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

South Portland’s girls’ basketball team celebrates during its run to the Class AA state final. File photo

After countless close calls, South Portland’s girls’ squad finally broke through and reached the Class AA state final.

Behind the heroics of 1,000-point scorer senior Maggie Whitmore, the Red Riots lost only to Greely, Portland and Scarborough in the regular season and as the top seed in Class AA South, handled No. 8 Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals and fourth-ranked Gorham in the semifinals. South Portland got off to a slow start versus Cinderella No. 6 seed Sanford in the regional final before roaring to life and advancing with a 15-point win. The Red Riots then met defending state champion Oxford Hills in the state game and despite a strong start, weren’t able to win their first title in 34 years, losing, 49-38.

“(These girls have) done something no South Portland team had done since 1986,” South Portland coach Lynne Hasson said. “The seniors were such good leaders and such good kids. So coachable. It’ll be a long time before we’ll see another senior class like this. We’ll be back in the mix again next year.”

The South Portland boys also fell just short, but the Red Riots stole headlines all season, going 18-0 in the regular season for the first time since 1992. As the top seed in Class AA South, South Portland advanced with wins over Massabesic in the quarterfinals and Gorham in the semifinals. The Red Riots then had to square off with Thornton Academy in the regional final and after beating the Golden Trojans twice in the regular season, including once in overtime, South Portland couldn’t do it a third time, letting a late four-point lead slip away before losing in OT, 61-55.

“I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m not disappointed in anything else,” said Red Riots’ coach Kevin Millington. “It’s been a special group to be around. We played hard until the end.”


Senior Madison Blanche and her Scarborough girls’ basketball teammates made it back to the semifinals this winter. File photo

The Scarborough girls, the defending regional champion, got to the Civic Center for the semifinals. The Red Storm, ranked second in Class AA South, defeated seventh-seeded Bonny Eagle in the quarterfinals, but in the semis, Scarborough was upset by Sanford, 43-36.

The Red Storm boys, ranked sixth in Class AA South, were eliminated in the quarterfinals by No. 3 Bonny Eagle, 71-48.

Cape Elizabeth junior Nate Mullen helped his team enjoy a playoff run this winter. File photo

In Class B South, Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ squad, the defending regional champion, won just seven regular season games, but as the No. 7 seed, upset No. 2 Spruce Mountain by nine in the quarterfinals. The Capers then went up against Wells once again in the semifinals and this time, fell short, by 13.

“It was up-and-down this year, more downs than ups, but at the end of the day, I told them they’ve been one of the best teams I’ve had,” longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray said. “They got knocked down more than just about anybody, but every day, they got back up and came to practice and worked toward the goal of getting here and seeing what would happen. You can’t take that away. That was a good achievement.”

The Capers’ girls had to wait until the final day of the season to secure the eighth and final playoff berth in Class B South. Then, for the second year in a row, Cape Elizabeth pushed Freeport to the brink in the tournament, this time losing to the top-ranked Falcons in the quarterfinals by five points in a nip-and-tuck contest.

“We held the number one seed in B to under 40 points,” said Capers’ coach Chris Casterella. “We learned a lot and got better. I was thrilled we made the tournament and gave Freeport a run.”

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:

Southern edition boys’ Player of the Year: Pamba Pamba, South Portland
Southern edition girls’ Player of the Year: Maggie Whitmore, South Portland
Game of the Year: Feb. 22, Thornton Academy 61 South Portland 55 (OT) (boys)

Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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