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Winthrop's Foster flexing his muscles

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 18th, 2008

By GARY HAWKINS Staff Writer

Winthrop High School senior Larry Foster's quiet demeanor on the basketball court is a little deceiving.

"He's pretty quiet, but when he gets around a lot of the guys, he's pretty funny," teammate Sam Leclerc said. "In practice, he makes a lot of jokes. He gets the team laughing a lot."

Foster used to flex his muscles last season in front of his teammates. The joke then was he didn't have many to flex. That's changed this season, and Western Maine tournament fans who haven't seen Foster since last season will notice a big difference when they watch him today at the Augusta Civic Center.

"I've gained about 40 pounds," the 6-foot-3 Foster said. "The added strength has altered my shot a lot, but it's helped me a lot in the post and helped my driving."

Foster, who transferred from Hall-Dale after his sophomore year, came off the bench last season and was used primarily as a 3-point shooter. He changed a few games for the Ramblers, but this year he's taken on many more responsibilities."His biggest improvement has been just his strength," Winthrop coach Dennis Dacus said. "He's been lifting very hard."

Foster has done a lot of that lifting with Leclerc, with whom he also played this summer on the MBR AAU team. Foster said the intensity of those practices under coach Carl Parker helped to channel his work ethic. That, along with his added strength, makes Foster an indispensable starter for the 17-1 Ramblers.

"He's just made a big difference in the paint for us this year," Leclerc said.

Foster still weighs just 180 pounds so the added weight hasn't affected his leaping ability. In fact, it's probably helped him. "He's one of the best high jumpers in the state," Dacus said.

Last spring, Foster recorded a personal best high jump of 6-3 and finished second in the Class C state meet. He should add to those numbers this spring.

First there's the basketball tournament, though, and Foster could pose a problem for first-round opponent Hyde.

"He's a matchup problem," Dacus said. "If you put a smaller guy on him, you can post him up. If you put a bigger guy on him, he can shoot from the outside and he can drive."

Foster averages 11 points and six rebounds a game for the Ramblers and like the rest of his teammates, he can get up and down the c ourt quickly. And he still has the ability to knock down a big 3-pointer.

"He's got pretty good mechanics," Leclerc said. "He's got a good high release and a good follow-through."

Foster plans to attend Bridgton Academy next season and hopes to play basketball there although he realizes it's somewhat of a longshot right now.

"If I really want to play, I'm going to have to work hard this summer," he said.

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638


The secret's out:Richmond sophomore does it all

Sport: Basketball (girls)  Posted: February 18th, 2008


Megan DeRaps is no longer under wraps.

Richmond girls basketball coach Molly Bishop tried to screen her secret for as long as she could. But, sadly for Bishop, good playmakers and producers are tough to hide. Eventually, with enough double-doubles, you become part of someone else's game plan.

"Toward the beginning of the year not too many people knew about me," said DeRaps, who plays a little of everything for the Bobcats, the No. 4 seed in the Western D tournament. "(Bishop) knew I had a good shot, knew I was capable of doing well. As the season progressed, I showed that and then was no longer a secret."

Added Bishop: "I would've liked to keep her to myself."

Meet Megan DeRaps.

She's a sophomore guard-forward-center who also competes on Richmond's track team. She says basketball is her life and plays the game every day, no matter the season. She loves the outdoors, riding her family's four-wheeler and porous defenses.

"I'm always active," she said. "I'm very active."

She's also a big reason the Bobcats earned a trip to the Augusta Civic Center in the Western D quarterfinals. Richmond (12-6) plays fifth-seeded Forest Hills at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

DeRaps received most of her minutes last season on the junior varsity squad, but Bishop knew the versatile 5-foot-8 player could shoot the ball.

"She played a little bit for me last year," she said, "but she wasn't ready to take the next step. I've been patiently waiting."

The wait ended in a preseason game against Oak Hill, in which DeRaps scored 18 points. She continued her scoring into the season, putting up big numbers against good teams, including Buckfield, Valley and Rangeley.

In a late-season loss to Buckfield (18-0), a team the Bobcats could face in the semifinals, DeRaps went for a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

"She's just smooth," Bishop said. "You know when she shoots that the ball is going in. You never have to worry about it at all."

DeRaps has benefited from playing with a core of seniors, including guards Melanie Schanck, Stephanie O'Brien and Amy Russell. The trio helped alleviate some of the pressure that accompanied DeRaps' transition to becoming a starter this season.

"She's coming into her own now," Bishop said.

"I've never actually been the playmaker on a team but Coach Bishop has asked me to step up and become that," DeRaps added. "It's been a fun experience. I've been trying to do my best to keep up with my teammates. Next year, the seniors will be gone and the other Megan (Christie) and I will have to step up."

Bill Stewart -- 623-3811, ext. 515


Four straight for Hussey; Noble second in Class A wrestling championship

Sport:   Posted: February 17th, 2008



AUGUSTA — Jon Hussey cemented himself in Marshwood High School wrestling history Saturday night at the Class A championships held at Cony High School in Augusta.

Pitted in the 160-pound finals against Tyler Russell of Morse, Hussey dominated and won by technical fall, 21-6. The victory marked his fourth Class A title — a school record — all of which have come at different weight classes.

Hussey finished his Maine career a perfect 184-0, an accomplishment Marshwood coach Matt Rix said he will never see again.

"We have had some three timers, but never four," said Rix, who team finished sixth with 59.5 points. "After Jon won (his first three years), there was no question in my mind it was going to happen. There is nobody in the state that is close to Jon."

Hussey, who has previous titles at 125, 135 and 152, took advantage of the rare occasion.

"Coming in there was a lot of pressure that weighted me down, but it feels good to even have the opportunity to win a fourth straight state title," he said.

Hussey took control of his match early. He got Russell into a spladle that Russell barely escaped and held a 11-3 edge after the first round. In the second, it was over.

"The game plan was to not wrestle on the mat and keep on my feet," said Hussey. "I hit a duck under three times in a row. It was the most effective move of the match."

Hussey won his opening-round match, pinning James Grant of Skowhegan in just 16 seconds. In the semifinals, Hussey pinned Caleb Flanders of Oxford Hills in 4:59.

He now has his eye on his first New England title on Feb. 29 and March 1 in Lowell, Mass.

"I'm settling for nothing less (than a title)," said Hussey.

Noble High School also produced a pair of state champions, but fell short of its goal to return to the top of Class A.

The Knights finished second to champion Massabesic, 151.5 to 147.5.

The Knights held the lead twice in the final round only to see Massabesic's Joey Eon and Josh Eon take it away with match victories. It was the Mustangs second straight after Noble held the previous eight titles.

Despite suffering defeat, Noble coach Kip DeVoll was not disappointed with the Knights' performance.

"We came in here with the idea of taking (Massabesic) to the limit, which we did," said DeVoll. "We needed a few more breaks. Their guys wrestled very well and so did ours. I couldn't have asked for any more."

Championship wins by Mark Richardson (135) and Peter Bronder (145) gave Noble a slight lead, but each time, the Eons changed that.

First, Joey Eon gave the Mustangs a two-point lead, pinning Noble's Steve Desrochers at 140.

After Bronder's 12-6 decision over Paul Rivard of Sanford, Josh Eon (171) pinned T.J. Lavallee of Cony in just 1:14 to secure the championship.

"(Noble) just kept coming at us," said Massabesic coach Rick DeRosier. "I have a lot of respect for Noble. They didn't give up one bit."

Massabesic led 140.5 to 137.5 heading into the finals before Noble's Ken Hagen (119) and Jake Longley (125) dropped their championship matches.

A surprise pin victory (5:39) from Noble's Mark Richardson over defending champion Peter Gilman of Massabesic — Richardson lost to Gilman in the Southwestern meet — leapfrogged Noble into first place.

"That was a big upset," said DeVoll.

Richardson said he just wanted to prove people wrong.

"I went out there with nothing to lose," said Richardson. "(Winning) was unbelievable."

Richardson said he was happy with the team performance in a meet it had less competitors than the champions.

"We came in with three guys less than (Massabesic)," he said. "We gave it our all."

Other top four finishers for the Knight included Bryan Anderson (3rd, 130), Joseph Badger (3rd, 112) and Trevor Savage (3rd, 285).

Marshwood wrestlers earning top-four spots included Jake Rasque (3rd, 103), Matt Jenkins (4th, 112) and James Demetracopoulos (4th, 145).

Freeport makes its free throws, upsets Mountain Valley which does not

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 17th, 2008

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- The Freeport boys' basketball team was tired of getting bounced in the Western B quarterfinals so Saturday morning the Falcons did something about it.

Facing defending state champion Mountain Valley, the No. 3 seed, sixth-ranked Freeport got off to a hot start, showed tremendous heart by answering a Mountain Valley run, then won the battle of free throws in resounding fashion down the stretch to advance to its first Western B semifinal with a 54-47 victory.

The Falcons made their first seven foul shots of the fourth period and hit 13 of 16 overall in that stanza, while the defending champs missed all eight of their attempts, essentially spelling the difference in an entertaining and emotional contest.

"This is our third trip and it's nice to get one and get that monkey off our back," said Freeport coach Craig Sickels. "We knew coming in we had a good matchup."

The Western Maine Conference Falcons lost to Falmouth in the quarterfinals two years ago (getting shut out in the first quarter in the process) and lost by a resounding 28 points to Mountain Valley in last year's tournament.

This year's team has been special from the start. Freeport won its first five games (including a home win over Cape Elizabeth on a buzzer-beater from junior Cody Bartlett). After losing two of three (in double-OT at Falmouth and on a buzzer-beater at Yarmouth), the Falcons won five straight to improve to 11-2. Freeport did not finish strong, however, losing at home to Greely (in overtime), at Cape Elizabeth and at home to Yarmouth in decisive fashion on Senior Night.

That late slump left the Falcons 13-5 and sixth in a very deep and talented Western Class B.

Mountain Valley, meanwhile, produced its usual solid record (15-3) and earned the third seed.

Not many fans gave Freeport a chance Saturday, but unlike the last two years, the Falcons got off to a strong, confidence-building start and rode that wave for 32 minutes.

Just 42 seconds into the contest, Freeport went up 2-0 on a jumper from senior Bejay Perkins. Mountain Valley drew even on a layup by junior standout Justin Staires. After Freeport senior Reid Christian made a jumper, Mountain Valley took its lone lead of the first half on a 3-pointer from Staires. With 1:03 to play in the first, Freeport senior Tom Markelon made a layup and it was 6-5 after one.

The underdogs then got the first seven points of the second stanza. A jumper in the lane from junior Jon Klages got things started. Christian followed with a bank shot and Klages added a 3-pointer for a 13-5 advantage. Mountain Valley ended a 6 minute, 35 second drought when senior Dean McCrillis scored on a rebound layup, but Markelon responded with a free throw to make it 14-7. After junior Travis Ruff buried a 3-ball for the defending champs, Bartlett hit a short jumper and Perkins made two free throws to give Freeport an 18-10 lead. In the waning seconds of the half, however, Mountain Valley got a jumper from senior Owen Jones and an old-fashioned three-point play from junior Matthew Laubauskas to make it an 18-15 game at the break.

The pace of play sped up dramatically in the third.

Just 14 seconds in, Mountain Valley pulled within one when senior Keith Brennick made two free throws. Christian answered with a layup, but Jones hit a 3-pointer tying the score. After Klages made a layup for Freeport, Staires hit a jump shot to tie the game again at 22-22. Christian responded with a three-point play, but Jones countered with a jumper. After Markelon hit a jump shot for a 27-24 lead, Brennick made a leaner. Markelon answered with another hoop for a 29-26 advantage, but Ruff converted a three-point play to tie the game again at 29-29.

With 3 minutes to go in the third, Mountain Valley took its first lead since the first quarter (and what proved to be its final lead of the contest) when Jones hit a jump shot. Klages answered with a baseline jumper in traffic and senior Kyle Flash made two free throws to put Freeport back on top 33-31. After Jones made one of two foul shots for Mountain Valley, Christian made two free throws to give Freeport a 35-32 lead heading for the fourth.

Mountain Valley twice got within a point before Freeport got a little breathing room.

A layup by McCrillis started the scoring in the fourth, but Bartlett calmly sank two foul shots. After Jones made another layup (he missed the ensuing free throw which would have tied the score), Markelon made two free throws, Christian did the same and Perkins hit one more for good measure and a 42-36 advantage with 4:39 to play.

Mountain Valley kept the pressure on.

With 4:23 to play, Brennick made a layup. After Christian countered with one at the other end, senior Bryan Canwell made a layup and it was a 44-40 contest with 3:50 to go.

With 2:45 remaining, Klages hit a jump shot, but Jones answered with a layup. With 2:03 left, Freeport broke the press and Klages found himself all alone for a layup. Staires came right back and made a layup and drew a foul, but missed the free throw, keeping the score 48-44 with 1:51 to play. Christian then did what Staires couldn't, namely make a foul shot, and then a second. After Jones missed a 3-pointer, Perkins rebounded and was fouled. He hit one of two free throws for a 51-44 advantage with 1:18 to go. Fourteen seconds later, Staires kept hope alive with an improbable 3-point bank shot. Freeport then turned the ball over, but Staires missed a 3 and Markelon got the rebound before being fouled.

With 21.5 seconds to play, Markelon missed the first foul shot, but sank the second. After Staires missed a 3, Perkins finished it off with two free throws and Freeport held on for the stirring 54-47 victory.

"That was great for the kids in their heads, to get the lead and keep the lead," Sickels said. "We played a little more relaxed. "The kids have worked hard. To take the next step is huge in our minds."

"We got over that hump," said Klages, who not only made big shots down the stretch, but also did a tremendous job handling the ball under pressure. "They destroyed us last year. We were much more confident. We played team basketball."

"This feels great," added Christian, who missed most of his sophomore and junior seasons with injuries. "This is my first real tournament game. For the team, this is big. It means a lot for the senior class. We played really strong, got an early lead and managed to barely hold on going into half. We finished strong and hit free throws.

"We have a lot of seniors on the team and that helps a lot. What really did it for us was our defense. It was nice to have an early lead to give us confidence to run with.

"It was nerve-wracking, but we've had a few games like that this year. Everyone knows the top six teams were right there, very confident. Anyone can win on a given night."

After the contest, much of the talk turned to the amazing disparity in fourth period foul shooting.

"At tournament time it comes down to making free throws," Klages said.

"We practiced free throws at the end of the season and we've been a pretty good free throw shooting team this season," Sickels added. "Some of their starters don't shoot free throws as well. That was a key point too."

Christian led all scorers with 17 points. Klages had 14. Markelon had a 10 points, while Perkins added seven. Bartlett (4 points) and Flash (2) also scored.

Sickels felt every Falcon who took the floor played a role in the win.

"It's an advantage to have Reid and Jon handle the ball," he said. "They're 6-3, 6-4 and can bring the ball up. We knew they rebound very well. I thought our advantage was inside. They rebound well offensively. I told the guys that might be the key. The other key was our ability to handle pressure. That's been our bugaboo all season. We did a better job and extended the lead against pressure. We spread the floor better than we have before."

Mountain Valley was paced by 14 points from Jones and a dozen from Staires. Brennick and Ruff had six apiece. McCrillis finished with four, Laubauskas had three and Canwell added two.

"We communicated well on defense," Sickels said. "We knew Staires and Jones were their big guys who took over a 100 3s this season. For them, the 3-ball is a key ingredient to their offense. That's a reason we went to a matchup zone."

The win sets up a delicious semifinal round battle with No. 2 Yarmouth (16-3) Thursday at 8:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The only previous playoff matchup between the neighboring schools came way back in 1964 (a 70-67 victory for the Falcons in the semifinals).

It's been an eternity since either Freeport (1970) or Yarmouth (1974) has played in a regional final. One of those programs will get there this year.

Even though the Falcons lost twice to the Clippers this year (50-48 at Yarmouth Jan. 8 and 73-48 at home Feb. 7), Freeport likes its chances to move on.

"We're feeling confident," Christian said. "We know to expect. It'll come down to who handles the ball well."

"We know what we have to do, shut down their outside game," said Klages.

"They had our number the second time," Sickels added. "I think that first quarter when (sharpshooter Johnny) Murphy made five 3s set the tone. That was a mental letdown on our part. On this stage, I hope focus-wise that won't happen again."

Yarmouth's History Boys win again

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 17th, 2008

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- A season of wonder added another triumphant chapter Saturday afternoon at the Portland Expo when the second-ranked Yarmouth Clippers defeated No. 7 Lake Region 64-41 in a Western Class B quarterfinal round contest, making history in the process.

Yarmouth advanced to the semifinal round for the first time since 1974 and will meet neighbor and rival Freeport Thursday at 8:30 p.m., for the right to play for the Western Maine title.

The Clippers were in control virtually the whole game, but the plucky Lakers hung tough and got as close as seven points late in third period, before Yarmouth closed the game on a 27-11 run to improve to 16-3.

"I think I feel better than the guys," admitted Clippers' coach Adam Smith. "I felt a little pressure the past couple days. It's hard to overcome history and turn around a program. Fortunately, these guys don't know that."

Two years after going 1-17, Yarmouth produced its finest regular season in two decades. Coming off a 12-8 campaign which included a quarterfinal trip (and a loss to Greely), the Clippers entered the 2007-08 season as the hunted and have risen to virtually every challenge.

Yarmouth won its first six contests (a string that included a 60-54 triumph at Lake Region Dec. 18), then stared adversity in the face after senior standout Joe Dilworth broke his hand during a Christmas Eve walkthrough.

Undaunted, the Clippers gained a huge dose of confidence by going 3-1 against Class A competition at the Maine Mall Holiday tournament, played at the Expo.

Yarmouth then opened the 2008 portion of its schedule with a scintillating three-point home win over Greely (when senior point guard Lucas Denning made a pair of free throws with just a couple seconds remaining). A win at St. Dom's followed, then the Clippers beat visiting Freeport by two points when senior Ben Groves scored on a layup with 0.9 seconds to go.

Yarmouth would finally fall at Cape Elizabeth, but bounced back with a home win over Poland and a victory at Falmouth. Dilworth came back for the Jan. 24 game at Waynflete, but the Clippers simply didn't show up as a team and lost by a shocking 15 points to the Western C Flyers. Yarmouth won four of its final five games (the lone loss was at home to Cape Elizabeth on Senior Night), capping the regular season with a 73-48 victory at Freeport (on the Falcons' Senior Night).

The Clippers' 15-3 mark was their best since the 1988-89 season and earned the No. 2 seed for the Western B tournament.

In addition to the regular season win, Yarmouth also crushed Lake Region 75-47 in last year's preliminary round.

The Lakers brought a 9-10 mark into Saturday's game after holding off Fryeburg Academy in a preliminary round contest.

The Clippers got the scoring started when junior sharpshooter Johnny Murphy found sophomore Evan Henry for a layup. After Lake Region drew even on a rebound tip in by sophomore Matt Langadas, Murphy put Yarmouth ahead to stay with a 3-pointer. Denning fed Henry for a layup and a 7-2 lead, but the Lakers stemmed the tide momentarily on a layup from junior Phil Leighton.

The Clippers then embarked on a 9-0 run. Dilworth made a layup, Groves converted a three-point play, Dilworth made another layup and Groves took a pass from Murphy and made a layup for a commanding 16-4 advantage. Lake Region got back to 16-7 on a layup from senior Jacob Moore and a foul shot from freshman Kevin Gilson, but a free throw from junior Andrew Totta gave Yarmouth a 17-7 lead after one quarter.

Early in the second, the Clippers kept the pressure on.

After Moore made a layup for the Lakers, Dilworth buried a 3, Groves made two free throws and Henry hit a baseline jumper for a 24-9 advantage. Lake Region got a nice reverse layup from Langadas to end the run, but Dilworth answered with a layup of his own. After Leighton sank one of two free throws, Yarmouth got a jumper from Murphy and driving bank shot from Murphy for its biggest lead of the half, 30-12.

The Lakers closed the first half on a high note as Leighton made a rebound layup, Moore made two free throws and Leighton hit a baseline jumper. A rebound layup by Dilworth with 41.5 seconds to go made it a 32-18 game at the break.

The Clippers hoped to quickly put Lake Region away in the third quarter, but the Lakers simply wouldn't buckle.

After Groves got the second half scoring started with a free throw, sophomore Zach Tomkinson made two foul shots. Groves fed Henry for a layup at the other end, but Langadas made one for the Lakers and it was 35-22. After Dilworth made a layup, Leighton hit a jump shot and a layup, Tomkinson drained a long jumper and Leighton hit two free throws to cap an 8-0 run which cut Yarmouth's lead to an uncomfortable seven points, 37-30.

"I was more frustrated than worried," Dilworth said. "We couldn't put them away and kept them in the game."

Then, finally, the Clippers took care of business.

Denning took matters into his own hands, driving for a layup to end the spurt. Dilworth followed with two free throws and Totta hit a jumper in the lane to push the lead back to 13, 43-30. Tomkinson made a free throw and a 3-ball for Lake Region, but in the final minute, Yarmouth senior Joe Laverriere took a pass from Denning and made a layup for a 45-34 lead.

The Clippers quickly ended any remaining doubt in the fourth.

Laverriere got things started with a jumper. Dilworth followed with a driving layup. Leighton answered with two free throws, but Henry made a layup, Dilworth hit a foul shot, Murphy canned a jumper, then added a free throw for a 55-36 advantage. Leighton made two free throws for the Lakers, but Henry made a layup and Dilworth followed with another for a 59-38 lead.

After Langadas made a layup for Lake Region, senior Robb Arndt made a free throw, Denning made a free throw and Dilworth put a punctuation mark on his day with a nice spinning layup. Lakers' junior Tyler Merrifield made a foul shot with 13 seconds to play and that made the final score 64-41 in favor of the Clippers.

"Playing here before helped us get off to a calmer start," Smith said. "They made a run as we expected. I was happy for my kids that they were able to make a stand and push the lead back to where it was. During the season, people talked about other teams getting tired and us not getting tired and you could see that today with Lake Region."

Dilworth led all scorers with 22 points, as he gets back to optimal playing condition at just the right time.

"I'm just about 100 percent," he said. "Feeling better every day."

"I was happy for him in the second half," Smith added. "We really needed him and he stepped up. It's nice to have someone like Joe to go to. He gets a little better every night."

Yarmouth got a huge boost from Henry (12 points) off the bench. The sophomore has quietly worked his way into some major playing time and won't be a secret much longer.

"We broke down their zone pretty easily," Henry said. "We have a pretty deep bench. That's been helpful. I've gotten a lot better playing with all the seniors."

Murphy (who struggled from the floor) finished with 10 points. Groves wound up with eight, Laverriere had six, Totta three, Denning two and Arndt one.

"We don't ask the bench guys to do a lot, but we do ask them to finish and play great defense," Smith said. "Joe Laverriere came in and helped and Evan's gotten better and better all year."

Yarmouth enters the semifinal feeling good about its chances after its previous two wins over the Falcons this year (the teams have only met once before in the tournament, a 70-67 win for Freeport way back in the 1964 semifinals).

"We're definitely confident, but we won't underestimate anybody," Dilworth said. "We've played each others hundreds of times. I've played with (Freeport senior) Reid Christian since I was a little kid. It's going to be fun and pretty intense."

"I can't wait to play them," said Henry. "I think we have a good shot."

"We won't play them in Yarmouth or Freeport so I expect a whole different game," Smith added. "They played very well against Mountain Valley. I expect that team to be facing us on Thursday. We have to control tempo and keep the pressure high all game. It'll be key for us to stay out of foul trouble."

Do you believe in miracles? Thayer, Greely do

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 17th, 2008

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- Every player dreams of draining a shot at the buzzer to win a playoff game.

Saturday afternoon, Greely junior Erik Thayer got to live that dream.

Thayer and his Rangers teammates didn't surrender when they were down 10 to rival Falmouth with 1 minute, 22 seconds to play in the teams' Western Class B quarterfinal at the Portland Expo and embarked on a 10-2 run which gave them one last chance.

With 1.7 seconds to go, Greely senior Ben Andreasen inbounded the ball to Thayer a step behind the 3-point arc and as soon as the ball left his hand, the shooter and everyone on hand knew where it was heading.

Right into the basket.

Nothing but net.

Rangers win 50-49.

"I had the hot hand and I thought I couldn't miss," said Thayer, moments after being mobbed by the Greely student contingent. "When I released it, my fingers tingled. Everyone started jumping up and down. This is a great confidence boost."

Greely advances to meet top-ranked Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Rangers and Yachtsmen put relatively inexperienced teams on the floor this winter, but both produced their accustomed stellar records.

Falmouth, behind the sharpshooting of sophomore Stephano Mancini, shook off a 1-3 start and wound up 13-5, good for the No. 5 seed.

Greely, meanwhile, which had graduated all five starters from a regional finalist, got off to a great start, then played inconsistently down the stretch, but still wound up 12-6, good for the fourth spot.

The rivals split this year. In the season opener, Dec. 7, the Rangers rolled to a 63-52 home win. On Jan. 29, Falmouth returned the favor with a 65-56 home victory.

Last winter, Greely beat Falmouth 63-40 in the semifinal round. The teams also met in the playoffs in 2003 (a 62-45 win for the Rangers in the semis).

While Greely got off to a great start Saturday, it appeared for most of the game that Falmouth would be the team moving on.

The Yachtsmen got the game's first hoop, when senior Kevin Smith hit a jumper, but the Rangers would get the next nine points. Senior Spenser Adams made a layup and a jumper. Thayer then hinted at good things to come with his first 3-pointer of the day. Thayer then scored on a driving layup for a 9-2 lead with 5:01 to go in the first. Greely wouldn't score again in the period, while Falmouth could only muster two free throws from senior Michael Doyle to make it a 9-4 game after one.

By halftime, the Yachtsmen had a five point lead.

Mancini found the range to start the second quarter and hit a 3-ball (his lone bomb of the day). After Rangers' sophomore Trevor Tierney made a hook shot, Falmouth pulled even on a pair of shots from Smith (finally recovered from season-long nagging injuries). Greely went back up 13-11 on a runner from Adams, but Smith tied the game with two foul shots, then put his team up 15-13 with two more. With 3:11 to play in the half, sophomore Sam Horning made a 3-ball and that was it for first half scoring.

The third period was nip and tuck.

Tierney got the scoring started with a layup, then followed with a jump shot to cut the deficit to one, 18-17. After sophomore Jahrel Registe made a layup for the Yachtsmen, Rangers' junior Chris Young got in the scoring column with a couple of free throws. Doyle countered with a three-point play, but Adams buried a 3, then made a layup to put Greely back on top, 24-23.

With 3:02 to go in the third, Smith continued to sparkle and made a 3-pointer to put Falmouth back in the lead, 26-24. Doyle then took a pass from Mancini and made a layup and Mancini followed with a floater for a 30-24 lead. A layup by Tierney closed the third period and pulled the Rangers within four.

Falmouth then got the first nine points of the fourth and appeared to salt the win away.

Back-to-back 3's from Smith made it 36-26. Registe made a foul shot and Mancini hit a jumper and it was a 39-26 game with just 5:41 remaining.

Greely answered when Tierney made a pretty left-handed layup, junior Chris Higgins buried a leaner and Adams took a pass from Andreasen and made a layup, cutting the deficit to seven, 39-32, with 3:57 to go.

After Falmouth senior Rudy Babikan made one of two foul shots, Tierney made a layup to make it 40-34. Babikan then took a pass from Smith and made a layup. After Adams answered with a layup for the Rangers, Smith made two free throws. After Young made one for Greely, Doyle made a layup and Horning added a foul shot for a 47-37 lead with 1:22 to play.

Game over?

Not by a longshot (or in this case, three Thayer long shots).

The improbable rally began inauspiciously as Tierney made a layup with 1:10 remaining. With 43.4 seconds to go, Thayer hit a 3-pointer and suddenly those who were going to try and beat traffic by leaving early decided to hang around. Ten seconds later, Andreasen made a layup and the deficit was three, 47-44.

With 20.4 seconds left Babikan made one of two free throws, but after missing on a first attempt, Thayer got a second when Higgins kept the ball alive and he drained a 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds to go and it was a one-point game, 48-47.

With 5.5 seconds left, Doyle had a chance to stretch the lead to three and guarantee Falmouth no worse than overtime, but he missed his first attempt. After making the second, the Yachtsmen were up 49-47 and Greely had to go the length of the floor.

The Rangers rushed into the front court, but the ball was tipped out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left. After a deflection on the inbounds pass (with Thayer standing wide open beyond the arc), Greely tried again.

Andreasen delivered the pass, Thayer launched the shot and the Rangers exulted.

Do you believe in miracles?

"My heart is still racing," Thayer said, long after Greely retreated to its locker room to whoop it up and celebrate. "It's a great feeling that I'll never forget. In a playoff atmosphere, everyone plays tough defense. We had to fight our way back."

"We've probably run that play for 10 years and twice we've tied games, but we'd never won one," Greely coach Ken Marks added. "Erik's our second-best perimeter player. I told him to look for his shot. To be down 10 and come back and have that opportunity is just unbelievable. He was wide open the first time too. It was just a great, great shot."

Falmouth was left shellshocked, similar to the top-ranked 2004 squad which was upset by No. 8 Cape Elizabeth on a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals.

"He stepped up and made the shot he had to make," longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan said. "We were focusing on Adams and Young and their open man made the shot. You can only say congratulations. We played well in spurts, but we lost our two guards (Mancini to fouls and junior Jack Wyman to injury) and that hurt. Other guys tried to step up, but they were out of their element. That's high school basketball. Give credit to Greely. A Ken Marks team never quits. They keep coming at you."

Falmouth was led by Smith, who had a sensational 21 points, earning kudos from both coaches.

"Kevin Smith had a terrific game," Marks said. "Falmouth played a terrific game."

"It's probably the first week he's been healthy all year," Halligan added. "He had a great game."

Doyle added 10, Mancini had seven, Babikan and Horning scored four apiece and Registe finished with three.

The Yachtsmen had a tremendous run and also have a very bright future.

"If you would have told me before the season we'd win 13 games, I would have said thank you very much," Halligan said. "We came a long way. We played better than expected, but not as well as we would have liked. Some younger kids found out what it's all about. The seniors had great careers and played in a couple Western Maine Finals.

"We're excited about our program. We feel sorry for the seniors, but they did everything we asked. I'm really proud."

Adams led the Rangers with 15 points. Thayer and Tierney both wound up with 14. Young added three and Andreasen and Higgins had two apiece.

Greely now turns its attention to top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (17-2 and riding a 14-game win streak following a quarterfinal romp over Wells).

The Rangers and Capers split during the regular year with Greely triumphing 60-46 in Cape Elizabeth on Dec. 13 and the Capers winning a memorable 75-71 double-OT game in Cumberland Feb. 8.

Greely has won three of four previous playoff matchups with Cape Elizabeth. The most recent was a 50-37 triumph in the 2003 quarterfinals. The Rangers also eliminated Cape Elizabeth in 1992 (64-50 in the semifinals) and 1998 (62-49 in the semis). The Capers' lone postseason win over Greely came in the 1984 quarterfinals (61-55).

Considering their success against Cape Elizabeth so far, combined with the emotional high Thayer's shot provided, the Rangers love their chances on Thursday.

"We're excited for the rematch," Thayer said. "We lost in OT last time. We had the game in the bag and we feel we can beat them. We'll come out fired out and ready to play. We're hot."

"We love having a rematch with Cape," Marks added. " We're never out of a game. We believe that. We graduated all five starters. To have this group come back and get to this level is really special."

WIZ Words: Big Games and Big Names (Plus WIZ Top 10 Teams- Week # 11)

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 17th, 2008

By The WIZ

WIZ Words: Big Games and Big Names (Plus WIZ Top 10 Teams- Week # 11)

Big Games and Big Names

(Plus WIZ Top 10 Teams- Week #11)

Wow! What a weekend folks! Hoops Gone Wild! All over the state! Incredible games and fantastic finishes. The WIZ was at the Expo in Portland covering and broadcasting games with MBR's head man Tom Nolette. The Expo was packed house for most of the games and there was plenty of excitement. Big games and some big names stepped up. Greely's Eric Thayer stepped up big time! With his Rangers team down by 10pts. to Falmouth with 4:30 left in the game Thayer hit three 3's in the last .45 seconds including the game winner at the buzzer to defeat Falmouth 50-49. Wow! An amazing comeback and a big win for the Greely Rangers. In other Western Class B games Cape defeated Wells 72-35 and the Capers will face Greely on Wednesday in the Semi-Finals. Also Freeport beat Mountain Valley 54-47 and Yarmouth had no problem beating Lake Region 64-41 and Yarmouth and Freeport will square of in the other Western Class B semi-Final also on Wednesday.

South Portland's Super Sophomore Sensation Keegan Hyland throws in 30pts. as the Red Riots continue their exciting year as they defeat the Tigers of Biddeford 66-48 and the Red Riots will move on to play Thornton in the Western Maine Class A Semi Finals on Wednesday. Thornton pulled off a close one over the upset-minded Blazes of Westbrook. Thornton's Mr. Clutch Jeff Winnie hits a big 3 with .09 seconds left to give the Golden Trojans the big win 41-40 as the Trojans move to the Semi-Finals to face the Red Hot Red Riots of South Portland. The Stags of Cheverus defeated Windham 50-40 and Portland won their big game over Deering 48-41. The Stags and the Bulldogs will face off in the other Semi-Final game on Wednesday.

Up at the Mecca in Bangor the undefeated Black Bears of Maranacook got a scare from Rockland but the Black Bears pull it off behind Ryan Martins 25pts. as the Black Bears win by just 2pts. 59-57. They will move on to play Mattanawcook in the Semi's of Eastern Class B. Mattanawcook beat Caribou 59-43 to advance to the Semi-Finals. The Camden Windjammers beat John Bapst 73-38 and they will advance to the Semi-Finals to take on Presque Isle on Wednesday as Presque Isle beat Medomak 56-51. Wow! What a final four this will be.

At the ACC in Augusta the Bangor Rams continue to steamroll Eastern Class A as they defeated Brunswick 74-56 to improve their record to a perfect 19-0. The #5 seed Cougars of Mt. Blue pulled off a mild upset by defeating the #4 seed Rams of Cony 50-33. Bangor and Mt. Blue will square off in the Semi-Finals this coming Wednesday. And the Eddies of Edward Little survived a big scare as the Eagles of Messalonskee took the Eddies to overtime but the Eddies held the Eagles to zero points in the overtime as the Eddies go on to win by a final of 51-41. The big upset of the day though was #6 seed the Lawrence Bulldogs knocked off the # 3 seeded Hampden Broncos 49-46 in an exciting game. The Bulldogs advance and they will play Edward Little in the Sem'i-Finals on Wednesday.

In Class D West at the ACC the Richmond Bobcats continue the quest for the Gold as they beat Buckfield in the quarter-finals 67-37. Rangeley beat Seacoast 63-56 to set up a Semi-Final game with Richmond. Valley beat Greenville 64-45 and Forest Hills beat Elan 45-42 to set up their Semi-Final game against Valley.

In Eastern Class D at the Mecca two games are over in the quarter-finals. Woodland beat Easton 56-41 and Deer Isle beat Shead 63-33. The Eastern D quarter-finals will continue on Monday with Central Aroostook taking on Machias and Ashland taking on Fort Fairfield.

Class C West Quarter-Finals get underway on Monday and Class C East will get going on Tuesday.

MBR's broadcasting of games is going over Big Time as we are getting many thanks from people as relatives and fans from out-of-state are listening in from all parts of the country. Game play-by-play by Tom Nolette and color by WIZ and Mike Hoffer has been a sensation so far and the halftime interviews with coaches and gurus are a very big hit as well. MBR will continue live coverage from the Expo and the CCCC covering all the tournament games boys and girls. Plus all the games from Augusta and Bangor are being streamlined through the MBR site so you can listen to any tournament game you want. Simply put; Amazing! Totally Awesome! MBR taking it to higher levels!

Undefeated teams remain at 4 this week.

Undefeated Teams:




C. Aroostook---18-0

As we head to this weeks WIZ Top 10 Teams there are no changes as all the top 10 teams that played won their games and some (3 teams Class C) have not played their tournament games just yet.

WIZ Top 10 Teams- Week # 11:

1.Bangor----------19-0 The Rams stay perfect! They crushed Brunswick! In the quarter-Finals! 74-56! Can they be stopped! I don't think so! Up next! Semi-Final! Wednesday 8:30pm! ACC! Cougars of Mt. Blue! Could be interesting! They win and it's off to the Eastern Maine Final on Friday! 700pm! ACC Baby!

2.Maranacook---19-0 Black Bears on a Mission! Black Bears stay perfect! Just Barely though! Big Scare! They get by Rockland 59-57! Wow! Crazy! Move on to Semi's! They get Mattanawcook! At the MECCA! Wednesday! 3:35pm! Watch Out! Derek Libby and the Lynx! May have something to say! If Black Bears win they will play on Saturday! At the MECCA! Eastern Maine Final! 3:45pm! Can they GO-ALL-THE-WAY! I don't know! Bigger fish are coming!

3.South Portland---15-4 Red Hot still! Red Riots beat Biddeford! In Quarter-Final! 66-48! Hyland drops 30! How far can they go! Up next! Golden Trojans! Semi's! Wednesday night! CCCC! 5:30pm! Congrats! Coach Conley! First year Head Coach! Amazing! A Win and off to the Final! Saturday! CCCC! 9:00pm!

4.Thornton--------17-2 Golden Trojans! Golden Win! Gets by upset-minded Westbrook! 41-40! A Thriller! Jeff Winnie is The Man! Cans the Big 3! To win it! Up next! Rematch! Wants Revenge! They get the Red Hot Red Riots! In the Semi's! At the CCC! Wednesday! 5:30pm! Wowzer! Someone moves on! Someone goes home! A win would move them to the WM final! Saturday night! 9:00pm! CCCC Baby!

5.Camden--------19-1 Jamming Windjammers! Jammed Hermon in the Prelim's 82-71! Took care of John Bapst! In Quarter-Final! 73-38! Jammers can smell it! Jammers can Taste it! Will they get it! Maybe! Up next! Simi-Final! Wednesday! At the MECCA! Presque Isle! 2:05pm! Will Jammers move on! I think so! They win! They move to Eastern Maine Final! Saturday 3:45pm! Could they see Maranacook! Wowzer! We shall see!

6.Calais----------16-0 Week off for the Blue Devils! They start Tuesday! Quarter-Final! They get Dexter! At the MECCA! 8:35pm! Win moved to Semi's on Friday! MECCA! 3:35pm! Win! Got to Finals! On Saturday! 8:45pm! Streak is at 60! Can they keep it going! I think so!

7.Cape Elizabeth---17-2 Capers on Fire! No match in Quarter-Final! Beat Wells! 72-35! Big game up next! Semi-Final! CCCC! Wednesday! 8:30pm! Greely! Win and it's off to the Finals! Saturday! CCCC! 3:45pm! Can the Capers do it! Is this their year! I think so!

8.Cheverus--------17-2 Stags playing well again! Beat Windham in Quarter-Final! 50-40! Coach Brown has his hands full! Can their pressure D carry them! Big courts! Bigger area to cover! We shall find out! Up next! Semi's! They get the Red Hot Bulldogs of Portland! Wednesday Night Main Event! 7:00pm! CCCC! Biggest event at the CCCC since Marvin Haggler! Winner moves to Western Maine Final! Saturday! 9:00pm! CCCC!

9,Edward Little----15-4 Eddies get the win! Barely! Beat the stubborn Eagles of Messalonskee! 51-41! In Overtime! Wow! What a game! No early exit this year! How far will they go! Up next! The Upset Specialist! The Lawrence Bulldogs! Semi-Final game! ACC! 8:30pm! Wednesday! Winner goes to EM Final! Friday! ACC! 7:00pm! How far can the Eddies go!

10. Two way tie:

10.Dirigo----------17-1 Cougars had the week off! Their tourney starts Monday! ACC! 8:30pm! Quarter-Final Game! NYA! Win and off to Semi's! ACC! Thursday! 8:30pm! Win and off to WM Final! ACC! Saturday! 8:45pm! Can Thomas Knight and the Cougars get it done! We shall find out!

10.Winthrop-------17-1 Ramblers had the week off! They are rested! They are ready! They can taste it! But will they get it! Sam The Man! Up next! Quarter-Finals! ACC! Monday! 4:00pm! They get Hyde! Win and move to Semi's! Thursday! ACC! 7:00pm! Win! And off to WM Final! Saturday! ACC! 8:45pm!

Teams Knocking on the Door:




C. Aroostook----18-0

Presque Isle------17-3





Mt. Blue----------13-6



Deer Isle----------18-2

Til' Next week: Holy Smokes! This is crazy! How Hot can it get! No sleep! Little eats! Are you sick of wienners yet! Good luck to all!


South Portland rides Hyland's brilliance to win over Biddeford

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 17th, 2008

South Portland rides Hyland's brilliance to win over Biddeford

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- The South Portland boys' basketball team is coming off a regular season which saw it accomplish amazing feats.

The thing is, the Red Riots aren't content with what's come before. They're living in the moment and are bound and determined to be a major postseason factor

They certainly looked good in their first step.

Saturday evening, at the Portland Expo, South Portland displayed all of its weapons as it gradually pulled away from Biddeford to win the teams' Western Class A quarterfinal round game, 64-46.

Sophomore standout Keegan Hyland had 30 points. Senior Nick Wright grabbed 17 rebounds and the Red Riots set the tone on both ends of the floor as they advanced to take on Thornton Academy in a semifinal round contest Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

"Biddeford's a very good team and they're well coached," said South Portland first-year coach Phil Conley. "I knew they'd be scrappy. In playoff basketball, you have to play your best and I think we played a good game offensively and defensively. I'm proud of my guys."

The Tigers were the No. 11 seed. They advanced to the Expo by virtue of an upset win at No. 6 Scarborough in the preliminary round.

The Red Riots, meanwhile, began the season with five straight victories, dropped close decisions to Deering and Scarborough, then won six more in succession. After an agonizing home overtime loss to Cheverus and a setback at Portland, South Portland wrapped up the regular season with wins at Cheverus and Deering and at home over Portland to wind up 14-4, good for the No. 3 seed.

The Red Riots hadn't won a quarterfinal game in eight seasons, but were not to be denied Saturday.

A layup from senior Will Fubush started the scoring, but the Tigers answered with a 3-ball from junior Abdirahman Mohamed. After senior Nick Gaddar made a 3-pointer for South Portland, Mohamed hit another for Biddeford to give the underdogs a 6-5 lead. A jumper from Furbush and a bank shot by Hyland made it 9-6. Red Riots. After the Tigers got a rebound putback from senior Audie Murphy, Hyland made another bank shot. Senior Dan Jamieson answered with a layup for Biddeford, but Hyland made a layup for a 13-10 advantage. Senior Mohamed Mohamed converted an old-fashioned three-point play, then made a layup to put the Tigers back on top, 15-13. A free throw from sophomore Connor Hasson pulled South Portland back within one, 15-14, as the first period ended.

By halftime, the Red Riots were in control.

Jamieson got the scoring started in the second with a layup. Furbush answered with a 3-ball and the game was tied at 17-17. After Wright made a free throw following an offensive rebound, junior Robin Wilson made a floater for Biddeford to give the Tigers their last lead, 19-18. A 3-pointer from sophomore Matt Lee put South Portland ahead to stay. Hasson added two free throws, Lee hit another 3 and Hasson made one more foul shot to cap the 9-0 run and give the Red Riots a 27-19 advantage. After junior Cameron Neumann made a 3-pointer for Biddeford, Hyland hit a baseline jumper, then Hyland made two free throws for a 31-22 lead. With just under a second to play, however, Murphy was fouled and made one foul shot to make it a 31-23 game at the break.

"It was important to come out and make sure we set the tone and show we wanted to play our game," Wright said.

South Portland quickly went up 12, 35-23, when Wright made a layup, then scored on a rebound layup. After Neumann got three points back with a bomb, Hyland scored on a layup after a steal. Neumann made a layup, but Hyland scored on a driving layup for a 39-28 lead. After Murphy made a layup for the Tigers, Wright scored on a rebound layup to push the lead back to 11. Neumann made one of two free throws, but Hyland drained another jumper. With 1:28 to go in the third, Jamieson hit a 3-ball, but senior Josh Mackie made a jumper and Hyland buried a 3 for a 48-34 lead. A layup by Neumann in the waning seconds made it 48-36 heading for the fourth.

There, the Red Riots finished it off.

Hyland opened the quarter with a 3-pointer. Wright and Furbush followed with one free throw apiece for a 53-36 advantage. After Neumann hit a jump shot for Biddeford, Hyland made two free throws. Murphy made a layup and Jamieson hit another 3 for the Tigers, cutting the deficit to 12, 55-43, but Hyland restored order with a short jumper. After Abdirahman Mohamed made a layup, Hyland scored on a driving layup, Furbush made a free throw and Hyland made another layup for a 62-45 lead. Neumann got two points back with a layup, but Gaddar buried a foul shot. Sophomore Trevor Parker got Biddeford's final point on a foul shot with 54.7 seconds to go. In the waning seconds, South Portland got a free throw from sophomore Spencer Bowring and a layup from senior Chris Biskup to account for the 66-48 final score.

"I told the guys it would come down to who rebounded better in the second half," Conley said. "I thought we rebounded extremely well. Nick Wright was amazing. Keegan Hyland came up huge. He was just tremendous on the drive and on outside shots. He had a terrific game. He's a sophomore, but they were all nervous. They had to settle in. Once we hit our first shot, we settled down and relaxed.

"Our defense helps us with our offense. I thought we played a good zone defense tonight. It got us some easy baskets."

Conley also praised the vocal sea of red that dominated much of the Expo.

"I thought our fans were tremendous tonight," he said. "They were our sixth man. We had one side full of South Portland students and community members. I'm thankful for that support. It really helped the team out."

Hyland led all scorers with 30 points. He had 20 in the second half.

"I just got the ball and they gave me some different looks," he said. "I took it to the hoop at first, then shot jumpers. It just started to flow. We wanted to get to the Civic Center. We knew even though they were an 11 seed we had to play our game and not look past them."

Wright finished with eight points, but was most conspicuous on the offensive and defensive glass, where he reigned from start to finish.

"I knew we had to box out," he said. "Against Scarborough, Biddeford won because they got a lot of second chance opportunities. I knew I had to rebound. The ball just bounced my way. I made sure they didn't get second chance opportunities."

Furbush had nine points. Lee finished with six. Hasson and Gaddar had four points apiece. Biskup and Mackie both had two. Bowring wound up with one.

Biddeford was led by 17 points from Neumann (12 in the second half). Jamieson also wound up in double figures with 10 points. Abdirahman Mohamed had eight, Mohamed Mohamed and Murphy both had five, Wilson finished with two and Parker added one.

The Red Riots stuck around afterwards and watched as No. 2 Thornton Academy saved its season with a late rally for a one-point win over No. 7 Westbrook.

As a result, South Portland and the Golden Trojans will do battle in one Western A semifinal (Cheverus and Portland meet in the other). Back on Jan. 12, the Red Riots earned their then-biggest win to date with a 52-49 home decision over then-unbeaten Thornton Academy.

In 2005, South Portland beat the Golden Trojans 60-45 in the preliminary round. The teams also met in 1970 (a 81-57 Red Riots' win in the semifinals), 1972 (a 64-56 win for Thornton Academy in the semifinals) and 1992 (a 75-54 triumph for South Portland in the semis).

The Red Riots are up for the challenge.

"I feel like we're playing the best we've played all year," Wright said. "I know we can play with anybody and beat anybody. We'll play our game against Thornton. They're a good team. We know we can beat them. We'll go for it.

"I'm not scared of the Civic Center at all. It won't take away from our game. We'll get to the line and hopefully do better. I hope we play a great game.

"This has been the goal of the seniors since we've been freshmen. The sophomores have matured over the year. For the seniors, it's our last shot. We still have a couple more steps, but I feel we're playing really good basketball."

"I think we have to come out really strong and have good intensity," Hyland added. "We have to play good defense and rebound well. Thornton can beat anyone and we know that.

"I've wanted to play (at the Civic Center) forever. Hopefully I'll get some shots to fall. If not, I'll take the ball inside."

Conley could only sit and wonder what's next for a special team in the midst of a magical season.

"It's a storybook run," he said. "I'm so pleased for the kids. They've worked so hard all year. We're peaking at the right time. I think this is a close group in there. They get along great. That helps on the floor. Everyone looks to pass.

"We wanted to get to the Civic Center floor and we'll take it from there. We're looking forward to it Thornton Academy is a very good team. We know we'll be in for a battle and we'll have to play great."

Portland survives and advances

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 16th, 2008

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND-Portland coach Joe Russo is legendary for molding a team during the course of a season and having it championship-worthy by February.

This year's work might be his piece de resistance.

After winning 10 of 12 to end the regular season, the Bulldogs opened tournament play Friday night at the Portland Expo with a compelling quarterfinal round showdown against fierce rival Deering.

While the game was far from a masterpiece, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs overcame a very sluggish start and had just enough down the stretch to hold off the fifth-ranked Rams 48-41, ending Deering's season at 12-7.

Portland (14-5) moves on to battle top-ranked Cheverus in the semifinals Wednesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Stags (now 16-3) had little trouble with No. 9 Windham in a 50-40 preliminary round victory.

For much of the 2007-08 season, the defending regional champion Bulldogs were seeking their identity. Portland was 3-3 at one stretch before erupting for 10 wins in its final 12 games to finish 13-5 and earn the No. 4 seed.

Deering got off to a splendid start, but ultimately was done in by injuries and off-the-court issues and dropped its final three regular season contests to wind up 12-6, good for fifth.

The teams split during the regular season (the Rams won 59-50 at home Jan. 19 before the Bulldogs returned the favor 53-47 Feb. 4) and were meeting for the third time in four years in the playoffs (with the Rams winning the previous two: 57-54 in the 2005 semifinals and 70-64 in the 2006 regional final).

Friday's game would be very slow to start. Deering had a great chance to bury the Bulldogs early, but failed to do so. That came back to haunt the Rams when Portland came to life in the second half.

Deering couldn't have asked for a better beginning when junior Ronald Abwoch took a pass off the opening tip and laid it in for a 2-0 lead just two seconds in. The Bulldogs tied the game on a layup from sophomore Koang Thok, but Rams' senior standout Kyle Donovan (the Most Valuable Player of the Southern Maine Activities Association this winter) hit a pair of foul shots and sophomore Eddie Tirabassi made a rebound layup for a 6-2 advantage. After Thok hit a bank shot, Tirabassi made a foul shot and junior Khader Abbas did the same to make it 8-4. With 1:33 to play in the first, Portland junior Ed Bogdanovich made a short jumper, but Abwoch answered with a 3-pointer and Deering had an 11-6 lead after one period.

The Rams would stretch their lead in the second, but couldn't deliver the knockout punch.

After Bogdanovich got the quarter's scoring started with a jumper, senior Chris Smith made a layup for Deering and Abwoch followed with a jumper. Bulldogs' sophomore Joe Zukowski momentarily stemmed the tide with a pair of free throws, but a leaner by Abwoch and a layup from Donovan gave the Rams a 19-10 lead with 3:21 to play in the half. After Thok made two free throws and a layup after a steal, Deering ripped off six straight for its biggest lead. Abwoch fed senior Guillaume Ramonas for a layup, Abwoch hit a pretty spinning layup and Abbas added two foul shots for a 25-14 advantage. A layup by senior Dewayne Albertie gave Portland a little momentum prior to the half, but the Bulldogs were still down by nine, 25-16.

Russo wasn't concerned.

"We missed a lot of layups," he said. "We missed a lot of easy layups. We played soft and we weren't getting to the rim. We didn't have to get it all back in one quarter. The plays were there, but we were missing open shots. We had to stay positive. We didn't get away from those shots. We regrouped. We had to perform."

The Bulldogs showed much more life in the third period, but the Rams still clung to their lead by period's end.

Senior Jake Longstaff made a jumper for Portland to start the second half, but Smith answered with a free throw. Senior Anthony Passmore then made a layup and senior Mike Harmon made a leaner to cut the deficit to four, 26-22. Deering senior Tim Conley and Albertie traded layups to make it 28-24. Tirabassi made a layup, but sophomore Walter Stover countered with two foul shots and the Rams' lead was still four, 30-26. With 2:01 to go in the quarter, Abwoch hit a short jumper in the lane. It looked like Deering would take its 32-26 lead into the fourth, but with 3.1 seconds to go in the third, Bogdanovich made a layup and the Bulldogs were once again within four, 32-28.

In the final stanza, it took a mere 1 minute, 23 seconds for Portland to go ahead for good.

Bogdanovich made another layup to start the fourth and Thok made two foul shots to make it a 32-32 game. Harmon then buried a 3-ball and the Bulldogs were up for the first time, 35-32.

Tirabassi scored on a rebound layup for the Rams, but Thok made two more free throws, Longstaff hit one of two foul shots, Bogdanovich fed Stover for a layup, and Harmon went coast to coast for a layup which made it 42-34 Portland with 2:24 to play.

"The second half was the turning point," said Harmon, who transferred to Portland from Bonny Eagle this school year. "We came out soft, but coach's speech at halftime got us going. We came out and jumped on them and they couldn't match our intensity. We made our foul shots and played on defense."

To its credit, Deering made one last push.

An old-fashioned three-point play by Donovan gave the Rams some life. With 54.2 seconds to go, Donovan scored on a finger roll and suddenly it was 42-39. One second later, Longstaff made two free throws for a 44-39 advantage, but eight seconds after that, Abwoch scored on a rebound layup and once again Deering was within three, 44-41.

Passmore was then fouled, but missed both attempts. Bogdanovich grabbed the rebound and attempted to score, but was denied by Donovan. The Rams then had a chance to draw even, but turned the ball over.

"We've been plagued with turnovers," Deering coach Dan LeGage lamented. "We don't really have a true point guard. I won't take anything away from Portland. Their pressure defense did a nice job causing turnovers. I wish we had a magical play not to turn the ball over, but we don't. We had a chance, but couldn't pull away. We couldn't extend the lead past eight or nine points. We got in foul trouble and they made shots."

In the waning seconds, Harmon and Stover both made one free throw and Passmore delivered the coup de grace with two more with 2.4 seconds to play and Portland held on for the 48-41 victory.

"It's typical Bulldog basketball this time of the year, but it's also the Deering-Portland rivalry, which is awesome," Russo said. "You've got to have that. That's what makes basketball fun. We never give up until the horn goes off. That's how we live life. We live to play another game. These kids deserved to go to the Civic Center. I'm happy for them."

"I'm really proud of the guys and the character they showed and the effort they gave me until the final buzzer," LeGage said. "As a coach, all you ask is to give everything you have every night. You can't win every game or every year. We limped along the last half of the season. Turnovers wound up being our Achilles' Heel. We gave the fans a heck of a first game."

Deering was paced by 15 points from Abwoch.

Donovan had nine in his final game in a Rams' uniform.

"He's going to be tough to replace," LeGage said, of his star whom many feared wouldn't play this year because of injury. "Not only is he an outstanding player, but he's an outstanding person. He is a top student. Outstanding in the community. People don't understand the magnitude of the high school career he had. Most kids can't do that. He's led by example. He's a great player and put in so much time and effort. The younger kids know if they want to be a great player, they have to act like him."

Tirabassi added seven, Abbas and Smith had three apiece and Conley and Ramonas both had two.

The Rams will lick their wounds and give it another shot next season.

"Injuries to (Regan) Flaherty and (Parker) Dodd leaving the team hurt us," LeGage said. "Everything happened at one position. We got hammered there and it just killed us. We did what we could. We've set a precedent for the program and expect to challenge every year. We've established ourselves. I told the kids to look at their body of work.

"We had five freshmen on varsity who got a valuable lesson. They got to go through a varsity season even though they didn't play much. Our message to them was to take the offseason to get better. Next year will be a learning year, but in the future, we'll be exciting to watch.

"We get Abwoch, Abbas and Tirabassi back, but we'll be small. There will be a lot of sophomores on the team. There's some talent there. If people stick with us, we'll be fun to watch as the kids develop. People will start hearing names like Dennis Ross, James Ross, Nick Colucci, Jackson Frey and John Hardy. People will talk about how they're really good as they develop."

For Portland, Thok led the way with a dozen points. Bogdanovich and Harmon had eight each.

"(The transition's) been very, very tough," Harmon admitted. "It took awhile, but the team has jelled. They took me in. It's all worked out. I think we can still get better, but we're one of the best teams now."

Longstaff and Stover both wound up with five. Albertie and Passmore had four apiece and Zukowski added two.

"Mike Harmon, the second half of the season, has been playing awesome," Russo said. "He now has a role. We found a spot for him. When he gets the call, he plays. He came into a nice role. Longstaff's a senior, he missed a free throw, but came back and made the biggest one. Kong has really improved. Eddie surveyed the situation a bit, but he asserted himself in the fourth quarter."

The Bulldogs lived to play another day and will take their chances with Cheverus.

Portland lost 68-62 at Cheverus on Dec. 21 and beat the Stags 37-31 at home Feb. 5. The Bulldogs have also eliminated Cheverus from three of the past four postseasons, winning 68-52 in the 2004 Western A Final, 55-44 in the semifinals two seasons ago and 62-44 in last year's regional final.

"Cheverus is a very good team," Russo said. "They pose a different look than Deering. Deering's got a big guy. Cheverus' big guy is on the perimeter. (Portland, Deering and Cheverus) match up with each other. We're all good teams. Unfortunately, we're all matched up on one side of the bracket. This is the year for the other programs to take advantage.

"We're getting better every game. I'm hoping to keep getting better. We can't take a half to get going."

Cheverus soars early, holds off Windham

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 16th, 2008

Cheverus soars early, holds off Windham
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- The top-ranked Cheverus Stags came into Friday night's Western Class A quarterfinal round game with upstart No. 9 seed Windham hoping to deliver a quick haymaker.

They would do just that. The more experienced and deeper Stags took command of the game in the second quarter and stretched their lead to as many as 20 points. The Eagles wouldn't quit, however, and fought to the bitter end, cutting Cheverus' final victory margin to 10 points, 50-40.

Cheverus wound up with the top seed for the tournament for the fourth time in six years, but it wasn't easy. After winning their first 14 games (capped by an epic come-from-behind OT win at South Portland), the Stags lost to Thornton Academy and South Portland at home, then fell at Portland, before righting the ship with a victory at Deering to wind up 15-3.

In Friday night's second quarterfinal, Cheverus drew a 10-9 Windham squad which had upset Gorham in the preliminary round. During the regular season, the Stags crushed the Eagles, 82-49 at home Dec. 18, but in the title game of non-countable Maine Mall Holiday Tournament 11 days later, Cheverus only beat Windham 39-35.

The Stags were meeting the Eagles for the second time in three years in the postseason (Cheverus won 52-27 in the quarterfinals two years ago) and didn't waste any time taking control.

Windham opened the scoring when senior Travis Guerrette made a tough angle bankshot, but a layup from sophomore Indiana Faithfull drew the Stags even. After the Eagles took their second and final lead on a layup from sophomore Jon Sangillo, Cheverus junior Ian Barwise made a layup and senior Doug Alston followed with a floater to put the Stags on top to stay. Faithfull then made three of four free throws for a 9-4 lead. After Eagles' junior Ryan MacQuestion made a jumper, Faithfull hit two more foul shots and it was 11-6. Windham sophomore Jackson Taylor hit two free throws of his own with 2:25 to play in the first, but Alston converted a three-point play and junior Peter Foley made a layup for a 16-8 advantage after one quarter.

Barwise opened the second with a layup, junior Mick DiStasio added one of his own, then DiStasio made a free throw to cap a 10-0 run. Sangillo ended the Eagles' 6 minute, 8 second scoring drought with a jump shot. Sangillo and MacQuestion both made one of two free throws to make it a 21-12 contest, but two free throws from Alston, a three-point play from junior Dan Foster and two free throws from Barwise gave Cheverus a 28-12 lead. Taylor stemmed the tide with two foul shots, but senior Chris Hendrix made one of two free throws with 50.8 seconds to go to give the Stags a commanding 29-14 lead at the break.

The lead would stretch to as many as 20 points in the second half, before Cheverus went flat and Windham, to its credit, made things interesting.

Barwise opened the second half scoring with a layup. Faithfull added a jump shot for a 33-14 advantage. After Sangillo sank a 3 for the Eagles, Alston made a jump shot and DiStasio added a layup to make it a 37-17 game. A floater by Windham sophomore Garrett Clemmer was answered by a Faithfull layup. After MacQuestion made two free throws, DiStasio scored on a driving layup for a 41-21 lead. A 3-ball and a pair of free throws from MacQuestion ended the third and got the Eagles back within 15, 41-26, heading for the fourth.

While Windham never got close enough to make Cheverus sweat, Stags' coach Bob Brown was visibly chagrined with his team's lack of a killer instinct and called several timeouts down the stretch.

The fourth started with a free throw by Foley and a rebound layup from Barwise, but Guerette made two free throws and Sangillo made a jump shot. After Alston made a layup and a pair of free throws for a 48-30 lead with 4:25 to play, the Eagles went on a 10-2 run to close things out.

After MacQuestion hit a 3-ball, Barwise made a layup with 3:52 to play for Cheverus' final points. Windham then got a jumper from MacQuestion, a layup from Sangillo on an inbounds pass and finally a 3 from senior Paul Robbins to make the final score 50-40 in favor of the Stags.

"We played well in the first half and didn't play well in the second half," Brown said. "We didn't play together as a team. We got people open in the first half, ran offense, did what we're good at, played as a team."

The Eagles (10-10) were led by 15 from MacQuestion and 12 from Sangillo.

Cheverus was paced by 13 points from Alston, who credited the win at Deering for turning the Stags' season around.

"(That win) was huge," he said. "We wanted to go into the playoffs on an upside and show teams that we could still do it.

"Team basketball is our main goal. We distribute the ball and make sure everyone gets a touch. Windham played hard. It was a tough win. Momentum and team basketball can do things."

Barwise added 12 and Faithfull had 11. DiStasio finished with seven, while Foster and Foley had three apiece and Hendrix added one.

The Stags (now 16-3) face No. 4 Portland (14-5) in the semifinals Wednesday at 7 p.m., at the Civic Center. The teams split during the regular year (a 68-62 win for the Stags at Cheverus on Dec. 21 and a 37-31 triumph for Portland at the Expo Feb. 5).

The Bulldogs have also eliminated Cheverus from three of the past four postseasons, winning 68-52 in the 2004 Western A Final, 55-44 in the semifinals two seasons ago and 62-44 in last year's regional final.

In light of those prior disappointments, rest assured the Stags are quite hungry for revenge.

"They knocked us out the last two years and I went to middle school with a lot of those guys," Alston said. "I want this game more than anything. They're a great team. I think we matchup well. They're physical. We have to physical right back at them. They'll try to intimidate us. We have to take it at them."

"We beat them the first time, they beat us the second," Brown added. "If we play well, we can beat them, if not, they can beat us."

Cape Elizabeth shows why it's No. 1, whips Wells by 37

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: February 16th, 2008

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- When a team enters the tournament with the top seed, it wants nothing more than to squeeze all hope out the underdog right from the get-go.

Cape Elizabeth did just that Saturday afternoon in a Western Class B quarterfinal. The Capers took a 20-10 lead after one period, a 40-20 advantage after two, a 52-26 lead after three and cruised to an emphatic 72-35 victory over the eighth-ranked Wells Warriors.

The win allowed Cape Elizabeth to advance to the semifinal round where it will meet an inspired Greely Rangers squad, the fourth-seed, Wednesday evening at 8:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Capers won their final 13 games this winter and hit their stride long before senior Shaine Burks rejoined the team. Burks' return made Cape Elizabeth even stronger and deeper and the Capers took their 16-2 record into the Portland Expo to face a Wells squad they had downed twice during the regular year (79-36 at home Jan. 15 and 54-45 on the road 11 days later).

Wells eliminated the Capers in two previous playoff meetings: 59-56 in the 1984 Western B semifinals, and 63-58 in the quarterfinals three years ago, while Cape Elizabeth beat the Warriors 63-49 in the 2003 preliminary round.

This one was over quickly.

Wells did hold the lead twice, 2-0 and 4-3, but three free throws from sophomore Andrew Dickey gave the Capers a 6-4 advantage. After the Warriors drew even on a bank shot from senior Demitrios Gatzogiannis, Cape Elizabeth junior Johnny Messina made a layup, junior Alex Bowe hit a floater, senior Tommy Ray scored on a layup after a steal, then Ray made another layup for a 14-6 lead. Senior Vander Forbes stemmed the tide with a layup, ending an 8-0 run and a 4 minute, 6 second Wells drought, but senior Woody Tabery answered with a layup to make it 16-8. After Gatzogiannis made a bank shot, Tabery ended the quarter with two free throws and a layup to give the Capers a 20-10 bulge.

By the 4:38 mark of the second, Cape Elizabeth's point total read 34, while the Warriors were still stuck on 10.

Burks made an immediate impact by tipping home a missed shot, scoring on a reverse layup, then converting a conventional layup. Ray added a jumper and Burks hit an amazing shot from the baseline, draining it while falling out of bounds.

"We were pretty confident," Burks said. "We knew what to do. We were focused. I like coming off the bench. These guys have worked hard. I feel comfortable coming off the bench."

"(Shaine's) had his best practice this week," added Capers' coach Jim Ray. "He looked ready."

A layup from Bowe and another by Messina capped the surge.

After Gatzogiannis ended the 18-0 run and another long drought (4:47 this time) with a floater, Ray answered with a layup and a 36-12 lead. Gatzogiannis made a foul shot and a layup to make it 36-15, but Ray made another jumper. After Wells got a layup from senior Josh Tufts, Dickey hit a floating shot. A three-point play by Forbes brought the first half to a close with the Capers ahead by 20, 40-20.

"We've been in the No. 8 spot before," coach Ray said. "I told the kids to come out to play to win. I thought our guys responded well. We didn't look by them and came to play. I was very pleased."

Any Wells comeback hopes were quickly dashed in the third.

Capers' senior Ian Place made a layup 43 seconds into the period. After Gatzogiannis answered with a layup, Burks hit a fadeaway jumper, Bowe made a layup, Dickey hit one of two free throws, scored on a layup after a steal and Ray converted a three-point play for a 52-22 advantage. The Warriors got it back to 52-26 at the end of three, but Cape Elizabeth had the game in hand.

The Capers extended their lead as the fourth progressed and fittingly scored the final seven points to put the final touches on the 72-35 win.

"I was pleased with the team's effort," coach Ray said. "Everyone played hard. I was pleased with everybody. To a man, they all looked confident. We had the depth and the ability to put a lot of pressure on. We couldn't afford to let them get comfortable in the half court and go to their big kid."

Cape Elizabeth put 11 players in the scoring column. Tommy Ray led the way with 13. Messina (12 points) and Burks (10) also scored in double figures. Bowe and Dickey had eight points apiece. Tabery finished with six. Sophomore Conor Moloney had five. Junior Andrew Guay added four. Sophomore William Pierce contributed three, junior Sean Anderson finished with two and junior Joe Atkins tallied one.

"I was pleased Tommy took some initiative offensively," coach Ray said. "Johnny Messina hit some 3's. It's easier when a bunch of guys put the ball in the basket."

Wells (8-12) was led by 15 from Gatzogiannis. Tufts finished with 10.

Cape Elizabeth will meet a confident Greely team in the semifinals. One that is flying high after coming from 10 points down to shock Falmouth on a 3-pointer from Erik Thayer at the horn.

During the regular season, the rivals split, with each winning on the other's floor (the Rangers taking a 60-46 decision Dec. 13 and the Capers returning the favor 75-71 in double-OT Feb. .

Greely has won three of four previous playoff matchups. The most recent was a 50-37 triumph in the 2003 quarterfinals. The Rangers also eliminated Cape Elizabeth in 1992 (64-50 in the semifinals) and 1998 (62-49 in the semis). The Capers' lone postseason win over Greely came in the 1984 quarterfinals (61-55).

Cape Elizabeth is certainly wary.

"They're coming off an emotional high," coach Ray said, of the Rangers. "They've got players at every position."

The Capers are also confident.

"We're ready for Greely," Burks said. "It was close last time. Hopefully this time won't be as close. We have momentum now with 14 straight."

The survivor gets the winner of the other Western B semi, Freeport-Yarmouth, in the Western B Final Saturday at 3:45 p.m. That game is also at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Class B Final is Friday, Feb. 29 at the Bangor Auditorium.

Reed, Greenlaw step down from MA baseball, football posts

Sport: Football  Posted: February 12th, 2008

Reed, Greenlaw step down from MA baseball, football posts
By Ernie Clark
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

LINCOLN, Maine - The coaching staff at Mattanawcook Academy will sport a different look beginning this spring with the retirements of two veteran coaches from the system.

Greg Reed, the Lynx’s varsity baseball coach for the last 28 years, has decided not to return to that post this spring. He’ll be replaced by former Lee Academy coach Dave Hainer.

And Art Greenlaw, head football coach at MA for the last three years after an earlier 18-year stint at Stearns of Millinocket, also has decided to step down. No replacement has yet been named to fill that vacancy, according to Mattanawcook Academy athletic administrator Rick Sinclair.

Reed, who retired from a 33-year career as an English teacher at Mattanawcook last June, had planned to return as the school’s baseball coach until recently.

He now works in an academic support capacity for postgraduate students at Lee Academy and cited the fact that he wasn’t at MA during the day and during the offseason as making it more difficult to develop and maintain relationships with his players.

"It just makes things a lot harder when you’re not in the school," said Reed, who also was a longtime golf and basketball coach at Mattanawcook.

In addition, Reed began to grow weary of the travel required of the job.

"Since we’ve been reclassified [to Class B], with some of the travel it gets to be a lot of time involved," said Reed.

Reed also acknowledged the changing complexities of coaching since he began guiding the Lynx on the diamond as varsity coach in 1979.

"It’s very different," said the 57-year-old Reed. "Not to say it’s good or bad, but it’s hard for someone from my generation to be in coaching these days."

Reed’s baseball coaching tenure at Mattanawcook was highlighted by two regional championships, an Eastern Maine Class B title in 1991 and an Eastern C crown in 2001.

Hainer was a sophomore second baseman and No. 2 hitter in the Mattanawcook Academy lineup on that 1991 championship team, and he’ll return to his hometown school’s baseball program after three seasons at neighboring Lee.

"I had a great experience at Lee," said Hainer, who guided the Pandas to a 38-18 record and the 2006 Class D state championship. "I have nothing but great things to say about the whole community. They really get behind their teams, they’re very supportive."

Hainer already works in the Lincoln school system as SAD 67’s health coordinator, and he also serves as an assistant football coach at MA.

"I wasn’t looking to leave Lee, and I probably wouldn’t have taken another job, but this was the opportunity to coach my alma mater," he said.

The Mattanawcook baseball team finished with an 8-8 regular-season record last spring, and Hainer hopes the Lynx’s returning pitching depth will be the catalyst for a solid 2008 campaign.

"I think we’ve got some talent," he said. "But I think we’ve also got a very tough schedule."

Greenlaw guided the Mattanawcook football team to a 23-9 record and three postseason appearances as varsity coach after coming out of retirement as an assistant with the Lynx in 2004 under former head coach Mike Bisson.

"I still have a love for the game and a passion for coaching," said Greenlaw, a retired educator who lives in Millinocket. "But I really feel the program needs somebody who’s in the [school] building for more hours during the off-season than I can give."

That’s of particular importance, he said, in order to develop a training regimen during the winter and spring months that is pivotal to success in the fall.

"The easy part is from mid-August to whenever the season ends in November," said Greenlaw.

Mattanawcook advanced to the Eastern Maine Class C championship game under Greenlaw in both 2005 and 2006 and qualified for the regional semifinals last fall before dropping a 15-14 decision to John Bapst of Bangor.

Greenlaw was the head coach at Stearns from 1976 to 1990 and from 1995 to 1997. He guided the Minutemen to a 111-59-5 record, with state championships in 1982, 1984, 1987 and 1995 and LTC titles in 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1995.

A former president of the Maine Principals’ Association, Greenlaw continues to serve as a part-time consultant to the University of Maine’s Sports Done Right initiative.

Assabet's Ware finds mix of grace, power

Sport:   Posted: February 10th, 2008

Assabet's Ware finds mix of grace, power

By Brendan Hall  |  February 10, 2008

S he is a star at a Division 3 vocational high school, not the perfect setting for generating any extra exposure. Samantha Ware has also not helped her profile in deciding against playing for an AAU basketball team.

Ware has propelled Assabet Valley Regional to a 14-2 mark this season, yet none of the area polls will bite hard on the Aztecs. And, with no disrespect to the Colonial Athletic League, she hasn't faced some of the area's premier high school competition.

But the Westborough resident does have this going for her - high praise from a New England basketball legend.

The past two summers, Ware attended the basketball school run by 1950s Holy Cross star Togo Palazzi at Assabet's outdoor courts in Marlborough. There, she has been put to the test against some top-flight players from across the region.

Palazzi, the Boston Celtics' No. 1 pick in 1954 and coach of the Holy Cross women in the 1980s, reports being impressed with Ware's maturity.

"You could see she was a player, very determined, extremely agile, just the way she walked on the floor, the way she played," said the Southborough resident. "She's aggressive. She has all the things a player needs."

Swinging between the guard and forward spots, the 5-foot-9-inch Ware indeed puts on a show when the Aztecs hit the floor. Averaging 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals per game, she has proven adept at any spot one through four - whether it's driving, dishing, boxing out, or running the break.

"She's such a raw talent. She's the most talented player I've coached," says Assabet Valley's coach, Frank Ferreer, whose coaching resume spans more than 20 years and includes stops at Ayer, Windsor, and Trinity Catholic.

But it's the style with which the cocaptain performs - graceful yet aggressive - that makes her game stand out. Her passes are two-handed lasers, her drives to the hole are glides.

Ware says it was formed in middle school, where she played for coach Jim Favorito on his travel squad, the Starz. She rounded out a starting five that also featured Westborough High stars Annette Kristiansen, Danielle Coffey, Emily Mongeau, and Laura Keaney.

"I don't know about other players, but when somebody's yelling at me, it pushes me to do a lot better," Ware said. "If I'm not pushing my hardest, he's yelling at me. So I'd always have that in the back of my head."

The intensity rubs off on her teammates - most notably cocaptain and forward Brittany Hisman, junior forward Jackie Perry, senior guard Lauren Ente, and freshman forward Vanessa Joubert - and anchors a stiff defense that is allowing just 27 points per game.

Operating primarily out of a 1-3-1 press and sometimes stretching it across three-quarters of the court, the Aztecs look to trap often. Hosting Hudson Catholic on Tuesday night, they held the Green Wave to a school-record 2 points in the first half en route to a 49-17 win.

But Ware, who considers Division 3 Clark University her top choice, doesn't think she is lacking attention. In fact, she says she's comfortable in this setting.

"I just try playing my best, and people recognize that," she said.

Would she be able to run with some of the big-time programs? Ferreer thinks she'd be a starter on any Division 1 program in Central Massachusetts.

Palazzi concurs.

"I'd recruit her," he said.

Wellesley girls earn wins in practice
The way Wellesley High girls' basketball coach Kristin Cieri sees it, tournament basketball is faster, more physical, and more intense. So she is careful in choosing her five-on-five combinations.

What it has yielded is an atmosphere in practice where players are not afraid to go at their teammates and expose weaknesses, and it has paid off immensely. After needing a big late-season surge to qualify for the tournament last season, the Raiders, at 11-3, are already in, while allowing just 37 points per game.

The Raiders have received solid performances from junior forward Jesse Miller (with team-high averages of 10.8 points and 8 rebounds), junior forward Corlee Stone, senior forward Lanaeya Spencer, and senior center Lyndsey Sydness, who is notching 2.5 blocks per game with the help of a wingspan (6 feet 2 inches) an inch longer than her height. They all bring different skills to the table, but Miller has been the X-factor.

"She's definitely taken her game to another level," Cieri said.

Meanwhile, the backcourt has received upbeat play from sophomore Mary Louise Dixon (4 assists, 4 steals) and freshman Blake Dietrick (4 assists).

"It's obvious they love basketball. You can see it in their faces when they play," Cieri says of the two guards. "They love to push the ball, they love to attack on the fast break. They're not afraid to shoot, but they certainly will pass the ball."

The Raiders are on a five-game win streak since falling to Walpole, 54-50, on Jan. 18.

He makes Lynnfield run

Sport:   Posted: February 10th, 2008

He makes Lynnfield run
Kennedy's scoring ability matched only by his intensity

By Julian Benbow  |  February 10, 2008

In his three years as the boys' basketball coach at Lynnfield High, Scott MacKenzie has developed at least three ways to yell at Mike Kennedy from the sideline.

He will call a zone defense, then watch Kennedy leave his assignment to pressure whoever has the ball in the backcourt.

That one usually gets the somewhat loud, partially baffled, why'd-I even-draw-it-up "Mikey!?!"

Kennedy will try to thread the needle on a no-look pass that ends up being a turnover and two points the other way.

That usually gets the part frustrated, mostly disappointed, Mr. Wilson-to-Dennis Mitchell "Mikey!!!"

Then, MacKenzie will watch as Kennedy runs through screens, locks up his man on one end, forces turnovers, hits a couple of threes in the corner at the other end, buzzes a few no-look passes by his defenders' earlobes, hooks up teammates for easy layups and open jumpers, and pulls the Pioneers back into a game.

That one usually gets the hands-in-the-air, how-did-he do-it, thanks-for-making-me-look-good "MIKEY!!!"

Sometimes MacKenzie will have to scrap everything he drew up on his clipboard just because of Mike Kennedy's intensity. But usually, he says, it's worth it.

"The hardest thing about coaching him is giving up control," he said.

"You have to give up control to let him be him. He oftentimes plays without any rhyme or reason, and you have to let him go - and I'm a control freak, so it's not easy."

It's like having a race car with no steering wheel.

"Michael goes 100 miles an hour all the time and he doesn't know anything else," MacKenzie said. "It's all or nothing. I've never met a kid with a stronger will to win than him."

Kennedy already owns Lynnfield's soccer scoring records. And after a 43-point explosion against Masconomet last Tuesday, in which he scored 30 second-half points in leading the Pioneers back from a 23-point halftime hole, he was within four points of becoming the school's all-time scoring leader on the hardwood. He is leading the Cape Ann League at 26.5 points per game, along with 5.6 assists and 4.1 steals.

But, cliche notwithstanding, he's all about winning. And after winning just 12 games the past two years, that win over the Chieftains pushed Lynnfield to 10-7, clinching the program's first state tournament berth since 2001, when the Pioneers won the Cape Ann League crown.

"Making the tournament is unbelievable," Kennedy said. "Everyone took Lynnfield basketball as a joke, like it's an easy win. But we can play with anybody."

More than anything, that's what drives Kennedy. He loves competing and hates losing.

"When we don't win, he's just a miserable man to be around," MacKenzie said. "It's not about him. It's about the 'W.' "

"I'm the worst loser in the world," Kennedy said. "I hate it. I can never lose. Some weeks just stink because you're thinking about it the whole time.


"Yeah, the whole week," he said. "You're thinking about it the whole week."

It's his disgust for losing and lust for competition that almost bring him to blows during practice with cocaptain Patrick Lamusta, someone Kennedy looks to as almost a brother.

"Mike's a competitor," Lamusta said. "But I wouldn't want anyone else on the team with me, because he wants the ball, he wants to score, he wants to win."

The logic is that if he's intense and somebody else is intense, then it will spread.

"Once one or two guys pick it up, everybody gets going," Kennedy said. "If one or two guys settle down, then everybody thinks it's OK to settle down. So it takes those one or two guys to get it going."

Everett's Johnson has Tide rising
The Everett boys host Cambridge Ringe and Latin Tuesday in the season finale against the team that handed the Crimson Tide its only loss, Greater Boston League or otherwise.

The difference, besides the location, is the personnel.

After sitting out the first 10 games of the season to focus on his academics, Isaac Johnson returned to take over point guard duties for the Crimson Tide.

"We waited to the end of the quarter for grades," head coach John DiBiaso said of Johnson, who is headed to Boston College to play football next fall.

The 5-foot-11-inch point guard has averaged 11 points a game in his return, but DiBiaso said his biggest impact has come on the boards and with ball distribution.

Johnson is also averaging close to double digits in rebounds and assists.

With an 80-53 win over Waltham Tuesday, Everett moved to 6-0 with Johnson in the lineup, beating teams by an average of 21 points.

And even though Johnson's presence sends a starter to the bench, DiBiaso said, "all the kids on the team wanted him back."

The game carries a little less weight since Rindge and Latin suffered a 63-58 overtime loss to Somerville. Everett (16-1, 8-1 GBL) now has a comfortable lead over Rindge and Latin (12-4, 7-3) in the GBL, with the league title all but wrapped up.

Norwell relies on chemistry, knowledge to get the job done

Sport:   Posted: February 10th, 2008

With patience comes victory
Norwell relies on chemistry, knowledge to get the job done

By Monique Walker  |  February 10, 2008

Norwell High players (from left) Michael Genatossio, James Long, and Tom Quinn. Norwell is 14-0, but players say they aren't looking to go undefeated. Norwell High players (from left) Michael Genatossio, James Long, and Tom Quinn. Norwell is 14-0, but players say they aren't looking to go undefeated. (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)

Thirty minutes remained in practice last week for the Norwell High boys' basketball team, and head coach John Willis was eagerly running through half-court drills.

Willis interrupted more than once when the play was not executed to his satisfaction. Again and again the Clippers threw passes from player to player, like they were playing hot potato. Finally, an open shot appeared and the play was complete.

For Willis, this is what his team does best. Norwell is not likely to be the team sprinting down the court to take the quick shot. They are patient and deliberate.

"I don't think we're a particularly flashy team, but we're solid," said Willis, now in his 14th season.

The method works. Norwell started the week 14-0 and had earned at least a share of the South Shore League.

"We're an old-fashioned 'slow it down' kind of team," Norwell senior forward James Long said. "We don't have the big 6-9 kid that can dunk. We have good team offense and good team defense."

The teamwork is effective in a squad filled with seniors, many of whom have grown up together. The chemistry and their basketball knowledge have allowed Willis to throw in an array of plays. Senior guard Michael Genatossio said the team's success starts with a strong defense.

The Clippers' scoring is spread among Long (averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game), and forwards Cam Evans and Tom Finkenstadt, who each average 12 points a game. Senior Tom Quinn is back in the lineup after breaking his leg during football season.

Genatossio is contributing quite a bit more on offense this season. Last season, he shot 17 percent from the free throw line and averaged 1 point per game. During the summer he improved his mechanics and is now shooting 80 percent from the charity stripe while averaging 9 points per game.

Brandon Wooten is a solid contributor off the bench, and there are others who make Norwell better by the way they practice, Long said. "We have younger guys who know they might not play and they come out and bust their butt every day."

The Clippers may have carried an undefeated record into last week, but that is not their focus. "We're not looking to go undefeated," Long said. "As we saw [during the Super Bowl], being undefeated doesn't really mean anything."

Winning Walpole finds 10 is enough
The Walpole girls' basketball team is 10 players strong, and coach Stacy Bilodeau said that is the perfect number for her team this year. The Rebels, packed with juniors and seniors and one sophomore, was 14-1 through 15 games, including a 13-1 mark in the Bay State Conference's Herget Division.

The last time Walpole carried this fine a record this deep into the season, in 2004, the Rebels captured the Division 2 title, in Bilodeau's second year as head coach.

Bilodeau utilizes at least eight players in every game, and there have been at least four games in which 10 players have scored. Multiple players have scored in double figures in five games.

"I knew we would compete and be a pretty good team, but we've definitely surpassed where I thought we would be at this point," said Bilodeau.

Ten players may seem like a small team, but Bilodeau said her focus is quality. If a player needs time to develop, she would rather see her learning from game situations at the junior varsity level.

Bilodeau said the 10 players can start at any time based on matching up with an opposing team's size or quickness. "I try to rotate everyone around and give everybody a chance," she said.

The program is rich in tradition. Bilodeau was a member of the 1994 state championship team under Sue Brainard and returned to the area after starring in goal for the James Madison women's soccer team. She was an assistant and later took over the program in 2002-2003 season.

Walpole has won three of the last four Herget Division titles.

The Rebels have been led by senior forward Caroline Stedman and junior guard Sydni Salvatore, who both are averaging 14 points per game. Stedman also chips in an average of 5 steals and Salvatore picks up an average of 4 assists. Junior guard/post Michaela Cosby adds an additional average of 10 points and 6 rebounds a game.

Senior forward Courtney Gouthro has improved her rebounding and often defends the opposing team's strongest post player. Junior guard Lauren Baryski also has moved in and showed her ability to shoot outside and guard.

Silver Lake pushes toward excellence
After the Silver Lake girls' basketball team defeated then-unbeaten Rockland earlier this season, a player asked Laker coach Dick Steele, "Are we good yet, coach?"

Steele replied, "No, not yet."

Steele's answer was meant to inspire his squad to look for ways to be better, win or lose. His team has heard the message; and after every game, the Lakers and Steele have the same question and answer routine, but Steele said the time will come when he can answer "Yes."

Silver Lake is 13-2 and 7-1 in the Patriot League, the best record the program has had at this point in the season since 1988, when the Lakers ended the regular season 18-2 and lost in the South semifinals. It was Steele's second season as head coach.

Silver Lake has made the state tournament in 15 of the past 20 years. But this season, wins like the victory against Rockland helped establish the team as a competitor, Steele said. "That game showed that we belong where we are."

Silver Lake has been led by captains Samantha Ford and Allison Mulvey, who averages 11.8 points a game. The senior guards are providing leadership that the Lakers will need down the stretch.

Steele said the team misses Christine Waterhouse, a senior guard who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee just one season after working her way back from a torn ACL in her right knee. But players have picked up in her absence.

The Lakers do not have one dominant player, but several who are contributing. Senior forward Chelsea Shaughnessy is a key returner, and freshman Nicole Conboy is averaging 9 points a game.

Senior guard Taylor Massmann is showing her ability to hit the 3-point shot along with Talia DeChaira, who had 20 points in a win against Hingham.
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