explanation, however, for Andover’s dominance over the South champion Whalers (19-6), who scored just 14 points before halftime in their first-ever appearance in a state semifinal.

“In the first period, they were slashing to the hoop so we went to our 1-1-3 zone and I think that was the turning point in the game,” Andover coach Jim Tildsley said. “We rebounded well out of it, they didn’t shoot well from the outside off it and they couldn’t slash to the hoop.”

After allowing a Shelly Depina basket on New Bedford’s first possession of the second quarter, Andover went on a 10-2 run to close the half, capped by a buzzer-beating runner in the paint by freshman point guard Natalie Gomez-Ramirez.

Ilana Cohen drained a 3-pointer from the right side to open the second half for Andover, which then saw the Whalers score six consecutive points. But that run was not enough to give New Bedford significant momentum and the lead expanded to 42-23 midway through the third quarter after Hughes scored on consecutive trips, including the putback of her miss.

“We got the ball into Hughes inside and she was immense,” Tildsley said. “That opened everything up.”

Meghan Thomann (game-high 17 points) hit 3-pointers in the final seconds of the third quarter and at the start of the fourth quarter, giving Andover a 50-29 advantage.

“We got really good shots and our shots were falling tonight, so that was good,” Hughes said. “I think boxing out and keeping them out of the middle was what we were really trying to do.”

Sophomore Brittany Mello led New Bedford, the fifth-seeded team in the South bracket, with 10 points.

“We rushed a lot,” New Bedford coach Michael Gonsalves said. “We didn’t look comfortable shooting the ball until a little ways into the ball game. But by then we spotted them 10 or 12, so that made it a little more difficult.”

Div. 4 Girls : Skippers state title has extra meaning

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Div. 4 Girls : Skippers state title has extra meaning
By Joe Reardon /    |   Wednesday, March 12, 2008  |  
From left, Samantha Crough embraces...
Photo by Matthew West
From left, Samantha Crough embraces Kayla Farren after Cohasset beat Manchester Essex in the Girls Division 4 MIAA championship game 44-36 in OT at TD Banknorth Garden yesterday.

With its entire roster of players returning next winter, Cohasset should be stronger than ever.

The sweetest part for the Skippers? The South power will have a Division 4 state title to defend after beating North champion Manchester Essex, 44-36, in overtime yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden.

The state championship was the first in three attempts for Cohasset coach John LeVangie, who led BC High to the finals in 1981 and ’83.

“This means more to me than anything in the world,” LeVangie said. “We didn’t expect overtime but we knew it was going to be a tough game. The low scoring was due to the defense.”

Meredith Kelly came up with a big steal with 37 seconds left in regulation with Cohasset trailing 31-30. The 5-foot-9 sophomore was fouled and proceeded to hit both free throws to put the Skippers back up by one, 32-31. Sammi Lehr, Cohasset’s 6-foot-1 center, pulled down a rebound and made good on one of her two foul shots to give the Skippers a 33-31 advantage with 22.6 seconds left. But Manchester Essex’s Dani Ciccone tied it all up at 33 with 6.7 seconds left to send the contest into OT.

From then on it wasn’t close as Cohasset outscored the Hornets 11-3 for the win. Jen Bishop (eight points) had a bucket and Elsa Keefe put in a free throw for Manchester Essex’s only points.

“We were able to go inside a little more,” said LeVangie of the four-minute overtime.

Kelly, who finished with 12 points, knew the passing game would make the difference over the final four minutes.

“We needed to make our passes and concentrate,” Kelly said. “Your passes have to be crisp because they’re in the passing lanes a lot.

“That’s our whole work ethic. We step up when we need to. We do what we have to do.”

Lehr, who led the Skippers with 15 points, and sister Tori Lehr (eight points) gave Ciccone problems underneath in the early minutes and Cohasset took advantage on the other end with a quick 8-0 run. Kelly led the surge with a pair of free throws and a jumper and the Skippers had the momentum early.

The Hornets, though, clawed their way back in the game with freshman guard Lizzy Ball (game-high 15 points) taking over and knocking down a pair of outside shots. Junior forward Jordan Biggar hitting a jumper at the buzzer for a 16-15 Manchester Essex lead at halftime.

The talented Ball opened the second half with a pair of jump shots to make it a five-point bulge for Manchester Essex, 20-15. A Carli Haggerty jumper and inside basket from Sammi Lehr cut the Hornets’ lead to 22-21 and Kelly hit a free throw with 49.5 seconds remaining to send both teams into the fourth quarter tied at 22.

Marblehead hockey looking to extend dream season

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Marblehead hockey looking to extend dream season

By Joyce Erekson / The Daily Item

There's no secret to winning a hockey game. All you have to do is score one more goal than the other team.

The Marblehead High boys hockey team figured it out in the first round of the Division 3 North sectionals. The Headers beat Swampscott, 4-3, in overtime, and since then, they've won every game by one goal. Although a little more of a cushion might make for a little less gray hair on the coaching staff, the system seems to be working.

Marblehead will try to keep the train on track when it plays Scituate Thursday in the Division 3 state semifinals at the DCU Center in Worcester. If the Headers are successful, they'll be pulling into North Station and the TD BankNorth Garden sometime before 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, the time of the state final.

Both Marblehead and Scituate have overcome the odds to make it this far. The Headers, now 14-10-0 after going 10-10 during the season, were seeded 12th in the North, and the Sailors, with an 8-6-5 regular-season record (now 12-6-5), were seeded 15th. Scituate managed to knock off the No. 2 (Norwell), No. 3 (Pembroke), No. 7 (Medway) and No. 9 (Westwood) seeds to make it to the DCU Center.

The Sailors' motivation, however, runs deeper than just trying to complete their own Cinderella season. One of their players, sophomore Tim Mahoney, died in a car crash on Feb. 2.

"I think that put them in a lot of turmoil (at the time)," Jackson said, referring to Scituate's record.

What made things more difficult for Scituate was the fact that Tim Mahoney's older brother, Pat, is a senior defenseman on the team.

"(Scituate's) on a mission," Jackson said. "They're playing not only for themselves, but for their teammate who died. I understand where their strength is coming from."

Jackson and assistant coach Mark Tarmey made the trek to Bourne earlier this week to see Scituate play Westwood in the South final.

"I think they're a very, very good hockey team," Jackson said. "They have a quick goaltender and two very solid defensemen, who are both very big."

Senior forward Danny Galvin was the big gun offensively in that game, scoring two goals and assisting on another.

"He has a good set of hands and he's a very good skater," Jackson said.

Jackson compared Scituate to Northeastern Conference teams like Gloucester, Danvers and Swampscott.

"They have some speed and quickness and they play an up-tempo game," Jackson said, adding that the Headers will continue to play their game.

Given the fact the Headers have only allowed five goals in four games, the game Jackson is referring to has featured some pretty good defense. The Headers won their last two games by 1-0 scores, shutting out Concord-Carlisle in the North final and Trinity Catholic, the Div. 3 North top seed, in the semifinal. Marblehead also beat Latin Academy, 4-3, in a shootout.

"It all starts with Aaron Reny," Jackson said, referring to his goalie.

Jackson said he also plays six defensemen the majority of the game, which allows his top two players, Mike Cohn and Anders Gundersen, to double-shift come crunch time.

"They wouldn't be able to do that without the other guys putting time in," Jackson said.

Jackson said he's also been skating 11 forwards, 12 before senior Eric Fader got hurt in the Latin Academy game.

"That also gives us a boost come third period," he said.

The excitement surrounding this year's team has been building every game. After winning the North title, Jackson said the team was greeted at the Salem-Marblehead line by a police and fire escort. When the team finally got to the school parking lot, Jackson said there were probably 100 fans waiting to cheer the players as they got off the bus.

Jackson said the company he works for, HCPro in Marblehead, and his co-workers have been incredibly supportive during the tournament run. Jackson said he was supposed to leave for a five-day trip to San Diego on Tuesday, but the company worked it out so he didn't have to go. He said people at work have also stepped up to help him out.


Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Cohasset takes title in overtime

By Andrew Petrie, Globe Correspondent  |  March 12, 2008

After getting bullied by a tough Manchester Essex defense all day, the Cohasset girls' basketball team threw a counterpunch. The Lady Skippers outworked the Hornets on the boards in overtime and outscored them, 11-3, in the extra period to win the Division 4 state title, 44-36, yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden.

It was a back-and-forth affair throughout the final three quarters. Cohasset (23-2) looked to junior center Sammi Lehr late, and she responded with strong rebounding and 7 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

In perhaps the play of the game, Lehr dived on a loose ball at the beginning of overtime and threw it away from three Manchester Essex players. As the ball rolled toward the seats, sophomore Meredith Kelly (12 points) dived and kept it in play by throwing it right to junior Kayla Farren, who banked in a short jumper for a 35-34 lead. The Lady Skippers never trailed again.

"I was not letting them get the ball," Lehr said. "There was no way."

This was the first state title for Cohasset coach John LeVangie. He had lost his two previous chances, in 1981 and '83, while coaching the boys' team at BC High.

"This means more to me than anything in the world," he said with a smile. "This team is special. The chemistry is great, they're great students, they're very compassionate, and they have a great work ethic. You're going to hear from these kids again someday."

The Hornets sent the game into OT behind center Dani Ciccone. The senior tied the game at 33 on a layup with 6.7 seconds left after Lehr missed a free throw that would have given the Lady Skippers a 3-point lead.

After falling behind, 8-1, in the first quarter, Manchester Essex (16-9) fought back. A swarming Hornets defense, led by freshman guard Lizzy Ball (game-high 15 points), threw off the Skippers' game plan. After a hard foul on a layup, Ball gave the Hornets their first lead since the opening minutes, at 14-13, with two free throws midway through the second quarter. Cohasset scored just 4 points in the period.

"Lizzy is a great defender," Manchester Essex coach Lauren Dubois said. "She makes things difficult for opposing teams and she wants it more than anyone out there."

Manchester Essex junior Jordan Biggar scored off an offensive rebound just before the halftime buzzer to give the Hornets a 16-15 lead. With their fans screaming and Dubois pumping her fist in celebration, the Manchester Essex girls ran off the court, energized for the second half.

But it was Cohasset that turned the game in its favor, playing its best in overtime.

"I never thought we'd be able to hold this trophy," Farren said. "It's ours."


Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Wellesley holds on, L-S falls off

By Chris Estrada, Globe Correspondent  |  March 12, 2008

There will be a new Division 2 state champion in girls' basketball.

Both Wellesley and reigning champion Lincoln-Sudbury endured long periods of cold shooting in last night's EMass final at TD Banknorth Garden, but Wellesley warmed up just enough in the end to pull out a 38-32 victory. The Raiders must wait and see who their opponent will be in Saturday's state championship game at the DCU Center in Worcester, as Central champ Millbury takes on West winner Palmer tonight in Amherst.

"We just lucked out, we fought 'em off really," said Wellesley coach Kristin Cieri, whose squad staved off a Lincoln-Sudbury comeback in the final minute. "We played great defense. I think the kids executed their game plans. We ran into foul trouble that we never expect, because we never expect to go with one big girl, we've got three of them . . . But the kids adjusted very well."

The Raiders jumped to a 10-2 lead through one quarter, holding the Warriors without a field goal. A basket by Sarah Wetmore (game-high 13 points) with 7:02 left in the second quarter broke the L-S drought, and soon after, Wellesley went scoreless for the rest of the quarter following a free throw by Mary Louise Dixon that made it 15-5.

The Warriors used two free throws from Wetmore and an Ali Murray jumper with 1:37 left to cut the deficit to 15-9 by halftime.

Business picked up for the Warriors in the third quarter as they went on a 7-0 tear to open the half. Two more free throws from Wetmore put L-S ahead, 16-15, but a rebound and score from Lindsay Sydness put Wellesley back in front with 5:00 left in the quarter. A jumper from Sarah Grant and a layup by Eleni Dixson gave the Raiders a 25-21 lead heading to the final period.

A Dixon 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Blake Dietrick helped give Wellesley a 34-27 lead, but L-S stayed close. The edge was cut to 35-32 when the Warriors' Bridget Mahoney hit a trey with 22 seconds left. But free throws from Dixon and Jesse Miller, plus another by Dietrick after a L-S turnover with less than five seconds left, allowed Wellesley to finish the job.

"I'm ecstatic," said a smiling Dietrick (team-high 10 points). "It's so great. It's the biggest win, the biggest game of my life."

L-S coach Liza Feldman was proud of her team's accomplishments as reigning state champions, and of her team's run in the second half.

"I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game," she said. "Maybe psychologically, it's difficult to have such a low-scoring quarter and first half, but we came out ready after the half and Wellesley came back at us again.

"We came out [in the second half] and made a run, and I think it showed a lot of mental toughness on our part."

Division 1 semifinal | Andover 61, New Bedford 34

Sport:   Posted: March 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

ANDOVER 61, NEW BEDFORD 34: Garden party for Andover

By Maggie Cassidy, Globe Correspondent | March 12, 2008

After 32 minutes of dominating New Bedford in the Division 1 EMass championship last night, the Andover girls' basketball team ran to center court, laid down on their stomachs, and kissed the hardwood at TD Banknorth Garden.

After losing in the Division 1 North semifinals three years in a row, the Golden Warriors (23-2) had just capped off a 61-34 win over New Bedford (19-6), handedly winning the trophy.

"It's amazing. All day we've been talking about, we want to go kiss the floor, we want to win so we can kiss the floor," said Andover senior Lauren Hughes. "I mean, it's the Garden. I'm never going to get another chance to play here again."

She said that playing on the biggest basketball stage in the area didn't add any pressure.

"I think it actually made us better because we really wanted to win the state final so bad," she said. "And I think getting stuck at that point [the sectional semifinals] all those years really helped us get past it."

The Golden Warriors stomped New Bedford's offense and used sharp shooting to take home the trophy. Four players - Natalie Gomez-Martinez, Ilana Cohen, Lauren Renfro, and Meghan Thomann, who led her team with 17 points - combined for nine 3-pointers, while Hughes led the team with nine rebounds.

Eight players scored for the Golden Warriors, who also were solid from the line at 10 of 12, and managed 21 field goals from all over the court.

"I think our offense also had an effect [in addition to our defense], because every time they'd score, we'd come back with a three and sort of bring down their momentum," said Renfro, who finished with three 3-pointers and 15 points. "But our zone worked really well, we just moved around a lot."

Andover commanded the game from the start, holding New Bedford to 10 points in the first quarter and just 4 in the second. By the half, the Golden Warriors had a 32-14 edge.

The Whalers hung with Andover during the third quarter, matching its 15 points, but the Golden Warriors kicked off the final frame with an 11-4 run that put the game out of reach at 59-34. With 1:49 to play and a comfortable 25-point lead, Andover let its stellar seniors take a seat and brought in its bench; New Bedford followed soon after.

It was the first time many of the veteran players on Andover's talented squad took a seat, and Gomez-Martinez, the team's lone freshman, who finished with 8 points, said their presence on the court is what drives the Golden Warriors to success.

"It's so much fun playing with the older kids," she said. "I've learned so much more this season. Even from the players, I get special tips just to look up and find your shot, and it helps me to see what they tell me.

"It's going to be hard losing this group of seniors because there's so many of them," she said. "I can't wait for next year but I don't want this one to end because it's so much fun."
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