We’ll never forget the 2020-21 winter sports season.

For better and for worse.

For starters, there was no 2020 portion, as after an initial burst of skills-and-drills, local teams went into a holding pattern when Cumberland County received a yellow designation. Counties classified as yellow in the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded system were not allowed to participate in any school-based activities.

Finally, three weeks into January, with some coaches and athletes about to give up hope, the Maine Principals’ Association reversed course and gave the go-ahead to schools located in yellow counties to begin practicing immediately with games to follow.

There would be five weeks of basketball and hockey games and a handful of skiing meets as well. Swimming held some virtual meets, while indoor track could only work out with local college facilities unavailable, and wrestling had its competitive season eliminated.

Once the games started, however, local athletes reminded everyone that even while wearing masks and playing with no fans, the quality of play was still excellent. Seniors got their well-deserved final moments in the spotlight and some promising newcomers hinted at greatness to come.

We’re eagerly looking forward to spring, where we’ll even have a postseason to enjoy, and the winter of 2021-22 promises a return to normalcy, but considering everything they went through, those who endured this past season deserve our admiration.

And here’s a look back at a few of the best memories.

Michael’s top five stories/moments

5) Cape/SP/Waynflete nearly perfect

One year after making its first trip to the state championship game, the Cape Elizabeth/South Portland/Waynflete girls’ hockey co-op team excelled again. The squad won its first eight games, surviving Cheverus in overtime and beating Scarborough by a goal. The run finally ended in the season finale with a 5-2 loss to Cheverus, but there’s little question that if there was a postseason, Cape/SP/Waynflete would have made another deep run. And the program’s future remains bright.

4) Cape boys’ hoops very competitive under new coach

This winter, for the first time since the mid-1990s, Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ basketball team had a coach that wasn’t named Jim Ray. Jeff Mitchell, who played for Ray in his first season, stepped in and did yeoman’s work, keeping the Capers competitive throughout. Cape Elizabeth managed to go 6-6 against a very challenging schedule that included just five games against teams from the Capers’ class. The biggest highlight didn’t even come in a win. In a season-ending loss at South Portland, Cape Elizabeth got a program-record 10 3-pointers from Dylan Swift. The Capers appear to be in good hands and on track to contend when normalcy returns next winter.

“I feel like (the season) went great,” Mitchell said. “These guys all love the game and love playing basketball for Cape. I couldn’t have picked a better group of guys for my first season. I’m very pleased with the way things went this year. Our schedule wasn’t easy and every game was a battle.”

3) Cape boys’ hockey finally solves nemesis Greely

Cape Elizabeth celebrates a goal during its 5-2 late-season win over rival Greely. File photos.

Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ hockey team is another squad that can only wonder what might have been. The Capers started the season in electric fashion with an overtime win over Scarborough, on a penalty shot no less, then went 6-2-2, with their two losses each coming by a single goal. The season highlight, however, unquestionably came on the afternoon of March 10, when Cape Elizabeth went to Greely and beat its longtime nemesis, 5-2. Five different players tickled the twine, including senior Oskar Frankwicz.

“This was a big one for us,” said Frankwicz. “The (postgame) locker room was very fired up. I was sick and tired of losing to Greely, so it feels amazing to do it finally. We did it as a team. It was a total team effort. I’ve thought about this game ever since it got added (to the schedule). We treated this game like it was a (regional final).”

2) SP boys’ hoops plays at championship level

Jaelen Jackson and his South Portland teammates enjoyed another strong season this winter.

South Portland fell just short of a perfect season in 2019-20 and once again got off to a great start this winter. The Red Riots had a lot of questions to answer when the campaign began, but answered them in the affirmative, as the returning players were bolstered by newcomers J.P. Estrella and Mayen Ayuel. South Portland swept Deering to start the season, then won a pair of games against longtime nemesis Portland, as well as Cheverus. After consecutive losses to talented Falmouth, the Red Riots closed with wins over Gray-New Gloucester and Cape Elizabeth. They produced plenty of thrills and are well positioned to make a run at that elusive Gold Ball in 2021-22.

“I don’t know how to interpret wins and losses this year,” South Portland coach Kevin Millington said. “It’s always more fun to win, but I feel like as a coach, I’m not doing anything. It was a weird year. I’m very happy we could get in the gym and play. It was great to be around the guys and see other coaches. It was a little normalcy.”

1) Family affair

First-year Portland girls’ basketball coach Abby Hasson, left, talks with her mother, South Portland coach Lynne Hasson, prior to a meeting last month.

History was made the night of Feb. 17, when Portland’s girls hosted South Portland. On one end of the court, coaching the Bulldogs was first-year coach Abby Hasson. Just a few feet away, coaching the Red Riots was Lynne Hasson, Abby’s mother. In what was believed to be the first time in Maine high school girls’ basketball history that a mother coached against her daughter, the daughter earned bragging rights with a 57-29 victory. Abby Hasson would win the rematch as well a couple days later, 55-31. There will be plenty more meetings to come and with it, some great dinner table conversation.

“I wish we’d come out on the winning end of it, but we made history,” Lynne Hasson said. “There haven’t been a lot of father-son duos (to coach against each other) and to see a mother-daughter duo is important for the kids. I know Abby loves the game. For Abby to get a varsity job at her age, I’m really happy for her. I’m happy for what it says for female coaches. We’ve worked hard to promote female coaches. Abby had (Bowdoin coach) Adrienne Shibles, (Colby coach) Julie Vellieux and (University of Maine coach) Amy Vachon behind her telling her to go for it.”

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

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