Henry Cleaves was a reluctant convert to basketball. Soccer was his sport, with lacrosse a close second.

But Waynflete Coach Rich Henry approached Cleaves in his freshman year and talked him into joining the Flyers’ basketball team.

Now a senior, Cleaves is one of the captains of a team heading to the Western Class C semifinals. He had 13 points Monday in a quarterfinal win over Monmouth.

“I spent last summer working on my game a little bit. Before that, I didn’t care. But I figured, I’m a captain, I’ve got to work hard at this. And here I am making plays,” said Cleaves, who also captains the soccer and lacrosse teams.

He said he’s thrilled that he accepted Henry’s challenge.

“There’s nothing like a basketball team. It’s a brotherhood, 14 guys, and you get closer to them than anyone in the school,” Cleaves said. “This is all I could ask for my high school experience.”

Cleaves won a state soccer title as a sophomore, and the Flyers’ starting five in basketball also start on the soccer team. But he said there’s no doubt which sport means more in Maine.

“Personally, I think basketball is the most challenging sport to win a state championship in. Just because it’s the most popular sport, it gets the most attention, you can watch yourself on TV, which is always fun. You can talk to reporters,” Cleaves said. “Soccer doesn’t get really intense until the regional final.

“But here at the Augusta Civic Center, you have guys from all around Maine who just love the sport of basketball to come and watch, which is always nice.”

 

IT WAS THE high point of the season for Alex McPherson of Hall-Dale, and the way he sees it, it’s just a sign of things to come for his team.

The Bulldog senior scored a team-high 14 points Monday in a Western Class C quarterfinal victory over Boothbay, and immediately proclaimed it the best game of his season.

“The shots were starting to hit. I was a little more patient,” said McPherson, who nailed a pair of 3-pointers.

His coach, Chris Ranslow, was happy to see it.

“Alex can shoot it when he squares his shoulders,” Ranslow said. “And to his credit, he’s put up with a lot of my crap over the past two years. I’ve been really hard on him.”

McPherson said his breakout night started with extra time in the gym in the past week.

“It’s the end of the year, it’s time to start peaking,” he said, then offered a prediction.

“It just happened to be my night, and everyone else is going to follow suit, I’m sure.”

 

SOUTH PORTLAND Coach Lynne Hasson agreed with the notion that her girls’ basketball team had a pretty good season. The Red Riots finished 15-4 after Monday’s quarterfinal loss to Cheverus.

But, she added, “It’s disappointing. It’s going to take a few days to get over this one. When you lose your first game in the tournament, it’s hard to hear people say you’ve had a good year.’’

The Riots weren’t expected to be among the top contenders in Western Class A, but led by youngsters Lydia Henderson and Maddie Hasson they surprised just about everyone. Along the way, they made some big comebacks from halftime deficits.

They couldn’t do it again Monday.

“In reality,’’ said Hasson, “there are only so many times you can come back against great teams.’’

 

CHEVERUS, MEANWHILE, got past the Riots as senior guard Georgia Ford scored 21 points, including three huge 3-pointers.

Coach Richie Ashley noted that Ford is finally playing where she is most comfortable – shooting guard.

“I think the whole year she tried to do everything and be everyone,’’ said Ashley, noting she played multiple positions. “Now she’s back at her most comfortable role.’’

IN THE REGULAR SEASON, Windham’s girls basketball was inconsistent and prone to lopsided losses against top teams.

“We’ve had some tough games against some of the top teams in the conference. Definitely not going to lie about that for sure,” Windham Coach Brody Artes said. “One of our biggest focuses was really just to compete for 32 minutes. I felt in some of our losses against the top teams we had spurts, not entirely the whole game, but a good eight-, nine-minute stretch where things weren’t going our way.”

Down 26-17 through three quarters against No. 2 Thornton Academy, Windham scored 17 points in the final eight minutes.

Windham’s win sets up a No. 7 vs. No. 6 regional semifinal against Cheverus. The teams played in the season opener, with Cheverus winning 46-33 behind 13 points each from Jess Willerson and Georgia Ford.

Windham’s top player, sophomore Sadie Nelson, and Monday’s heroine, Haley Batchelder, were each held to four points in the season opener. They each had 14 in the upset of Thornton.

“I think we can definitely beat them. We’re a completely different team now,” Batchelder said.

– Staff Writers Mark Emmert, Mike Lowe and Steve Craig contributed to this report