March 13, 2010

Class A Teams at a Glance

— TEAM: Biddeford

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John Ewing/Staff Photographer.. Friday, February 22, 2008...Westbrook vs. Deering girls regional class A semi-final game. Deering's Diana Manduca scores on a drive over Westbrook's Audrey Shutts.

John Ewing

click image to enlarge

John Ewing/Staff Photographer.. Friday, February 22, 2008...Westbrook vs. Deering girls regional class A semi-final game. Deering's Diana Manduca scores on a drive over Westbrook's Audrey Shutts.

John Ewing

COACH: Ron Cote, fifth year

LAST YEAR: 13-7, lost in quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 4

IMPACT PLAYERS: Aimee Mortensen, sr., G; Shannon Grebin, sr., F; Alyssa Grigware, sr., F; Lauren Rousseau, jr., PG; Keila Grigware, so., G/F; Nichole Kimborowicz, sr., F

OUTLOOK: If healthy, the Tigers have the ability to beat anyone in the SMAA. But Mortensen, one of the SMAA's pure scorers (853 career points), is coming off ankle surgery, Alyssa Grigware off knee surgery and Rousseau off a preseason illness. When they get near 100 percent, the Tigers will be tough to beat. They'll look to play at a frenetic pace and press opponents end to end. Grebin is an outstanding defensive player. The key could come inside, where the Tigers will need to rebound aggressively.

TEAM: Bonny Eagle

COACH: Sue Rondeau, third year

LAST YEAR: 1-17

RETURNING STARTERS: 5

IMPACT PLAYERS: Messina Provencher, sr., F; Sarah Assante, so., PG; Alyssa Severance, sr., G; Jessica MacDonald, fr., G

OUTLOOK: The Scots look to rebound from a difficult season by stressing defense and hard work. They have some good young talent -- several freshmen will see significant playing time -- but will rely on the leadership of seniors like Provencher, who played the point last year but moves inside this year to provide rebounding and toughness, and Severance, another tough defensive player who can play several positions. A key will be how the newcomers develop over the season.

TEAM: Brunswick

COACH: Rita Maines, eighth year

LAST YEAR: 13-7, lost in quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Claire Baecher, sr., C/F; Mardi Artis, sr., C/F; Mariah George, sr., F; Hilary Champagne, jr., PG; Alexa Dearborn, jr., G

OUTLOOK: The Dragons look to take the next step and become one of the top teams in Eastern A. In Baecher, a 6-3 post player who is one of the top players in the state, and the 6-2 Artis, Brunswick has the ability to dominate inside. But both can get out on the break, giving the Dragons a couple of difficult matchups. George is a tough inside player while Champagne and Dearborn play a good inside-outside game on the perimeter. Look for Brunswick to challenge in the East.

TEAM: Cheverus

COACH: Richie Ashley, second year

LAST YEAR: 7-12, lost in preliminary round

RETURNING STARTERS: 5

IMPACT PLAYERS: Theresa Hendrix, jr., G; Kristy Baum, sr., C; Elizabeth Somma, sr., G; Jamie Lowery, sr., G; Alexandra Palazzi-Leahy, fr., G

OUTLOOK: With 12 players and 10 seniors back from last year's tournament squad, the Stags look to make a deeper push into the playoffs. Cheverus is especially strong at the guard position, led by Hendrix, who was elected as captain as a junior, and Somma, who averaged about 10 points a game. The 5-8 Baum, last year's leading rebounder, provides a strong inside presence as well. The Stags will look to run and press. But a big factor will be how well they can handle the inside play of bigger opponents.

TEAM: Deering

COACH: Mike Murphy, first year

LAST YEAR: 20-2, won state championship

RETURNING STARTERS: 4

IMPACT PLAYERS: Diana Manduca, sr., G/F; Jess Ruhlin, sr., PG; Claire Ramonas, jr., C; Kayla Burchill, so,. F; Jordan Cuddy, sr., G/F; Britni Mikulanecz, so., G/F; Maria Apon, sr., G

OUTLOOK: The Rams loom as prohibitive favorites to repeat as state champions. They have experience, skill and size, a potent combination for any opponent to overcome. They can run. They can play a half-court game. And they play pressure defense better than anyone else. ''Everyone is hunting us. It won't be easy,'' said Murphy, who coached Westbrook last year. No, but Deering's inside-outside game -- Manduca and Ruhlin on the outside, Ramonas and Burchill (a 6-footer who can hit the 3) inside -- provides comfort.

TEAM: Gorham

COACH: Laughn Berthiaume, second year

LAST YEAR: 6-13, lost in preliminary round

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Natalie Egbert, so., PG; Kayleigh Ballentyne, jr., G; Jill Russell, jr., F

OUTLOOK: The Rams learned just before preseason that standout guard Rachele Burns would miss the season. It's a blow, but many of these players gained valuable experience last year when she injured her knee. Look for Ballentyne to step up and be much more aggressive offensively. Russell, at 5-11, will present some match-up problems and Egbert looks ready to be a leader at the point. The Rams will try to get out and score transition baskets. They could surprise some teams.

TEAM: Kennebunk

COACH: Rob Sullivan, 13th year

LAST YEAR: 3-15

RETURNING STARTERS: 1

IMPACT PLAYERS: Hannah Bennett, sr., F/C; Jess Gassman, sr., G; Camille Auger, so., G/F; Amanda Crowley, jr., G

OUTLOOK: The Rams have a strong group of seniors, led by the 5-10 Bennett, who averaged a team-high 10 points and nine rebounds per game last year. So they look to improve on last year's mark and make a run at the playoffs. A key will be how well the Rams handle pressure and play at their pace. While they have the ability to play an up-tempo game, they must be selective.

TEAM: Marshwood

COACH: Lee Petrie, fifth year

LAST YEAR: 13-7, lost in quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 2

IMPACT PLAYERS: Michelle Williams, sr., PG; Erin Augulewicz, sr., G; Chelsea Watson, jr., G; Lindsey Gori, jr., G; Katy Marshall, jr., G; Sarah Mulcahey, sr., F

OUTLOOK: The Hawks could be one of the spoilers in a tough SMAA. They start two four-year varsity players, the underrated Williams (12.1 points, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals per game last year) and Augulewicz, (5.4 points, 2.0 steals) at guard, giving them the experience and talent necessary to handle pressure defenses. They are very athletic and will look to run and press, getting offense off turnovers. A key will be how their young forwards handle the inside game.

TEAM: Massabesic

COACH: Andy Soldati, eighth year

LAST YEAR: 12-8, lost in quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 1

IMPACT PLAYERS: Georgia Boisse, sr., F/G; Deena Watson, sr., F; Mandy Smith, sr., PG; Amber Rollins, jr., C; Kayla Schneider, so., G/F; Brittany Leech, jr., PG

OUTLOOK: With one of the premier players in the SMAA -- Boisse led the league in scoring, assists and steals last year -- the Mustangs have a strong foundation to build around. Soldati has some experience coming back from last year's playoff team, but looks to develop depth for late in the season. The Mustangs are strong with their first six players. How well the young players come along after that will determine whether this team can take the next step and get past the quarterfinals.

TEAM: McAuley

COACH: Wil Smith, third year

LAST YEAR: 10-9, lost in preliminary round

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Gina Johnson, sr., G; Kaitlin Cimino, jr., F; Rebecca Knight, so., G/F; Nichollette Kapothanasis, so., G; Alexa Coloumbe, fr., C; Allina Verrillo, jr., F/C

OUTLOOK: This will be an interesting season for the Lions. No longer the team to beat, they are still talented enough to be considered a contender. The biggest difference between this year and the past is that much of the talent is young talent. Sophomores Knight and Kapothanasis provided a lot of highlights last year and are two of the SMAA's rising stars. Couloumbe, a 6-2 freshman from Falmouth, should have an immediate impact. ''This team has the potential to have a very good year,'' said Smith.

TEAM: Morse

COACH: Mike Hart, first year

LAST YEAR: 16-4, lost in semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 1

IMPACT PLAYERS: Beth Suggs, sr., C; Sarah Fitzgerald, jr., F; Tarra Burr, so., F

OUTLOOK: Hart, who coached at Fryeburg the last three winters, graduated from Morse in 1991 and is looking forward to coaching in his hometown. He inherits a team that lost a lot from last year, including all-everything forward Jill Henrikson. But the Shipbuilders have some nice inside talent in the 6-foot Suggs and 5-11 Fitzgerald. Both are athletic enough to cause matchup problems. Burr is an inside-outside offensive threat. Hart is hoping his team's pressure defense can force some easy transition points.

TEAM: Mt. Ararat

COACH: Kelly Lafountain, ninth year

LAST YEAR: 6-12

RETURNING STARTERS: 5

IMPACT PLAYERS: Hannah Fenwick, jr. F; Tegan Talbot, sr., G; Brie Martin, jr., G; Amber Bowley, so., G; Ariel LeDuc, jr., F; Tess Hitchcock, jr., F

OUTLOOK: The Eagles missed the playoffs for the first time in LaFountain's tenure last winter. They'll have a strong inside presence with the 6-foot Fenwick, the 5-11 LeDuc and the 5-10 Hitchcock but will really need to work hard on running their offense. ''We want to make sure we aren't forcing shots or taking them too quickly,'' said LaFountain. Mt. Ararat has some experienced guards, so look for the Eagles to play a pressure defense.

TEAM: Noble

COACH: Kyle Keenan, fourth year

LAST YEAR: 16-5, lost in regional finals

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Sloane Sorrell, sr., C; Sarah Jalbert, sr., F; Amanda Prak, sr., G; Erica Anderson, sr., F; Becky Creveling, sr., G

OUTLOOK: The Knights surprised a lot of folks by advancing to the regional final last year. Now they look to prove that wasn't a fluke. With eight experienced seniors returning, they have the potential. The 6-foot-1 Sorrell is one of the state's top inside players, adept at both inside and outside play. She's joined inside by Jalbert and Anderson, while Prak and Creveling provide a nice balance on the outside with their quickness and shooting ability.

TEAM: Portland

COACH: Jan Veinot, second year

LAST YEAR: 6-12

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Nyachuol Biliew, sr., F; Alisa Sweet, sr., F; Maria Callender, jr. PG; Floreka Malual, sr., C

OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs look to get back in the playoffs after a three-year absence and Veinot believes they can do it. Portland is a very athletic team with good outside shooters. Biliew, who played for the New England Crusaders AAU team over the summer, is one of the SMAA's top players. But the Bulldogs are small inside, though the arrival of the 5-10 Malual, who transferred in from Kentucky, will help. As always, look for the Bulldogs to run and press.

TEAM: Sanford

COACH: Kristy Parent, eighth year

LAST YEAR: 3-15

RETURNING STARTERS: 2

IMPACT PLAYERS: Mary Roberts, sr., C; Jill Boyce, sr., G; Taylor Flood, so., G; Lindsay Nolette, so., PG; Crysta Wilson, so., PG; Kate Nickerson, jr., F

OUTLOOK: Sanford gained valuable experience in last year's struggling season, so much that Parent hopes to get back in the playoff hunt. The 6-foot Roberts is a very athletic post player, capable of dominating the inside and getting out on the fast break. Sanford is fairly strong on the perimeter, with a group of good shooting guards. Much will depend on how well the young point guards can handle the pressure they're sure to see every night. Depth also could be an issue.

TEAM: Scarborough

COACH: Jim Seavey, third year

LAST YEAR: 13-6, lost in quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 3

IMPACT PLAYERS: Christy Manning, jr., F; Reegan Brackett, sr., PG; Abbey Pelletier, sr., F; Jenn Colpitts, jr., G; Heather Carrier, jr., G

OUTLOOK: The Red Storm are considered one of the top threats in the SMAA. Seavey's club is deep, experienced and talented. Manning, who led the team in rebounding and scoring each of the last two seasons, is already one of the league's top players. Brackett is an exceptional point guard while Colpitts brings a tenacity to her defense. Pelletier combines with Manning to provide a strong inside presence. Look for the Red Storm to be one of the league's top defensive teams and challenge for the top spot.

TEAM: South Portland

COACH: Mike Giordano, 13th year

LAST YEAR: 16-4, lost in semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 2

IMPACT PLAYERS: Brianna Hawkins, sr., F; Danielle McCusker, jr., G; Abby Hasson, so., F

OUTLOOK: The Red Riots have talent, but need to develop some guards in order to challenge for a top spot again. After five years of having an Aceto running the point (Christina for four, Jess last year), Giordano needs to find a point guard. McCusker, who broke her hand just before tryouts, is the team's top 3-point shooter but will be out until midseason. The versatile Hawkins is one of the SMAA's top players, a top defender who can also score, and the 5-11 Hasson gives a good inside presence.

TEAM: Thornton Academy

COACH: Caryn Sherman, sixth year

LAST YEAR: 7-11

RETURNING STARTERS: 2

IMPACT PLAYERS: Hannah Ebling, so., G/F; Alanna Richard, jr., G; Emily Higgins, jr., C; Lauren Titus, so., PG; Sammi Martemucci, jr., G; Tia Chambers, sr., G

OUTLOOK: If the Trojans are going to make the playoffs for the first time under Sherman, it's going to be because of their guards. Thornton is strong on the perimeter, with quick, athletic players capable of playing disruptive defense or getting out on the fast break. Higgins, a 6-footer, will provide a lot of the inside presence. They have some outside shooters, but look to drive to the basket to create fouls or easy layups. And while the Trojans are still relatively young, most of the players have ample varsity experience.

TEAM: Westbrook

COACH: Troy Dunphe, first year

LAST YEAR: 14-6, lost in semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: 1

IMPACT PLAYERS: Vanessa Bradbury, so., G; Emily Wight, sr., G; Ashlyn Bourgeois, jr., G; Meliah Leighton, sr., F/C

OUTLOOK: This will likely be a transition year for the Blazes, getting accustomed to a new coach and his philosophy. Dunphe, who coached the boys' junior varsity last year, is getting plenty of help from senior Erin Murphy, who can't play because of a knee injury suffered last spring. ''She's been to every practice, making her presence known,'' said Dunphe. There is some talent, especially on defense with Bradbury and Wight. The Blazes are going to have to find a way to replace their top four scorers from last year.

TEAM: Windham

COACH: Jessie Mayol, third year

LAST YEAR: 4-14

RETURNING STARTERS: 4

IMPACT PLAYERS: Riley Graves, sr., C; Jenna Willey, sr., G; Kelsey McGowan, jr., C/F; Helen Libby, sr,. G; Meghan Gribbin, fr., PG; Stephanie Frost, fr., G

OUTLOOK: The Eagles have a nice mix of experience and youth. Graves and Libby are playing their fourth varsity seasons while Willey is starting her third. ''They're hungry for a good season,'' said Mayol. And Windham has a nice group of young players, led by the freshman guards, Gribbin and Frost, who should have an immediate impact. The Eagles will stress an aggressive defensive approach, looking to create points off turnovers.

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