A year ago, Freeport won the Class C girls’ skiing state title on the strength of on Alpine team that won consecutive state crowns. Graduation and transfers took a toll on the Falcons this winter, as Freeport slipped to third in Alpine. Senior Taylor Enrico and sophomore Wynne Cushing led the way with top 10 finishes in both slalom and giant slalom.
Still, the Falcons won their second straight overall title thanks to a much-improved Nordic contingent led by sophomore Lizzy Martin, who placed third in skate and fourth in classic.
“They kind of carried us last year,” said junior Bethanie Knighton of Freeport’s Alpine team, “so it felt good that we were able to pull through this year and give them a comfortable lead.”
Knighton was 10th in skate and 12th in classic. The other Nordic scorers were all freshmen: Nina Moore placed ninth in skate and 10th in classic, Lily Johnston was sixth in classic, and Fiona Ahearne was 12th in skate.
Freeport won the overall title, 195-268, over Alpine champion Fort Kent largely due to the 129-point cushion the Falcons forged in Nordic, whose title was won by their neighbors in New Gloucester, Merriconeag, the Waldorf school with grades 1 through 8 located in Freeport.
“We have a lot of connections,” Knighton said. “Some of the girls on our team went to Merriconeag, so we all talk and know each other.”
After the Nordic races were complete, kids from both schools returned to the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle for night skiing.
“It was really pretty in Presque Isle,” said Knighton, of her first trip to Aroostook County.
Freeport’s boys fell four points short of Fort Kent for the overall title, 153-157.
Trailing 29-22 at halftime against Bonny Eagle in the Western Maine Class A final Saturday, South Portland had to get back to the things it does very well.
“I told the kids two things,” said Coach Phil Conley.
“Stay together as a group and get the ball inside. If we do that, we’ll get back into this game,” he said.
Now seven points isn’t a huge deficit, but the way Bonny Eagle attained it proved to the Red Riots they would have to turn the game’s tempo around quickly or the Scots could run away with it because of their explosiveness with Dustin Cole.
Bonny Eagle got its lead by going on a 12-0 run with Cole accounting for nine of the points.
The Riots responded with an 11-0 run to open the third quarter. They went inside to 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaren Muller. Muller scored three straight baskets and Vinall Trophy winner Tanner Hyland hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give South Portland a 31-29 lead. Muller added another inside baskets for eight points in the quarter.
The Riots never trailed again, although the game stayed very close. South Portland outscored the Scots, 16-4, in the quarter.
“Jaren has a good pair of hands,” said Conley.
Muller has been a dependable scorer all season, and with other big men John Tolan and Ben Burkey, it’s given the Riots a formidable frontcourt.
The fourth quarter turned into a scoring duel between Hyland and Cole.
Hyland scored 11 in the quarter while Cole had 15.
“Ball control was the key once we got the lead,” said Hyland.
“They were pressing us. We were hitting our free throws and we played solid defense on Dustin. He’s going to score. You can’t lock him down. You can only slow him and we did a pretty good job,” he said.
Hyland finished with 30 points and Cole had 36 in one of the best head-to-head performances in a regional final.
Conley called South Portland’s first regional basketball title since 1993 “a win for the city of South Portland.”
“It’s been a long time for South Portland getting back to a regional championship,” he said.
“I’m happy for the players, the coaches and the school. This win goes out to the city.”
Added Hyland: “The people of South Portland come out and watch us every game.”
Hyland tied a Western Maine Class A tournament record for most 3-pointers in a game with seven. That equaled the mark set by Robert Pilsbury of Portland in 1999.
Hyland became the 13th South Portland player to win the Vinall Trophy as MVP of the Western Maine Class A tournament.
Previous winners were Parker Small (1938), James Dubowick (1940), Don Doane (1949), Chris Heal (1958), Ed McAleney (1970), Jim Beattie (1971), Brett Brown (1978), Ken Lynch (1979), Paul Burnell (1980), Steve Gerry (1983), Mike Kendall (1985) and Bert Rich (1993).
MEDOMAK VALLEY’S 6-foot-8 center John Murray is a Mr. Basketball semifinalist and an obvious attraction for opponents. Murray was double-teamed every time he got the ball against Mount Desert Island. While he was being contained, the Panthers were slow starting on offense.
Finally, the Medomak Valley guards began making plays — outside shots, drives to the basket — and that opened up the post players, Murray and 6-foot-5 Ryan Ripley. The result was a 56-50 Panthers win over MDI for the Eastern Class B championship.
“It took a little bit for the guards to get going,” Medomak Valley guard Jonathan Henrickson-Belloguet said. “Our bigs weren’t getting anything. John’s our go-to guy and we had to work around that.
“But our team chemistry is good. We could work around it.”
When the Western Class A girls’ championship game between McAuley and Cheverus tightened up in the final minutes, the Lions were ready.
Cheverus had to foul and McAuley’s players responded. The Lions went 8 for 8 at the foul line in the final 80 seconds to secure McAuley’s 47-36 win.
It was McAuley’s third regional championship in a row. The two-time defending state champs will play Bangor in the state title game at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.
“We run a lot before we shoot foul shots every day in practice,” said McAuley Coach Bill Goodman. “We want the girls to feel like it’s the fourth quarter, so we always shoot foul shots that way.”
Allie Clement got the first two, followed by Sarah Clement, Victoria Lux and Olivia Smith.
ALLIE CLEMENT was named the winner of the Edward “Red” McMann Award as the tournament’s outstanding player/sportsman.
She scored 15 points against Cheverus. What made her efforts even more impressive is that she has played the entire season with an injured right foot. She has to wear a plastic boot when not playing basketball. She is limited in practice — “Some shooting drills and very light running,” said Goodman — and is in pain whenever she puts pressure on the foot.
Her father, Brian, said she will have an MRI after the season to determine exactly what the injury is. It may be a stress fracture.
Allie Clement shrugs it off.
“That’s my problem, I deal with it,” she said. “On the court I ignore it. I forget about it. Nothing matters at that point. I’ll deal with it after the game. I don’t care how much pain it is.”
Clement is being recruited by about a dozen Division I schools. Boston College associate head coach Yvonne Hawkins was at the game Saturday night.
Alexa Coulombe, a former McAuley teammate who now plays for Boston College, attended the title game, along with Sadie DiPierro. Both played on McAuley’s last two state championship teams.
In addition to BC’s presence, Jen Rizotti, the head coach at Hartford, was also on hand, as well as coaches from Marist, Holy Cross and Binghamton.
LAKE REGION High has been the favorite in Western Class B girls since the first day of practice back in November. The Lakers survived an injury-plagued middle of the regular season, then shifted into its take-no-prisoners mindset on defense in the playoffs and cruised to a second consecutive regional title.
Paul True, coach of the Lakers, said his team has handled the pressure well all season.
“I’ve said all year I’d rather have the target on my back than being an underdog,” said True. “I’d rather be the favorite and have a program that everyone else is looking to knock off. I think that says a lot about our program. And our kids handle that pretty well.
“I think our kids are very self-motivated and I don’t think they need to be the underdog in order for them to get up for big games.”
Lake Region, in the state championship game for the fifth time in eight years, will play Presque Isle at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center in a rematch of last year’s title game, won by the Wildcats 49-47.
True is looking forward to the sequel, no matter what happens.
“One game is not going to define us or our season,” he said. “At the end of the year, if you’re playing your last game where, whether you win or lose you know it’s your last game, then you’ve had a great year. I couldn’t be more proud of the kids, we’re just very fortunate and excited to be here.”
MCAULEY’S MOLLY MACK, a senior forward, is more known for her rebounding and defense.
So when she hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring of the Western Class A girls’ title game with Cheverus, she opened some eyes.
“Coach told me before the game if I was wide open, shoot the ball,” she said.
It was a perfect shot, jump-starting the Lions to their 47-36 win over the Stags.
Mack has been part of all three consecutive regional titles won by the Lions, but this one was special, she said. “This one is the best though. I feel like I contributed more to our team. We’ve been working really hard.”
Victoria Lux, the sophomore forward who had four huge points down the stretch for the Lions, said this was a victory for everyone.
“I think this is great for our school, for our basketball program,” she said. “We are a family. It’s a great basketball community. Our coaches love us, we love them.”
CHEVERUS EARNED a great deal of praise for its efforts in the regional game against McAuley. And with good reason.
After a grueling first half, the Stags pushed McAuley like no other team this year. Twice in the final two minutes, Cheverus pulled within four points. But McAuley’s foul shooting down the stretch held off the Stags.
“McAuley is one of the best teams in the state, perhaps the best,” said Coach Richie Ashley. “They knew they were in a game.”
He credited seniors Mikayla Mayberry, Brooke Flahery, Victoria Nappi and Kylie Libby with bringing Cheverus back.
“They bought into what we sold,” he said. “Everything we talked about being a Chevarian, they bought into that. They put the team first. They brought us back. It’s a real tribute to them.”
WAYNFLETE SOPHOMORE forward Juliana Harwood fell hard to the floor, with her leg twisting awkwardly in the second quarter of Saturday’s Western Class C final against Madison. Harwood was in obvious pain. While two athletic trainers attended, Waynflete Coach Brandon Salway stood a few feet to her side with a solemn look on his face.
The scene was all-too-familiar for Catherine Veroneau, though her perspective was different. The past two years Veroneau suffered major knee injuries and both severely hampered the Flyers’ quest for a Western Class C title.
“When Juliana went down that really brought me back to my injuries and reminded me why I love to play. It reminded me of how I wanted to do everything I could to keep the team focused and ready and playing well,” Veroneau said.
Waynflete had significantly outplayed Madison prior to Harwood’s injury, but due to poor shooting had just a 14-10 lead. But rather than being deflated by the injury, Waynflete responded by scoring 13 straight points in 90 seconds after play resumed and went on to beat Madison, 63-41.
Waynflete (19-3) will appear in its first Class C state championship game on Saturday, facing undefeated Calais (21-0) at the Bangor Auditorium.
Veroneau and Rhiannon Jackson replaced Harwood’s inside scoring presence and combined for 5 points in the second half.
“Catherine and Rhiannon did an amazing job. I was sitting over there and I just kept hearing their names, ‘Rhiannon Jackson. Catherine Veroneau.’ It was a great team effort,” Harwood said.
Harwood has a history of her knee dislocating. She played for about 50 seconds at the start of the second half before the knee again gave out on her.
As for the state final next Saturday, Harwood said: “I don’t care what it is, I’m playing.”
“We have a good training staff and we’ll let them make the call,” Salway said. “We’ll just have to see what she’s dealing with. We need her obviously. It would be a tough blow to not have her.”
WAYNFLETE BEAT four Mountain Valley Conference teams in the West playoffs, each by more than 20 points. Salway pointed out his squad is the first from the Western Maine Conference to advance to the Class C state championship since the Penny Moody-led Wells team in 1979.
Waynflete senior Martha Veroneau became the seventh two-time winner of the Robin Colcord Award, which honors the outstanding player-sportsman in the Class C tourney. She scored 103 points in four games.
Jackson averaged 13.5 points in the Flyers’ run through the West, reaching double figures in each game.
The Greely girls finished in second place in the state Class B swimming and diving championships Tuesday, and Rangers Coach Bob Hale looked as pleased as he was Monday when his boys team won the state championship.
“If you asked me in December if we’d be in this position, I’d laugh at you,” Hale said after the girls’ meet. “We had freshmen and sophomores who weren’t even close to qualifying and then they ended up scoring.
“One girl qualified in the last meet. She was seeded last and she ended up scoring.”
Hale was referring to freshman Katie Bacall, who qualified for the consolation finals in the 100 freestyle and finished 15th overall in the event, in 1:03.04.
WAYNFLETE QUALIFIED five swimmers for the consolation and championship finals of the girls state Class B swimming and diving championships. The small group totaled 223 points for fourth place.
Colby Harvey (first in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly) led the group, followed by Amelia Deady (second in the 200 and 100 freestyles), Ellen Silk (second in 100 butterfly and third in 500 freestyle), Walker Foehl (third in 100 backstroke and fourth in 50 freestyle) and Sofia Caning (12th in 200 freestyle).
The foursome of Harvey, Deady, Silk and Foehl set meet records in the 200 free relay (1:40.13) and 400 free relay (3:41.00).
“We’re all juniors,” Harvey said, “so we can go (for the state records) next year.”
The state record in the 200 free relay is 1:39.41 (Falmouth, 2006) and the 400 free relay state record is 3:40.61 (Greely, 2011).
– Glenn Jordan, Tom Chard, Mike Lowe, Steve Craig and Kevin Thomas contributed to this report.