There were no championship celebrations this winter for city basketball teams, but the highlights were plentiful nonetheless.

Waynflete junior Dominick Campbell had plenty to shout about this winter. File photo

The Waynflete boys were highly touted entering the season and didn’t disappoint, losing just once, at defending Class B South champion Cape Elizabeth, in an 18-game regular season gauntlet. The Flyers were led by big man extraordinaire, junior Dom Campbell, who was a matchup nightmare, but the squad was much more than that, as on any given night, any number of players could lead the way.

Waynflete finished second in Class C South and after handling Traip Academy in the quarterfinals, the Flyers were a dozen points better than Boothbay in the semifinals. Waynflete’s dreams a first-ever championship were then dashed in the regional final by a Winthrop squad, which overcame adversity, beat the Flyers, 39-30, then went on to win a repeat Class C state title.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way these young men stepped up and how our team progressed over the course of the year,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry, who earned his 200th victory with the program this past season.

Waynflete’s girls missed the playoffs with a 2-16 record, but the Flyers did enjoy back-to-back victories late in the year, beating visiting Richmond by 20 points and host Hebron Academy by a dozen.

The Class AA girls’ story was highlighted by a Portland squad which enjoyed its best campaign in two decades.

Junior Gemima Motema helped Portland’s girls’ team to its best season in two decades. File photo

The Bulldogs lost at Bangor and twice fell against defending state champion Oxford Hills, but they downed everyone else behind their fast-paced attack. The athleticism of senior Davina Kabantu and juniors Amanda Kabantu and Gemima Motema gave the opposition nightmares and when Portland needed to score in the halfcourt, senior Kiera Eubanks and sophomore Elizabeth Yugu often came up big.

The Bulldogs, ranked second in AA North, rolled past No. 7 Edward Little in the quarterfinals, then knocked off  third-seeded Bangor in the semifinals to reach the regional final for the first time since 1999. There, Portland gave top-ranked Oxford Hills fits and even grabbed a short-lived second half lead before the Vikings rallied and prevailed en route to another title.

“It would have been nice to get one off Oxford Hills, but we’ll keep trying to kick in the door,” said Bulldogs’ coach Gerry Corcoran.

Cheverus’ girls welcomed Billy Goodman as their new coach and Goodman, who won three championships in a previous stint at McAuley, increased the Stags’ win total from five to 11, getting everyone on the roster to contribute in one form or another.

Senior Lauren Jordan was in the middle of the action all season for a resurgent Cheverus girls’ squad. File photo

After a scintillating, last-second (or after, depending who you asked) victory over Windham in the regular season finale, Cheverus hosted the Eagles in the quarterfinals and despite leading in the fourth period, lost a close one. Despite that result, it’s only a matter of time before the Stags are battling for the top spot.

“I think my team came a long way,” Goodman said. “It took a long time to get what I want out of players through to them, but to their credit, they really got better. Next year will be even better.”

Deering didn’t win a single game this winter, but the Rams, who eventually did garner the Class AA North girls’ Sportsmanship Award, finished strong, giving Portland a scare for a half in the regular season finale, then hanging tough with Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals before going down to a 55-30 defeat.

Deering’s boys, meanwhile, were a top story in Class AA North. The Rams were among the preseason favorites and didn’t disappoint, as Askar Houssein came over from Waynflete to bolster a strong nucleus. Deering, which could kill you with easy baskets in transition or from beyond the 3-point arc, lost twice apiece to defending state champion Bangor and Edward Little and once at a South Portland squad which went undefeated, but the Rams beat everyone else.

Deering senior Askar Houssein defied gravity at times this winter in leading the Rams to the regional final. File photo

As the No. 3 seed for the tournament, Deering pulled away in the second half for a quarterfinal round win over sixth-ranked Cheverus, then upset second-seeded Bangor in the semifinals behind a sensational game from Houssein. The Rams finally met their match in the regional final, losing to eventual state champion Edward Little.

“Two years ago, I really invested in this senior group,” Deering coach Todd Wing said. “They’ve used disappointments at ends of seasons as motivation. They improved and their work showed. I said to the returning guys in the locker room to follow the seniors’ lead.”

Cheverus went 4-15, but was more competitive than its record showed and it won the Class AA North boys’ Sportsmanship Award.

“We’ll miss our seniors, but I think we grew this year,” said Stags’ coach Ryan Soucie. “Guys gained valuable experience.”

Portland suffered through its most challenging season since the early 1980s, going 3-15. The Bulldogs then fell behind Edward Little, 33-1, at halftime of their AA North quarterfinal before losing by 55.

What a season it was and before we look forward to December, when the 2020-21 campaign tips off, here’s a tip of the cap to the best of the best this winter:

City of Portland boys’ Player of the Year: Dominick Campbell, Waynflete
City of Portland girls’ Player of the Year: Amanda Kabantu, Portland
Game of the Year: Feb. 8, Cheverus 53 Windham 51 (girls)

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

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