Nearly every Forecaster Country basketball team 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.

Is this the year?

Maggie Whitmore and her South Portland teammates are the favorites in the Class AA South girls’ tournament. File photo

South Portland’s girls’ basketball team has been the Class AA South favorite each of the past two seasons, but was upset short of the state final each time, by Gorham in the semifinals two years ago and by Scarborough in last year’s regional title game.

This winter, the Red Riots appear to have all the ingredients in place to reach the state final for the first time since winning the program’s last title, in 1986.

South Portland completed a 15-3 regular season last week with a 48-33 home win over Noble. Maggie Whitmore led the way with 16 points.

The Red Riots finished with the top seed in Class AA South and hosted No. 8 Thornton Academy (2-16) in the quarterfinals Wednesday. South Portland swept the Golden Trojans this winter, winning 67-31 Jan. 2 in Saco and 51-17 at home Jan. 28. The Red Riots have taken three of four previous playoff meetings, with a 66-33 victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.

If, as expected, South Portland moves on to the semifinals for the sixth year in a row, it will face either No. 4 Gorham (11-7) or fifth-ranked Noble (9-9) Thursday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. The Red Riots swept the Rams, 60-44 in the opener Dec. 6 in Gorham and 59-42 at home Jan. 31 and beat the Knights twice as well, including a 65-46 win in North Berwick Jan. 24. South Portland is 0-3 all-time versus the Rams in the playoffs, with a 53-42 setback in the 2018 Class AA South semifinals the most recent. The Red Riots are 2-2 versus Noble, with a 55-32 victory in the 2018 quarterfinals the most recent.

“We have a great senior group,” South Portland coach Lynne Hasson said. “They’re great leaders and teammates. They’re very unselfish and willing to do whatever it takes to win. We have great depth too. We just need to stay healthy and keep working on little things like rebounding.”

Scarborough, the defending regional champion, wound up 11-7 and second in Class AA South after closing with a 49-37 home victory over Bonny Eagle Saturday. Kayla Conley had 19 points and Bella Dickinson added 14.

The Red Storm hosted the seventh-ranked Scots (5-13) again Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Scarborough swept Bonny Eagle this year, also winning, 46-30, Dec. 30 in Standish. The Red Storm took the only prior playoff encounter, a 48-40 win in the 2018 Class AA South semifinals.

If Scarborough makes it to the semifinals for the fourth year in a row, it will take on either No. 3 Massabesic (11-7) or sixth-ranked Sanford (7-11) Thursday of next week at CIA. The Red Storm split with the Mustangs, winning in Waterboro, 70-66, in overtime, in the opener Dec. 6, then falling at home, 51-42, Jan. 4. Scarborough split with the Spartans as well, winning, 46-26, Dec. 13 in Sanford and falling at home, 55-46, in double-overtime, Jan. 28. The Red Storm are 3-0 all-time versus Massabesic in the tournament, with last year’s 41-29 quarterfinal round victory the most recent. Scarborough is 1-1 versus the Spartans, with a 53-36 win in the 2018 quarterfinals the most recent.

In Class B South, Cape Elizabeth became the eighth and final team to qualify after closing with a 37-28 home win over Poland Saturday to wind up 8-10. Isabel Berman had a game-high 13 points.

The Capers reached the quarterfinals in successive seasons for the first time since the mid-1990s and will take on top-ranked Freeport (14-4) Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building. Cape Elizabeth lost the regular season meeting, 40-23, at Freeport Dec. 12. The teams met in a memorable semifinal last year, where the Capers almost sprung an upset, before the Falcons rallied to prevail in overtime, 49-42.

If Cape Elizabeth finds a way to upset Freeport this time, it will face either No. 4 Mountain Valley (10-8) or No. 5 Yarmouth (10-8) in the semifinals Tuesday at the Expo. The Capers don’t play the Falcons in the regular season and have lost all three prior playoff encounters, with a 60-39 setback in the 2006 Western B preliminary round the most recent. Cape Elizabeth lost twice to the Clippers this winter, 27-18 at home in the opener Dec. 6 and 37-30 Jan. 28 in Yarmouth. The Capers also dropped the only prior playoff meeting between the schools, 60-42 in the 2002 Western B preliminary round.

Pursuit of perfection

Hunter Owen and his South Portland teammates are the favorites in Class AA South, as the Red Riots seek their first championship in 28 seasons. File photo

On the boys’ side, South Portland also leads the way after an unexpectedly perfect regular season.

The Red Riots wound up 18-0 after closing with a 73-36 victory at Noble last week. South Portland last went undefeated in 1991-92, which is also the last time it won a Gold Ball.

As the top seed for the Class AA South tournament, the Red Riots hosted No. 8 Massabesic (3-15) in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. South Portland beat the Mustangs twice, 77-52 at home Dec. 13 and 58-36 Jan. 17 in Waterboro. The Red Riots are 2-0 all-time in the tournament versus Massabesic, with a 70-40 win in the 2018 Class AA South quarterfinals the most recent.

South Portland, if it advances, will likely get a tougher test in the semifinals, Wednesday of next week at CIA, against either No. 4 Gorham (10-8) or No. 5 Sanford (7-11). The Red Riots swept the Rams this regular season, 62-39 in the opener Dec. 6 in Gorham and 55-40 Jan. 31 at home. The teams have no playoff history. South Portland also swept the Spartans this season, 65-39 at home Jan. 4 and 69-57 Feb. 4 in Sanford. The Red Riots are 9-0 in the postseason against Sanford, dating to 1975, with a 65-39 victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent

“Nothing is guaranteed,” said South Portland coach Kevin Millington. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. You have to be able to execute on offense at the Civic Center. We have to continue to defend the 3. We’ll have to be focused. I think we have a good group for that. We won’t be complacent. We know we’ll get other teams’ best shots.”

Scarborough finished 9-9 and sixth in Class AA South after closing with a 62-51 home loss to Bonny Eagle Saturday. Brian Austin had 25 points in defeat.

The Red Storm faced the third-ranked Scots again in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round in Standish. Scarborough only lost by a point at Bonny Eagle in the regular season, 48-47, Dec. 30. The Red Storm had won two of three prior playoff games, with a 61-35 victory in the 2018 semifinals the most recent.

If Scarborough sprung the upset, it would advance to CIA to meet No. 2 Thornton Academy (15-3) or No. 7 Noble (1-17) in the semifinals next Wednesday. The Red Storm was swept by the Golden Trojans, 69-49 Jan. 24 in Saco and 75-50 Feb. 4 in Scarborough. The teams have met just once in the playoffs, a 67-40 Thornton Academy triumph in last year’s semifinals. The Red Storm swept Noble this year, 68-56 at home Jan. 9 and 69-49 in North Berwick Jan. 31. Scarborough won the only prior playoff encounter, 71-31, in the 2018 quarterfinals.

Defending Class B South champion Cape Elizabeth wound up 7-11 and seventh after a regular season-ending 44-41 win at Poland Saturday. Will Bowe led the way with 22 points and Nate Mullen added 11.

The Capers wound up under .500 for the first time in eight years and have their lowest seed since 2007, but no one will be overlooking them, especially quarterfinal round foe Spruce Mountain (14-4), the No. 2 seed. The teams, who didn’t play in the regular season and have no playoff history, square off a 5:30 p.m., Friday at the Expo.

If Cape Elizabeth moves on to the semifinals for the sixth consecutive season, it will face either No. 3 Lisbon (10-8) or No. 6 Wells (8-10) Tuesday of next week at the Expo. The Capers and Greyhounds don’t play in the regular season. Cape Elizabeth has won both prior playoff encounters, with a 66-54 victory in the 2002 Western B quarterfinals the most recent. The Capers split with the Warriors this year, losing, 52-47, at home Jan. 14, then winning, 53-38, at Wells Jan. 31. The teams have met nine previous times in the playoffs. Cape Elizabeth holds a 5-4 lead with last year’s 39-38 regional final victory the most recent.

In Class D South, Greater Portland Christian School finished 1-14 and 11th (only eight teams made the playoffs) after closing with a 41-33 loss at Seacoast Christian.

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

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