Seven of eight city basketball teams qualified for the tournament and the fun is underway.

The action began Tuesday and continues right through the state finals the last day of the month.

Soaring

Dominick Campbell and the Waynflete boys’ team will be a force in the Class C South tournament. File photo.

Waynflete’s boys’ squad produced the best regular season mark in program history, 17-1, after closing last Tuesday with a 71-48 victory at Traip Academy.

“Our regular season really was the result of three factors, leadership, buy-in and sacrifice,” said Flyers’ coach Rich Henry. “From a leadership perspective, our tri-captains, Solomon Levy, Diraige Dahia and Chris Saade, have been all that I could ask for, a great blend of leading through words and deeds.

“The players have also bought into what we’ve talked about in terms of our style of play. On defense we need to use our quickness and athleticism to be aggressive but limit bad fouls and on offense, showing a little patience and the understanding that moving the ball creates better scoring opportunities.

“The sacrifice element comes in because of our depth. Candidly, we have players like Chris Saade and Aidan Kieffer who in other years would be starting, but they’ve embraced their roles on the team and that carries over to other players who are making significant contributions coming off the bench like Henry Hart, Joey Ansel-Mullen and Ilo Holdridge.

“Last but certainly not least, Dom Campbell has had a terrific season thus far, and his offensive skill set creates real challenges for the other team. He’s been very good at reading the defense and passing out of double teams, which again, gets back to sacrificing for the good of the team.”

The Flyers earned the No. 2 seed in Class C South and will open tournament play Monday of next week (5:30 p.m. tip time) at the Augusta Civic Center against either No. 7 Hall-Dale (11-7) or 10th-ranked Traip Academy (8-10). Waynflete doesn’t face the Bulldogs in the regular season and swept two meetings with the Rangers, with a 54-28 home triumph Jan. 13 the other result. The Flyers have split four prior playoff meetings with Hall-Dale, with a 65-58 Bulldogs’ win in last year’s semifinals the most recent. Waynflete is 0-1 versus Traip Academy, falling, 60-49, in the 2007 Western C quarterfinals.

“Our matchup will be a challenge,” Henry said. “Hall Dale obviously beat us last year and the old adage about (beating) a team three times comes into play if Traip wins. Obviously Winthrop, as the defending state champs and a perennial power, is the team to beat and is number one in the Heals for a reason. Boothbay is another traditionally strong contender each and every year and (North Yarmouth Academy), as the fourth seed, is building on some experience playing in Augusta.

“I will say this, we’re excited to be where we are, we have a group of young men who are working hard and playing for each other and I’m flattered to be able to take them to Augusta. We started off the season talking about the opportunity to play in the tournament and now, particularly for the players who will be experiencing it for the first time, they get to see what all the fuss was about.”

In Class AA North, Deering finished with the No. 3 seed after going 13-5, closing the season with a 67-48 loss at defending state champion Bangor and a 55-39 home win over rival Portland. In the victory, on Senior Night, the Rams only led by a point late in the third period and by three heading to the fourth, but pulled away to sweep the Bulldogs for the first time in 18 seasons behind 16 points from Askar Houssein and 14 from Darryl Germain.

“It meant a lot to me and I know how much it meant to the rest of the guys,” Houssein said.

“We came together, stuck to our game plan and did what Coach (Todd Wing) told us to do,” said Germain. “Our defense was good. I feel like we’ve done well and learned from our mistakes.”

“(The atmosphere was) great,” added Wing. “It’s like this every single year. That’s what makes this game special. Beating Portland is always an accomplishment.”

The Rams will host No. 6 Cheverus in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 7 p.m. (see our website for game story).

The Stags finished 4-14 after home losses to Edward Little (72-61) and Windham (46-39) to close. Against the Red Eddies, Nolan Sanborn had 20 points and Dylan Morrison added 13.

Deering won both regular season meetings against Cheverus, 75-59 at home and 58-39 away. Since 1964, the Rams have taken four of six playoff encounters, with the most recent coming in the 2012 Western A semifinals, a 52-49 triumph for Deering.

“Cheverus will be a different team, but our guys are ready to go,” Wing said. “We hope to survive and advance. We’ll prepare. I have a feeling this team can flip the switch. I’m excited to move forward.”

The Cheverus-Deering winner will advance to the semifinals Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the Cross Insurance Arena, to meet the winner of the quarterfinal between second-seeded Bangor (15-3) and No. 7 Oxford Hills (14-4).

Portland finished 3-15 (its fewest victories since the 1983-84 season) after losing last week to visiting Lewiston (47-44) and at Deering (55-39). Against the Blue Devils, Stillman Mahan had 20 points and Kevin Smart added 12, but the Bulldogs were outscored, 14-2, in the fourth period. In the loss to the Rams, Mahan and Smart had 12 points apiece.

“I’m very proud of the kids tonight,” said Portland coach Joe Russo. “They battled. We played tough for three quarters. At crunch time, our inexperience shows. I thanked the guys for keeping me going. I’ve had to coach every second this year and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Bulldogs finished eighth in the eight-team Class AA North and will play at top-ranked Edward Little (16-2) in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. The Red Eddies won both regular season meetings, 55-48 Dec. 20 at the Expo and 78-38 Jan. 30 in Auburn. Portland is 4-1 versus Edward Little in the playoffs since 1988, with a 66-53 victory in the 2017 Class AA North Final the most recent.

If the Bulldogs spring an epic upset (Portland knocked off Edward Little in an 8-vs.-1 game in 2000), they will face either No. 4 Windham (7-11) or fifth-seeded Lewiston (10-8) in the semifinals Wednesday of next week at CIA.

Two decades in the making

Kiera Eubanks and her Portland teammates are eyeing the Class AA championship later this month. File photo.

Portland’s girls’ squad produced a historic season, finishing 15-3, its best record in two decades, after victories last week at Lewiston (62-42) and Deering (59-35). Against the Blue Devils, Gemima Motema had 22 points and Amanda Kabantu added 17. In the win over the upset-minded Rams, the Bulldogs clung to a 21-20 lead at halftime, then pulled away in the second half behind 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals from Motema, 12 points and six rebounds from Kiera Eubanks, 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals from Kabantu and 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals from Davina Kabantu.

“We go through periods where we struggle and ike everybody we played this year, we got (Deering’s) best effort,” said Portland coach Gerry Corcoran.

The Bulldogs earned the No. 2 seed in Class AA North and opened the tournament Tuesday at home against No. 7 Edward Little (5-13) in the quarterfinals (see our website for game story). Portland won both regular season encounters, 70-22 Dec. 20 in Auburn and 50-26 Jan. 30 at home. The Bulldogs have taken three of four prior playoff meetings, with a 48-43 victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.

“We’re going to be a tough out in the tournament,” Corcoran said. “If we shoot the ball well, I love our chances. Great things happen when you work toward excellence. We need to defend and we need to make shots.”

If Portland advanced, it will take on either No. 3 Bangor (12-6) or sixth-ranked Lewiston (5-13) in the semifinals Thursday of next week at CIA.

Cheverus finished fourth in Class AA North at 11-7 after closing with home wins over Edward Little (61-45) and Windham (53-51). Against the Red Eddies, Lillie Singleton had 18 points, Jillian Lizotte 13 and Lauren Jordan 10. In the victory over the Eagles, the Stags rallied from 16 points down and won it on a buzzer-beater from Singleton, which may or may not have come after the horn. Regardless, it counted, and as a result, Cheverus locked up a home playoff game. Jordan led the way with 15 points and Julia Kratzer added 12.

“It happened so quick,” said Singleton. “I saw the shot going short, so I just put it in and hoped the refs counted it.”

“I just wanted to win,” Kratzer said. “I got some good passes and hit shots. I thought it was possible to come back.”

“It’s a really good win for us going into the playoffs,” Jordan said. “It gives us confidence and a home playoff game, which is huge for us. This is a great high note to end the regular season.”

“I can only ask my team to battle,” added Stags’ coach Billy Goodman. “This is the 11th game we’ve played against a double-digit win team. We have a hard schedule and I love it. It only makes us better.”

Cheverus and Windham meet again Thursday at 6 p.m., in the quarterfinals (see our website for game story). The teams split this year, with the Eagles prevailing at home Jan. 9, 48-37. The teams split two prior playoff encounters, with the Eagles winning, 41-36, in the 2014 Western A semifinals and the Stags prevailing, 56-50 in overtime, in the 2018 Class AA North quarterfinals.

“Windham’s a really good team,” Goodman said. “They’re one of the better offensive teams I’ve seen. They have good players and are well-coached. We’ll need to be focused.”

If Cheverus moves on to the semifinals, it will face either top-ranked, defending state champion Oxford Hills (17-1) or No. 8 Deering (0-18) Thursday of next week at CIA.

Deering closed with a 59-35 home loss to Portland, but turned heads for a half with its effort and even led late in the second quarter on a 3-pointer from Nyabhana Lia, but couldn’t keep with the Bulldogs in the second half as it finished without a victory for the first time in program history. Lia had a team-high eight points.

“The kids played hard and that’s what I’ve been proud of the whole year, even though it hasn’t been easy,” said Rams’ coach Mike Murphy. “There were small victories as the season went along. We got better.”

Deering was at Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals. The Rams lost twice this year to the Vikings, 65-28 at home in the opener Dec. 6 and 72-25 at Oxford Jan. 9. The Vikings won four of six prior playoff meetings, with a 51-29 triumph in last year’s regional final the most recent.

“(Oxford Hills is) classy and they work hard and going up there will be difficult,” Murphy said. “I’m looking for the same effort we gave (against Portland). It’s a challenge, so let’s go meet it.”

In Class C South, Waynflete finished 2-16 after losses at Traip Academy (52-33) and St. Dom’s (53-29). Margaret Ojut had 18 points versus the Rangers. Kilee Sherry paced the Flyers with seven points against the Saints. Waynflete finished 18th in the region, but just 14 teams qualified for the tournament.

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

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