Westbrook High boys’ basketball captains Zac Manoogian and Landon Sjoberg appreciate the run their team has been on – seven straight wins, a 9-3 record, and sitting fifth in the competitive Class A South Heal point standings.

But they want more than just to improve on last year’s 10-8 regular season.

“We look at the banners in the gym and we have only four, and the last one was 1984,” Manoogian said. “We haven’t won a championship in (more than) 30 years so we want to be the people that bring that back.”

Second-year coach Dan LeGage, who won two titles in 12 years at Deering, encourages his group to dream big.

“Of course. I wouldn’t have come back to coaching if that wasn’t the goal. That’s always what drives me,” LeGage said.

Westbrook once was a staple among the state’s top basketball teams. Between 1969 and 2000 the Blue Blazes won seven Western Class A titles, and added state championships in 1972, 1975 and 1984.

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Assistant coach Jeff Sawyer, whose son Bailey is a senior starter, was on regional championship teams in 1994 and 1996. Another assistant, Jeff Guerette (Westbrook’s football coach) was on the Bangor team that beat Westbrook 46-43 in the 1996 final.

“LeGage always brings up his past experiences with state championships, and then Sawyer brings up all of his and Guerette brings up his,” Manoogian said. “They’ve all had experience with winning.”

Manoogian is Westbrook’s leading scorer and best overall player. The rest of the team is a collection of athletes between 5-foot-11 and 6-3. Most play multiple sports. Seniors Miece Loureiro, Bailey Sawyer, Hamza Hanifi and sophomore point guard Kyle Champagne were key members of the football team.

Last season started slowly. LeGage had taken the job late and was unable to work with the team in the summer.

“Being able to play the summer together, it just develops the relationships with each other personally and on the court,” said Sjoberg, a junior forward. “There’s that trust there. You’re running your offenses and your stuff every day in the summer, and it makes it a lot easier once you get to the real season.”

The Blue Blazes use an eight-man rotation and have had a variety of players contribute. Junior Deng Jany stepped into the starting lineup for two games when Sjoberg was out with an injured ankle, and sophomore Jeremiah Alado scored 18 points off the bench against Gorham.

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Westbrook has one game remaining against a team with a winning record, at home against unbeaten Greely on Feb. 3.

“We just need to continue to get better throughout the year and hopefully by the middle of February we’re where we want to be,” Sjoberg said.

CAPE ELIZABETH junior guard Finn Bowe’s broken fibula is likely season-ending, said Coach Jim Ray. Bowe will be in a cast for four to six weeks after breaking the smaller of the two bones that runs from the knee to the ankle.

He was injured when he slipped on a wet spot in the second half of Cape’s home victory Saturday against Lake Region. That was Cape’s seventh straight win. Two days later the Capers were thumped by York, 50-36.

Bowe had averaged 21.5 points in his last six full games. His season highlights included a 33-point breakout against Westbrook, a game-winning 3-pointer against Falmouth and 23 points in an overtime win at York.

“Not only was the one guy covering Finn, but two other guys were shadowing him. He was usually occupying three defenders,” Ray said. “Now it’s a domino effect. Other teams can shift stronger defenders … down the line.”

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SAM FARRELL, the girls’ basketball coach at Brunswick, could see the potential in his team in the preseason. That doesn’t always guarantee success, but the Dragons have been one of the best teams in the competitive Class A South. Brunswick is 10-2 and ranked second heading into Friday’s home game against Edward Little, ranked second in Class AA North.

The Dragons’ only losses have been to Greely, top-ranked in Class A South at 10-1, and the Eddies, who are 10-2.

“It was a hope,” said Farrell, when asked if he saw this potential. “I could see the kids stepping up, but teams look a lot different in tryouts than they do in January. It was a matter of kids stepping up and taking chances. And they’re becoming confident.

“I think the biggest thing is that everybody is working hard to get better and every night someone else seems to step up.”

While senior forward Madeline Suhr is among the top two scorers on a nightly basis, the Dragons are well balanced. Senior Brooke Barter led the team with 19 points in a 61-27 win over Morse. Sophomore guard Charlotte McMillan led the Dragons with 15 in a 51-47 overtime win over Kennebunk, and also hit the game-winning shot in the final minute of a 39-38 win over Lewiston. Junior guard Sabrina Armstrong is capable of breaking down any defense.

Farrell also credits leadership from his four seniors: Suhr, Barter, Aiden Sachs and Heather Kinee.

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“It doesn’t matter if they’re starting or scoring, they’re still finding ways to lead,” said Farrell. “They’re vocal and they work hard, and they’re great role models for the younger players.”

THE WINDHAM BOYS are another team on the rise. The Eagles won their eighth straight game Wednesday, beating Bonny Eagle, 57-45, and are 9-3 in Class AA North.

The Eagles were 7-11 and didn’t make the playoffs last season. Second-year coach Chad Pulkkinen expected his team to be improved but in the preseason noted junior guards Nick Curtis and Mike Gilman would have to handle both expanded expectations and increased attention. As sophomores, Curtis led the SMAA in assists and averaged 16.8 points while Gilman scored 18.6 ppg.

“It’s really fun to watch them evolve. They both have matured so much,” Pulkkinen said.

“Nick has become a stronger leader and more composed. And Mike is maybe our most improved player. He’s giving us so much more on the defensive end. He’s really becoming an all-around basketball player.”

Junior guard/forward Hunter Coffin is playing the role of defensive stopper and is a third scoring option. Senior captain Chris Brown provides a smart, calming court presence.

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Sophomore Dierhow Bol, the 6-6 younger brother of South Portland senior Ruay Bol, adds excitement with blocks and dunks, and “is literally getting better every single day,” Pulkkinen said.

Windham, sixth in the Class AA North standings, plays four of its next five games against the top four teams in AA: North No. 1 Edward Little (12-0) on Tuesday, with North No. 2 Portland (10-1), South No. 2 South Portland (8-2) and South No. 1 Thornton Academy (12-0) to follow.

“We’re ready for the challenge and ready to see where we’re at,” Pulkkinen said. “It will be exciting to see if we really are a contender.”

THE FREEPORT GIRLS look to get back on track after a disappointing 44-41 loss to Old Orchard Beach on Monday. The Falcons, 7-3 and ranked fifth in Class B South, had won four straight before that loss, including impressive victories against Lake Region and Yarmouth.

It was the Falcons’ fourth game in seven days and Coach Mike Hart said he could see the mental and physical fatigue. Freeport has a home game with Fryeburg Academy on Friday and, Hart said, “It’s a great opportunity for us to see if we can come back and contribute the way we want to.”

It’s been a strong season for the Falcons, who have seven freshmen on the roster. “But we are showing some maturity,” Hart said.

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Senior Regan Lynch has been a key as well, leading the Falcons in rebounding (7.7) while second in scoring (8.4) behind junior guard Taylor Rinaldi (11.9 points per game). Rinaldi also leads the team in steals with 43.

Freshman point guard Caroline Smith also has been impressive.

“She’s taken the toughest position on the court and done a nice job with it,” said Hart. “In the preseason she showed a lot of composure and she didn’t get flustered when teams pressured us. She’s kept that up and done a nice job.”

Joanna Bouge-Marlowe also has had a strong start, leading the team with 24 assists.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

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Twitter: SteveCCraig

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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