Just a smattering of winter sports events remain, but there is optimism that high school sports will take a big step forward in their slow return to normalcy next month and that we’ll have something close to a full spring season, which will come as a huge relief to those athletes and coaches, who never had as much as a single practice a year ago due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

First things first, though, winter sports might have had a very short season, but it has been memorable and the action continued last week.

Here’s a glimpse:

Boys’ basketball

South Portland’s J.P. Estrella plays lockdown defense on Falmouth’s Jack Stowell during the Red Riots’ 62-60 loss Monday. Ben McCanna / Press Herald

South Portland’s boys’ basketball team got through last week with its undefeated record intact, improving to 6-0 with a pair of wins over Cheverus, 68-36 at home and 58-46 in Portland. In the first game, Mayen Ayuel scored 21 points, Owen Maloney added 13 and J.P. Estrella had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds). In the second contest, Estrella went off for 25 points and 21 rebounds and Ayuel added 15 points. Monday, the Red Riots finally met their match and fell from the unbeaten ranks after a hard-fought, exciting 62-60 loss at Falmouth. Ayuel scored 21 points, Estrella had another double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Jaelen Jackson added 16 points, but the Yachtsmen made two free throws with 7 seconds to play and a last-second desperation 3-pointer from Maloney was off-target.

“Falmouth’s one of the teams that doesn’t make mistakes and shoots well,” said South Portland coach Kevin Millington. “We haven’t defended the 3s very well and I went into this game thinking they’d make us pay for that. We were never out of catch-up mode. We had to hit some shots. This was a good experience for us.”

The Red Riots got another crack at Falmouth Wednesday at home (see pressherald.com/forecaster-sports/ for game story). After going to Gray-New Gloucester Friday, South Portland welcomes Cape Elizabeth in the finale Saturday (see pressherald.com/forecaster-sports/ for game story).

“What I wanted to accomplish is to get to know the kids and get my eyes on them and see what they can do and I’ve done that,” Millington said.

Scarborough finished 2-4 after a 55-37 win at Westbrook last Friday. Zander Haskell led the way with 18 points and Adam Lewis added 13.

Cape Elizabeth held off host Freeport, 52-49, last Thursday, dropped a 42-40 overtime home decision to Yarmouth Saturday, then fell to 5-5 Tuesday after a 57-47 loss at Yarmouth. Against the Falcons, the Capers let an 18-point lead slip away, but got two huge free throws from Nate Mullen with 1:10 remaining and held on.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” Mullen said. “I just wanted to make (the free throws) and help my team out.”

“Basketball’s a game of runs and we executed at the end and didn’t turn the ball over and came out with the win,” said Cape Elizabeth’s first-year coach Jeff Mitchell.

In the overtime loss to the Clippers, Dylan Swift scored 17 points and Mullen added 10. In the second Yarmouth game, Mullen scored 13 points and Will Bowe added 12.

The Capers host Lake Region Friday and close Saturday at South Portland.

“My goal was to win a state title, but I’m just thankful to be playing,” Mullen said. “We’re just trying to come out with the best record we can have. I’m psyched we got the South Portland game.”

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these kids,” Mitchell said. “They don’t complain and they come to every game like we’ve got playoffs in our future. All but probably one game has been close. It’s more fun that way. That’s good for the underclassmen to feel the pressure and get used to it. We can build off that. For us, it’s about rate of change. Are we getting better every game, every practice? Our slope is good right now. These kids are up for it.”

Girls’ basketball

South Portland’s Cora Boothby-Akilo soars to the basket during the Red Riots’ 53-41 win at North Yarmouth Academy Saturday. Derek Davis / Press Herald

South Portland’s girls’ team lost twice to Cheverus last week, 78-24 in Portland and 74-34 at home. Cora Boothby-Akilo had a team-high eight points in the first loss. Hannah Dearborn led the way with eight points in the second contest. Saturday, the Red Riots snapped a five-game skid with a 53-41 win at North Yarmouth Academy. Hylah Owen had a team-high 15 points, while Boothby-Akilo scored nine points and grabbed a whopping 25 rebounds.

“We’ve been struggling, so it was just another game for us to prove ourselves,” said Owen.

“We needed a win desperately,” South Portland coach Lynne Hasson said. “It’s been a different year for us. We’re definitely rebuilding and we were without two starters today. One of our goals today was the stay out of foul trouble and we did a great job hitting perimeter shots in the first half. Sammy shot well and Megan Dearborn shot the ball well too.”

The Red Riots fell to 3-6 Monday after a 58-50 home loss to Falmouth. Boothby-Akilo had 12 points and Anna Brown added 10. South Portland was at Falmouth Wednesday and closes at home versus Gray-New Gloucester Saturday.

Scarborough finished 0-4 after it wasn’t able to play its final six games.

Cape Elizabeth fell to 2-6 after recent losses at home to Freeport (46-26), at Yarmouth (38-18) and at home to the Clippers (37-18). Against the Falcons, Emily Supple paced the Capers with nine points. In the first loss to the Clippers, Supple and Alison Gerety each scored six points, but Cape Elizabeth only managed 10 points total in the final three quarters.

“Defensively, the girls did their job,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. “They held a good, skilled, undefeated team to under 40 points, but you can’t win games scoring less than 30. We just struggling to put the ball in the basket. The effort’s there and the defensive ability is there, but it’s so frustrating on offense. We didn’t take care of the ball. I told them if they get a rebound, you have to be aggressive with the ball, or (Yarmouth will) get it. It’s just protecting the ball or taking the extra step and in a game that’s low scoring, that hurts us.”

In the second Yarmouth game, Gerety had a team-high six points.

The Capers finish their season at Lake Region Friday.

“We’re enjoying that we’re playing,” said Casterella. “I’m so appreciative. The girls are working hard. It’s not a lack of effort or heart. We’ll see if we can right the ship and put points on the board. We hope to lay the foundation for next year.”

Boys’ hockey

Cape Elizabeth’s Ben Connolly looks to pass around South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete’s Richard Gilboy during the teams’ 3-3 tie last week. Ben McCanna / Press Herald

The South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport co-op team sandwiched wins at Thornton Academy (6-2) and at home over Kennebunk (7-1) around a 3-3 tie versus Cape Elizabeth last week. In the tie, Owen Anderson and Ian Wright scored in the first half and Cullen Adams forced overtime with his goal with 5 minutes to play.

“It was a great battle,” said SP/Waynflete/Freeport Coach Joe Robinson. “I think we started off strong, had a little bit of a lapse and fell behind, but we didn’t quit and we battled back. It was a physical game on both sides.”

Dylan Hannan had two goals against Kennebunk. SP/Waynflete/Freeport (3-4-1) closes with a game at Cape Elizabeth Saturday.

“I feel terrible for the seniors not having a postseason this year, but for the younger guys, we want to build momentum and see what we have for next year,” Robinson said. “We’ve got all the makings to be really good next year.”

Cape Elizabeth took a 4-2-2 record into Wednesday’s showdown at two-time Class B champion Greely (see pressherald.com/forecaster-sports/ for game story). Last week, the Capers tied SP/Waynflete/Freeport (3-3) and beat Cheverus/Yarmouth (7-4) and Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth lost, 4-3, at Biddeford. In the tie, Nick Laughlin scored two goals, Alex Thayer had a goal as well and goalie Charlie Garvin stopped 22 shots.

“We didn’t manage the puck as well as I thought we could have,” Cape Elizabeth coach Jake Rutt said. “Charlie made some great saves and good for him to feel that out. Defensively, we played well, but we had to play a lot of defense. We had some chances in overtime. That was an extension of the second half. Overall. I think it was a good team effort.”

The Capers close against SP/Freeport/Waynflete Saturday.

“This team’s very dedicated,” Rutt said. “The core group of guys wanted to win a state championship. It’s really unfortunate that there’s no playoffs. I wish we could have made something happen with that because that’s what these kids live for. Our mindset is to win every game that we can. Greely will be like a playoff game. The intensity will be there. That will be fun. With the limited ice time we’ve had, we’re just trying to find our stride.”

Scarborough wasn’t able to complete its season and ended with a record of 2-1.

Girls’ hockey

The Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland girls’ co-op team, last year’s South Region champion, made it eight wins without a loss last Thursday, downing visiting Falmouth, 7-4. Bella Schifano scored four times and Koto Yamada added two goals. Cape/Waynflete/SP hosted Cheverus Wednesday in the season finale.

Scarborough wasn’t able to complete its season and ended with a record of 3-2.

Skiing

In Monday’s Western Maine Conference Alpine ski championship meet, Cape Elizabeth swept the titles. The boys’ team was led by Cody Labonte (second in the giant slalom with a two-run combined time of 1:21.45) and Tiernan Lathrop (second in the slalom, 1:26.99, and third in GS, 1:22.32). The girls’ team featured Anya Monson (second in the slalom, 1:43.26, and seventh in the GS, 1:29.48) and Dana Schwartz (third in the slalom, 1:43.46, and fifth in the GS, 1:28.55)

Volleyball

Practices have begun for the indoor volleyball season with matches set to begin next week.

Scarborough hosts South Portland in the teams’ mutual opener Tuesday of next week.

Cape Elizabeth opens at home versus South Portland next Thursday.

Spring sports

Last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced that she is relaxing COVID-19 capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings. The increased capacity limits will open the possibility for more fans to attend sporting events at the professional, collegiate and high school levels and could have a big impact on the high school outdoor track season, possibly allowing for larger meets. Currently, fans are not allowed at college or high school sports events.

Maine high school officials said Mills’ announcement came as encouraging news for the spring season. The 2020 spring season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020-21 fall and winter seasons have been altered, with shorter schedules, regional scheduling and no playoffs or championships.

Maine Principals’ Association officials have sent their recommended sports guidelines for the 2021 spring season to state officials and are hoping to meet soon to discuss them.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham. “I think it’s great and I hope that it has some positive outcomes that we can do some things with. We’ve sent all of our guidelines to state agencies and we’re awaiting their review and hopefully a meeting so we can go through those and see how today’s announcement affects those guidelines.”

It is still unclear if the MPA will be able to hold regional or state tournaments in the spring. Currently, teams are restricted to games against opponents within their geographic area.

The spring sports season is scheduled to begin Monday, March 22, when pitchers and catchers report for baseball and softball.

Everyone else begins practicing the following Monday, March 29.

Countable games are scheduled to commence April 15.

Press Herald staff writers Steve Craig and Mike Lowe contributed to this story.

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

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