Boys’ game: Feb. 27, 2016
Basketball: Portland 52 South Portland 50 (2 OT)

The Bulldogs were expected to roll to the inaugural Class AA championship, as they squared off against a Red Riots team which went .500 in the regular season. Portland won both regular season meetings with ease, but this time, South Portland, under new coach Kevin Millington, hung tough and didn’t allow the Bulldogs to unleash a knockout blow.

Down the stretch, two stars took center stage, Amir Moss for Portland and Jack Fiorini for South Portland. Fiorini only scored 12 points, but they all seemed to come at the most opportune time. Finally, in the second OT, Moss scored his 26th and 27th points on a spinner and the Bulldogs held on for dear life to earn a most memorable Gold Ball.

Portland’s boys’ basketball team celebrates after holding off South Portland, 52-50, in double-overtime, in the 2016 Class AA state final. File photos.

What they said:

Joe Russo, Portland coach: “It was an incredible game and it’s so much better from my end because we won. It’s more fun to win. What a dramatic finish. I thought it was amazing. South Portland’s effort was incredible.”

Amir Moss: “It was great to be in a game like this. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy game. We knew it would be a tough battle. We just had to stay confident. Coach kept saying, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ We kept that in our minds.”

Girls’ game: Feb 28, 2011
Basketball: McAuley 41 Deering 40 (OT)

Another phenomenal basketball game that needed more than 32 minutes to determine a winner. During the 2010-11 season, Deering and McAuley were as even as two teams could be and each won close games on the other’s floor. Fittingly, they squared off a third time in the Western Class A Final and to no one’s surprise, there was little separation.

McAuley clung to a one-point lead as time wound down in regulation, but Deering standout Kayla Burchill (the eventual Miss Maine Basketball winner) was fouled with 0.5 seconds to go. She made the first free throw, but couldn’t salt away the crown as she missed the second. The game went to OT and there, the Lions found a way to hold on and win, 41-40. Alexa Coulombe led the Lions with 17 points and seven blocked shots and she converted the go-ahead three-point play in OT, while freshman Allie Clement added a dozen points.

The state final versus Hampden Academy five days later was anticlimactic and McAuley went on to a 39-23 triumph, winning its first title since 2003.

Rebecca Knight, left, and Alexa Coulombe celebrate after the Lions’ 41-40 overtime victory over Deering in the 2011 Western A Final.

What they said:

McAuley coach Amy Vachon: “Honestly, that game is a blur to me. We’ve talked a lot this year about finding a way to win, some how, some way, finding a way and we did tonight. I don’t know how, but we did.”

Deering coach Mike Murphy: “We could play them for another two hours and it would still be even, a one-point game. There is not one thing I can say that I wish I had done this, or wish I had done that. The kids did everything they had to do.”

Girls’ game, honorable mention (for personal reasons): Oct. 24, 2014
Soccer: Portland 2 Deering 1 (PK)

While this one didn’t have championship implications, it was a fierce Western Class A preliminary round playoff battle between city rivals. The Bulldogs struck first on senior Madison Bolduc’s first half goal, but the Rams tied it in the second half on a penalty kick from sophomore Ewka Varney. Neither team scored from there and the contest would be decided on penalty kicks.

Isabel Stehli gave Portland a 2-1 edge in the final round of PKs, then sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Crosby denied Megan Violette with a highlight reel diving save, unleashing a thunderous celebration by the Bulldogs.

Portland goalkeeper Taylor Crosby is met by an oncoming wall of celebratory Bulldogs after her save in the final round of penalty kicks secured a 2-1 victory for Portland over rival Deering in the 2014 Western A girls’ soccer preliminary round.  

What they said:

Portland coach Arthur Mosen: “It’s such a good feeling. I’m so proud of the girls. They approached the game in the right way. From start to finish. As soon as we stepped on the field, we got the job done. Every minute. They just worked for every ball.”

Deering coach Kevin Olson: “It’s never fun to lose. We played 110 solid minutes of soccer. We just came up short. The girls made Deering proud. They fought hard. I’m proud of them. It was definitely a hard-fought game.”

Back to the personal connection…Following that game, while out with some friends, I was introduced to my future bride, Angi, who just happens to be Madison Bolduc’s mother. It turned out I interviewed my future stepdaughter after a memorable game, which turned out to be the only the second most memorable portion of my evening.

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

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