Senior Geremi Baez will be a force to be reckoned with for South Portland’s talented boys’ basketball team this season. File photo.

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Coach: Kevin Millington (fifth year, 55-29 overall record)

2018-19 record: 11-9 (Lost, 55-50, to Bonny Eagle in Class AA South semifinals)

Top returning players: Geremi Baez (Senior), Gerik Bialorucki (Senior), Ryan Boles (Senior), Cade Carr (Senior), Hunter Owen (Senior), Pamba Pamba (Senior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 6 @ Gorham, Dec. 10 DEERING, Dec. 17 @ Greely, Dec. 20 BONNY EAGLE, Dec. 23 @ Scarborough, Jan. 2 THORNTON ACADEMY, Jan. 7 @ Portland, Jan. 9 @ Bonny Eagle, Jan. 11 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 14 CHEVERUS, Jan. 28 @ Thornton Academy, Jan. 31 GORHAM

Coach’s comment: “Most of last year’s contributors are back. Our leading scorers return. We’re pretty athletic this year. We can compete with anybody. It’s a balanced league. The South is better than I can ever remember it being. It’ll be a tough road.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: For the first time in a few years, South Portland isn’t in the favorite’s role in the region, but even in a season where there are multiple good to possibly-great teams, the Red Riots will have a major say as to who comes out of Class AA South.

South Portland has a lot of firepower returning. Pamba (11.6 points per game) was a third-team league all-star in 2018-19 and he’ll be tough to match up with from his guard position. Pamba is joined by point guard Bialorucki, Boles and junior Luca Desjardins in the back-court. Carr can play guard or forward.. Baez (9.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 0.9 blocks per game last winter) can do a little of everything and he’ll make life miserable for the opposition as well. Other forwards to watch include Owen and sophomore Owen Maloney. Keep an eye on freshman Jaelen Jackson, who will see time at point guard and could make an immediate impact.

Defending regional champion Bonny Eagle, along with Gorham and Thornton Academy, are getting much of the preseason buzz, but as always, South Portland is stacked with talent and depth. The Red Riots will be pushed night in, night out against a challenging schedule, but they’ll be as strong as anyone by the time the tournament rolls around. Don’t be surprised if South Portland goes on a deep run in late February.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Senior Maggie Whitmore is one of the state’s premier girls’ basketball players. She hopes to lead South Portland to the championship this winter. File photo

Coach: Lynne Hasson (seventh year, 101-21 overall record)

2018-19 record: 19-2 (Lost, 35-25, to Scarborough in Class AA South Final)

Top returning players: Kaleisha Towle (Senior), Maggie Whitmore (Senior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 6 @ Gorham, Dec. 17 GREELY, Dec. 23 @ Scarborough, Jan. 7 PORTLAND, Jan. 11 SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 14 @ Cheverus, Jan. 31 GORHAM

Coach’s comment: “I’m most pleased with our new varsity players who are showing good things. The kids are hungry. We’re 100 percent about team-first. It’s a very unselfish group. I’m most worried about picking up Jena Leckie’s rebounding slack. It will come down to our mental toughness.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland had another stellar season last winter, but all that’s remembered is the ending, another disappointing loss on the big stage at the Civic Center with an elusive state final berth hanging in the balance. The Red Riots lost some key contributors, including Bela Cloutier, Jena Leckie and Katie Whitmore, but they return arguably the state’s best player in Maggie Whitmore and some other very talented girls who will keep this squad right at the top of Class AA.

Maggie Whitmore was a first-team league all-star last season after averaging 14 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals and has already committed to play next year at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Whitmore, a captain, is a special talent, who can handle the ball, run the floor and hit outside shots, as well as finish at the rim. She’s a top defender as well. She’ll be the focal point of the opposition, but there’s plenty more talent in reserve. Junior guard Maria Degifico made the SMAA All-Rookie team a year ago. She will be the point guard, with Whitmore and sophomore Julia Coyne also seeing time. Senior Ashlee Aceto, South Portland’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, is also a captain and a guard this season. Down low, Towle, the third captain, will be a force at both ends of the floor. Sophomore Hylah Owen should play a bigger role this year in the front-court. Sophomore Eliese Perron and freshman Nevaeh Bello  can come off the bench and make an impact. Senior Shaelyn Kierstead is a program veteran and senior center Cora Boothby-Akilo has a great upside once she returns from injury, likely next month.

South Portland will need to generate offensive balance beyond Whitmore to get where it hopes to land later in the season. The Red Riots were the league’s top defensive squad in 2018-19 and if they can repeat that feat, they’ll be very tough to beat. After some near-misses as the clear favorite, perhaps this is the year that South Portland breaks through when it matters most.

BOYS’ HOCKEY

Senior goalie Liam McGibbon will save a lot of shots this season for the South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete boys’ hockey co-op squad. File photo.

Coach: Joe Robinson (13th year, 107-115-9 overall record)

2018-19 record: 11-8-1 (Lost, 3-1, to Biddeford in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Austin Gross (Senior), Deven Hannan (Senior), Gus Lappin (Senior), Liam McGibbon (Senior), Eric Walker (Senior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 7 ST. DOM’S, Dec. 12 @ Portland/Deering, Dec. 21 BIDDEFORD, Dec. 30 @ Scarborough, Jan. 9 CAPE ELIZABETH, Jan. 15 @ St. Dom’s, Jan. 18 LEWISTON, Jan. 23 @ Biddeford, Feb. 15 PORTLAND/DEERING, Feb. 18 @ Falmouth

Coach’s comment: “With North and South A combined now, it will be super-competitive with no clear-cut team at the top. All of the teams have a legitimate chance, so we’ll have to be consistent and come ready to play every single night. Hopefully we achieve this and in the end find ourselves in a position to compete for a state championship.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete co-op team is coming off a special campaign, one of its best ever and with a lot of talent back, the squad is poised to be one of the top contenders in Class A yet again.

Lappin was a second-team All-State selection a year ago. He’ll be a top scoring threat, along with Hannan and Walker. Juniors Owen Anderson and Anthony Panciocco and sophomore Cullen Adams will be in the scoring mix as well. On defense, Gross, along with freshmen Connor Cochran and Ian Wright, will make life easier for McGibbon, who is one of the league’s top goalies. Freshman Jasper Curtis will also see some time between the pipes.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete has learned how to compete with and beat the state’s top teams. This year’s squad needs to stay healthy and hungry and if that happens, a return trip to Lewiston could be the end result. This program has never played beyond the semifinals, but this could be the year it breaks through.

GIRLS’ HOCKEY

Coach: Bob Mills (eighth year, 59-73-5 overall record)

2018-19 record: 10-10 (Lost, 1-0, in overtime, to eventual champion Cheverus in South Region semifinals)

Top returning players: Abbey Agrodnia (Junior), Nicoletta Coupe (Junior), Annie Guimond (Junior), Koto Yomada (Junior)

Pivotal games: Dec. 30 @ Scarborough, Jan. 4 @ Lewiston, Jan. 16 LEWISTON, Jan. 18 @ St. Dom’s, Jan. 20 @ Cheverus, Jan. 25 SCARBOROUGH

Coach’s comment: “With some incoming new players joining an experienced core group of returning skaters, we look to be competitive in every game this season. Our goal is to make a deep playoff run in February.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland co-op team nearly upset the apple cart a year ago, taking eventual champion Cheverus to overtime in the semifinals before bowing out. This year’s squad might just take the next step. The Capers are off to a great start, downing Greely (8-1), York (6-3), Gorham (9-1) and Falmouth (7-0).

Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/SP returns a pair of talented forwards, Coupe (six goals, three assists to date) and Yamada (five goals and four assists). A pair of freshmen Bella Schifano (five goals, six assists in early action) and Delaney Whitten (three goals) are promising newcomers. On defense, Agrodnia (two goals, five assists) and Guimond (one goal, two assists) lead the way in front of freshman goalie Abby Steinhagen. Sophomore Katharine Blackburn should see some time in goal (or at forward) as well after returning from injury.

Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/SP has as good a shot as anyone in the South Region. This could be the best season in program history before all is said and done.

INDOOR TRACK

Senior Rebekah Hunnewell-Dunphe is the defending Class A champion in the shot put and will make a run at a repeat crown this winter. Contributed photo

Boys’ coach: Dave Kahill (13th year)

Girls’ coach: Karen Reardon (ninth year)

2018-19 results:

(Boys) tie-14th @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 11th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Alyas Ahmady (Senior), Jacob Dresser (Senior), Nate Ellington (Senior), Drew Lewis (Senior), Oscar Sullivan (Senior), Ayden Bradford (Junior), Brian Dibra (Junior), Amir Broadus (Sophomore), Lucas Lefebvre (Sophomore)

(Girls) Grace Caselden (Senior), Izzy Chase (Senior), Anna Folley (Senior), Rebekah Hunnewell-Dunphy (Senior), Jordyn Hulsey (Senior), Traci Francis (Junior)

Coach Kahill’s comment: Our seniors provide a foundation of hard-working and mature athletes and the team should develop from their example. We have many versatile athletes that have potential to improve throughout the season. The shot put will be a strength of the team. The sophomores and freshmen have tremendous potential to develop into a strong junior division by the end of the season.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We expect to be very competitive throughout the season and if some of our younger athletes progress well with our seniors, we could have some nice events. The regular season is all about prepping for the Southwesterns and states. We’re a more complete team this year to start, but we will work to develop into an even better team as the season progresses. There continues to be a great level of talent to compete against each week and that should be a great incentive for all the girls. It should be a fun season with a nice mix of veterans looking to make their mark at the state level and newcomers looking to contribute.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has plenty of athletes eager to do big things in the weeks to come.

The boys’ squad is paced by Ellington, who was fifth in the shot put at last year’s state meet. Broadus and Dibra, along with freshmen Ryan Gibbons and Tuck Gora, are other throwers of note. Ahmady, Bradford, Dresser, junior Connor Dobson and freshmen Thomas Caouette, Mason Davis and Wyatt Haley look to score in the jumps. Ahmady, Caouette, Davis and Dobson are pole vaulters. On the track, sprinters to watch include Ahmady, Bradford, Caouette, Davis, Dobson, Dresser, Gibbons, Gora, Lefebvre and Lewis. Lewis also could be in line to be a top hurdler. He’s joined by Ahmady, Bradford, Davis and Haley. Sullivan leads the distance contingent, with help from Zechman and freshmen Harrison Jones and Jack Nickerson. The pieces are in place for a lot of points to be scored this winter.

On the girls’ side, Hunnewell-Dunphe won the Class A shot put title last winter and hopes to repeat. Folley is another top returner. She was runner-up in last year’s 800 and can run several different events. Caselden, Francis, senior Maddie Drolet, juniors Rachel Kingsley, Annie Von Seggern and Kate Von Seggern, sophomore Eva Tierney-Trevor and freshmen Lily Henriksen are other distance runners to watch. Hulsey is a top hurdler. She’s joined by junior Iman Adem. The sprinting contingent features Adem, Chase, Hulsey, juniors Taylor Barrett, Lucia Oboh, Sophia Singh and Fiona Stawarz, sophomores Jenna Ball, Geneva Holmes, Bonny Johnston and Katie Nakummun and freshmen Keisha Burns and Ava Smart. On the field side, Adem, Ball, Burns, Chase, Hulsey, Oboh, Stawarz, Tierney-Trevor, Annie Von Seggern and Kate Von Seggern will jump. Ball, Barrett, Holmes, Johnston, Nakummun, Stawarz and freshman Joyeuse Ntungane joins Hunnewell-Dunphe in the throws. Holmes and Nakummun are also pole vaulters.

SWIMMING

Coach: Ryan Green (seventh year)

2018-19 results:

(Boys) 2nd @ Class A state meet

(Girls) 14th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:

(Boys) Alex Beecher (Junior), Calvin Comeau (Sophomore), Jacob Ramos (Sophomore)

(Girls) Margaret Jones (Senior), Lyla Metcalf (Senior), Kiley Matthews (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We have our biggest team in years, with over 20 boys and close to 50 total. More than half are new to the high school team. This will be a growing year, although the girls will be competitive with strong junior and senior competitors. The boys and girls will both be in the hunt for top 10 finishes at the state meet, with the girls potentially in the top five.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland continues to move up the competitive ladder and this should be another triumphant campaign.

The girls are led by Jones, who was runner-up in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 100 butterfly a year ago. She’ll also swim the individual medley this season. Matthews (sprint freestyle) and Metcalf (distance freestyle) are other veterans. They’re joined by freshman Sophia Ibarguen, who will contend in the fly and freestyle.

On the boys’ side, a year after its best state meet showing since 1998, the Red Riots are rebuilding, but they’ll turn some heads. Comeau (fifth in the 500 free and eighth in the 200 free last season) is the top returner. Beecher (distance freestyle) and Ramos (IM, fly, backstroke) will be heard from as well. This is a squad that will show steady improvement and will be a factor come February.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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