2009-10 Winter Male Athlete of the Year:

ZACH HORTON, Junior-Hockey

* Team MVP

Off the ice, Zach Horton and his family had an agonizing winter.

On the ice, Horton found refuge and was able to channel fear and sadness into greatness.

Early in the season, Horton’s brother, Brendan, was diagnosed with bone cancer. While Brendan missed much of the campaign while going through treatment, Zach and the Red Riots rallied around him and found a new purpose in putting together arguably the best season in program history.

Even though his mind was often elsewhere, Horton was superb on the ice, scoring clutch goals and leading a young team to a fantastic finish.

In light of his heroic behavior and the fact that he’s a pretty impressive hockey player to boot, Zach Horton is The Forecaster’s choice as South Portland’s 2009-10 Winter Male Athlete of the Year.

Horton grew up in South Portland and started playing hockey at a young age. A defenseman, he joined the varsity team as a freshman. He’s been a factor on the gridiron in the fall and on the diamond in the spring, but was superb this winter.

Early in the season, Brendan Horton was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment. Zach turned to his sport and teammates for support.

“We dedicated the season to (Brendan),” Zach Horton said. “He was a huge inspiration. I knew I had to play. I did what I had to do.”

The Red Riots started 1-3 before roaring to life, winning 13 of their final 14 contests. Horton’s highlights included two goals and a pair of assists in a win over Deering, a goal and two helpers (including one on the decisive goal) in a victory against Cheverus, a goal versus Kennebunk and two goals and an assist versus Marshwood.

Horton finished 10 goals and a team-high 20 assists, good for 30 points, one behind leader Zach Griffin. He led the team in power play goals.

Brendan, a sophomore defenseman, responded well to treatment and managed to play in five games. South Portland then rallied past Portland to win a quarterfinal round playoff game for the first time. The run ended with a semifinal loss to eventual state champion Biddeford, but the happy feelings engendered by this campaign will linger a long time.

Horton feels that baseball is his best sport, but that hockey is his favorite. He wants to participate in sports in college.

In the meantime, he’ll hope to team with his brother next winter to produce another memorable season.

He’s already created an admirable legacy. Zach Horton, South Portland’s 2009-10 Winter Male Athlete of the Year, showed that he is mature beyond his years and is a very impressive young man.

Coach Joe Robinson’s comment: “Zach managed to stay focused and get the job done on a consistent basis. Other than being extremely gifted as an athlete, he is very focused, disciplined and dedicated to becoming the best he can possibly be in any sport, but he is also dedicated to his team, family and friends. He is a team leader who is able to stay on task even when ‘real life’ gets in the way and he takes pride in his work, team and school. He was second on the team with points. He led the team in power play goals and all that was while his brother was going through radiation for bone cancer.”

2008-09 winner: Keegan Hyland (Basketball)

2007-08 winner: Nick Wright (Basketball)

2006-07 winner: Coleman Findlay (Basketball)

2005-2006 winner: Tim Clark (Hockey)

2004-2005 winner: Andrew Cousins (Basketball)

2003-2004 winner: Max Ludwig (Indoor track)

2002-2003 winner: Ethan Gato (Indoor track)

2001-2002 winner: Jesse Ludwig (Indoor track)

2009-10 Winter Female Athlete of the Year:

DANIELLE DIBIASE, Junior-Basketball

* SMAA All-Conference, honorable mention

After being hit hard by graduation, the South Portland girls’ basketball team had its work cut out making the playoffs this season. Then, the Red Riots lost one of their top players late in the regular year, but still made it to the quarterfinals for the 10th straight year, thanks in large part to the heroics of Danielle DiBiase.

She scored key baskets, but also did much, much more, in helping her team finish strong. As a result, Danielle DiBiase is The Forecaster’s choice as South Portland’s 2009-10 Winter Female Athlete of the Year.

DiBiase was named Spring Female Athlete of the Year last school year for her softball acumen.

DiBiase started playing basketball in the third grade and made varsity as a freshman. This year, she had several highlights, including 11 points versus Sanford, 15 against Marshwood, 12 versus Noble, a season-high 19 against Thornton Academy, 16 versus Portland, 15 against Westbrook and 11 in a rematch against Portland.

For the regular season, DiBiase was 14th in the SMAA with a 10.1 points-per-game average, averaged 3.2 assists, made 79 percent of her foul shots and nearly 50 percent of her field goal attempts.

In an upset preliminary round playoff win at Sanford, DiBiase had 10 clutch points, allowing the Red Riots to advance to the quarterfinals against Scarborough. There, South Portland was blanked in the first period and lost 40-22. DiBiase had two points in defeat.

Through it all, she made big shots, set up her teammates, played stellar defense and served as a quiet leader on the floor. She always works to improve and figures to have a strong senior season.

It didn’t come easily for the Red Riots, but they once again made the playoffs. A big reason for their success was the play of Danielle DiBiase, South Portland’s 2009-10 Winter Female Athlete of the Year.

Coach Mike Giordano’s comment: “Danielle had a breakout season for us. She led in the team in points scored, assists, steals and free throw shooting, all the while guarding the opponents’ best perimeter player. She’s a very self-motivated young lady who expects success every time she has the opportunity to compete. She has a great work ethic and is very easy to coach.”

2008-09 winner: Brianna Hawkins (Basketball)

2007-08 winner: Curry Girr (Diving)

2006-07 winner: Kelsey Flaherty (Basketball)

2005-2006 winner: Christina Aceto (Basketball)

2004-2005 winner: Whitney Morrow (Basketball)

2003-2004 winner: Courtney Albin (Indoor track)

2002-2003 winner: Abby Lesneski (Basketball)

2001-2002 winner: Abby Lesneski (Basketball)

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