The winter sports season, short but ultimately sweet, has come and gone, but if you’re in need of a high school sports fix, you’re in luck.

The spring sports season will begin on time and even better, will include a postseason.

In the meantime, volleyball is in the midst of its short indoor season.

It’s a lot to keep track of, but here’s an attempt to make sense of it all:

Boys’ basketball

Portland senior Sam Gerber holds the ball as Deering junior Nick Langella defends during the Rams’ 38-35 victory Tuesday. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

Deering’s boys’ basketball team surged to the finish line this winter, winning seven of its final eight games to finish 7-3. After handing previously unbeaten Falmouth its first loss the week before, the Rams closed with a pair of victories over rival Portland, 38-35 at home and 53-40 on the road. In the first game, Deering was down by seven midway through the fourth quarter, then closed on a 13-3 run and went on top for good on Remijo Wani’s 3-pointer. Wani led the way with 15 points and got eight points and six rebounds from Mpore Semuhoza.

“We didn’t come ready in the first half, but we woke up and we executed,” said Wani. “Our energy starts on defense, then it comes to the offense.”

“It’s great,” Semuhoza said. “Especially because it’s my senior year. I wanted to beat Portland at home in my senior year. That was my goal tonight. We just focused on the positive stuff.”

“Any year (when we play Portland), you throw out the records and you duke it out and we did that tonight,” added Deering coach Todd Wing. “This localized schedule has been tough, but it’s been great. You can’t let down any night. Credit to the players.”

In the second win over the Bulldogs, Semuhoza led the way with a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds.

“I think we could have been a championship team if we’d had a (normal) season,” Semuhoza said.

Portland finished 3-6 after sandwiching losses at Deering (38-35) and at home to the Rams (53-40) around a 53-38 home win over Biddeford. In the first Rams’ setback, Wani Donato had a team-high nine points, but the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on down the stretch.

“It was a good game,” Portland coach Joe Russo said. “It was kind of fun to find a team that’s at our level. We don’t do a great job handling pressure and it showed tonight. We have to be assertive with the ball. It’s something we have to work on.”

In the victory, Jake Bouchard led the way with 14 points and Jeissy Khamis added 11.

“As a senior captain, I want to show the younger group the way,” Bouchard said.

“We took care of the ball better tonight,” Russo said. “Biddeford’s scrappy and kept the game close. The kids played really hard last night and it slipped away. I’m glad this game got tight. Biddeford took the lead and I wanted to see what happened. We kept our composure and regrouped. We bent, but didn’t crumble. The guys stuck together.”

In the second loss to Deering, Donato had a team-high 10 points.

Cheverus dropped its first eight games, then closed with a pair of victories over Windham, 53-51 away and 55-46 at home. Seth Huntington was the Stags’ top scorer in both games with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Waynflete finished 7-4 after splitting last week with Old Orchard Beach, falling on the road, 59-47, and winning at home, 57-33. In the victory, Chris Saade scored 13 points, Jared Johnson added 12 and Henry Hart finished with 11.

“I’ve tried to stay focused on the most important things about getting the team together, being able to practice and play games, which is the outlet that it provided the players, both physically and emotionally,” said longtime Flyers coach Rich Henry. “Watching the last few days of practice, once the finality of it all starts to sink in to teenagers, you could see how much they enjoyed just being together, running around on the court. I also think that the lessons we ordinarily attempt to get across to young people, that time is valuable, that playing for a school is a privilege, that it’s finite, all of those things were reinforced in ways we couldn’t imagine over the past year, so I’m really appreciative of the time we got to spend together, through the activities associated with basketball, this year. I usually ask the seniors to talk about their experiences after our last game, but this year it was at our last practice, Friday night. Very insightful stuff, from young men who have really thought about what being on the varsity team meant to them, in the context of their development as people. I’m always impressed by what the players talk about, but this year given everything we’ve been through, it was very special.

“In terms of next year, I expect we’ll look a bit like a mirror image to this year. We had strength in our frontcourt and players stepping into new roles in the backcourt.  Graduating players Chris, Jared, Aidan (Kieffer) and Mike (Veroneau) represent about 13 combined varsity seasons, so we’ll need to develop our younger bigs. I will be looking for Henry Hart, Cole Isherwood, Matt Adey, Ed Cox and Nico Kirby to increase their production and show the accumulated experience from this year. Ishan Reese is going to get more opportunities and I’m looking forward to Dominick Campbell’s younger brother, Demetrius, entering high school. I’ve said this before, each year I lament the seniors who are moving on to college and wonder how we’ll ever replace them. The beauty is watching the younger players step up to those new roles and expectations.”

Girls’ basketball

Portland’s Amanda Kabantu takes a shot as she is guarded by Deering’s Natalie Santiago, left, and Ella McGowan during the Bulldogs’ 66-34 win last week. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

On the girls’ side, Cheverus closed on a nine-game win streak and finished 9-1 after sweeping Windham last week, 55-38 at home and 55-31 away. In the first victory, Emma Lizotte had 12 points, while Jillian Lizotte and Maddie Fitzpatrick added 10 apiece. In the second game, Hayley Jordan scored 13 points, Fitzpatrick had 12 and Julia Kratzer added 11.

“I love my team,” said Stags coach Billy Goodman. “The seniors were great leaders and Maddie was so unselfish. Sometimes I had to tell her to shoot more. We should be very good next year.”

Portland sandwiched a pair of wins over Deering (66-34 at home and 61-22 away) around a 62-38 home victory over Gorham to finish the year 9-2. In the first win over Deering, Gemima Motema, a Miss Maine Basketball finalist, had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Amanda Kabantu, who was a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist, added 15 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“Every team comes right at us and expects the best from us,” Kabantu said. “Everyone comes and pressures us and it’s up to us to set the tone.”

“It’s sad we can’t go for a state title this year,” Motema said. “That was my goal this year, but I’m still having fun.”

“Watching (Amanda and Gemima) play, I just shake my head,” added Bulldogs first-year coach Abby Hasson. “They’re unbelievable. As great as they are players, they’re even better kids. They’re selfless and they love to get everyone involved. Our younger kids obviously learn from them. They make everybody better. I’ve watched them push it into another gear that I just don’t possess. That’s beautiful. It’s like art. They have this innate ability to get to the rim and know what the defender is going to do. They’re special. I’m extremely melancholy looking at them. They’re fantastic, but I know they’re leaving.”

Against Gorham, Motema scored 20 points, Kabantu had 19 and Eliza Stein added 11. In the final Deering game, Motema had 19 points, Kabantu 17 and Elizabeth Yugu 13.

Deering wound up 1-8 after losing at Portland (66-34) and at home to the Bulldogs (61-22). Maya Gayle had a team-high 12 points in the first meeting.

“I’m looking at this as a good experience for our girls to play at that type of speed, against players of (Portland’s) level,” Rams coach Mike Murphy said. “We played hard. That was our goal coming in. It was a good effort. Our kids didn’t back down. For us, especially with the kids we have coming back, the more we can play against at top-flight opponent can only make us better.”

In the second loss, Gayle led the way again with six points.

Waynflete finished 0-8 after a pair of losses last week to Old Orchard Beach, 62-19 and 65-19.

Boys’ hockey

The Portland/Deering boys’ hockey team finished 6-3 after closing with a 5-4 victory over Lake Region and a 2-0 win over Cheverus/Yarmouth. Against the Lakers, Danny Tocci had two goals and Max Cheever finished with three assists. In the second victory, Nick Ives and Tocci (empty netter) scored.

“We went on a nice little run at the end,” said Portland/Deering coach Matt King. “They were all nail-biting games, but the kids fought hard, never gave up and got it done.”

Cheverus/Yarmouth capped its first season together at 5-5 after a 3-2 win over Falmouth, erasing a two-goal deficit, and a 2-0 loss to Portland/Deering. In the victory, Jackson Header, Callaghan Oliver and Matt Robichaud scored the goals.

South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete finished 3-5-1 after closing with a 5-2 loss to Cape Elizabeth.

Girls’ hockey

Cheverus’ Olivia Bradford handles the puck during last week’s 1-0 win over St. Dom’s. Bradford scored the only goal of the game. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald

Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team surged to the finish line, closing with six straight wins to wind up 7-3. The Stags last week blanked Mt. Ararat/Morse (3-0), downed Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland (5-2), then edged St. Dom’s (1-0). In the first win, Ellie Cooney, Emily Factor and Lucia Pompeo all scored goals. In the second victory, Pompeo had a hat trick and Olivia Bradford had a goal and two assists as Cheverus erased an early two-goal deficit. Against the Saints, Bradford scored the goal and goalie Trinity Atwater made 16 saves and posted her fifth shutout of the season.

“We played strong defense and kept fighting and we wanted it,” Bradford said. “We’ve gotten closer as a team.”

“We dug deep tonight,’ said Stags coach Scott Rousseau. “The tank was empty today and yet we dug deep and played really hard. I’m so proud of this team. I think it’s a championship-caliber hockey team that won’t have a championship to play for. I’m absolutely thrilled with our season. I don’t know if it’s because we were young, we wanted to play so bad, or if we had great senior leadership, but the season really meant something.”

Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland, last year’s South Region champion, wound up 8-1 after falling from the unbeaten ranks with a 5-2 loss to Cheverus last week. Bella Schifano and Koto Yamada each scored once.

Portland/Deering beat Gorham, 5-1, last week to finish 6-3. Caroline Lerch scored two goals in her finale.

Skiing

Cheverus’ girls placed third and the boys were sixth at last week’s Southwestern Maine Activities Association Alpine championship meet. Individually, the Stags girls got a third-place performance from Maddy Marcisso in the slalom (a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 58.82 seconds) and sixth in the giant slalom (1:31.64). Cheverus’ boys were led by Liam Allen, who was fifth in the slalom (1:55.07) and ninth in the GS (1:31.23).

Volleyball

Deering opened the volleyball season last week with with a pair of straight set victories over Westbrook.

Cheverus hosted Deering in its opener Tuesday. The teams meet again at Deering Thursday.

Portland played at Westbrook Tuesday and hosts the Blue Blazes Thursday.

Spring sports

Baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and outdoor track got the green light last week for a normal season.

The Maine Principals’ Association, working with state agencies, announced Friday that it will be able to hold regional and state championships. They will be the first high school postseason tournaments held since the boys’ hockey state games in March of 2020.

The entire 2020 spring season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and while teams were able to play a modified regular-season schedule in the fall and winter of this school year, no regional or state championships were held.

“It’s a relief, almost,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association. “We are certainly moving in the right direction.”

The MPA is able to offer championships because the state modified the risk levels in its Community Sports Guidelines earlier Friday. Sports that are considered “moderate risk,” such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and track, now will be able to include “in-person competitions between teams in different geographic areas within Maine.” Tennis is regarded as a “low risk” sport and is able to conduct competition against teams from other states.

A news release from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees the Community Sports Guidelines, stated that “the Maine Principals’ Association has committed to aligning its guidance for school sports with this revised guidance for community sports.”

For spring sports, that means having an almost-normal season. Pitchers and catchers will begin practicing on March 22, with the rest of spring athletes starting practice on March 29. Competitions are scheduled to begin on April 15.

“Going into the spring and aligning with the Community Sports Guidelines, I believe we will have a full spring sports season, with some restrictions remaining,” Burnham said. “It will provide an opportunity for those activities and those kids to have a full season culminating in regional and state championships.”

Burnham said those “restrictions” will include wearing masks and remaining physically distanced. Fans will be allowed to attend outside games, once again adhering to statewide gathering limits and following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Last Friday, Gov. Janet Mills announced a change in the gathering limits that will become effective March 26. For outdoor activities, the gathering limit will increase to 75 percent of permitted occupancy. Beginning May 24, it will increase to 100 percent.

Play ball!

Press Herald staff writer Mike Lowe contributed to this story.

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

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