The winter sports season had some fits and starts, but did it ever end in style.

While COVID still impacted the schedule, by season’s end, it was full speed ahead and after an abbreviated 2021 campaign with no postseason, every sport got to crown a champion this time around.

And there was no shortage of triumph to go around.

Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team won a state title for the first time. Deering, Portland and Waynflete also took part in the tournament.

On the boys’ side, Cheverus had the most success, upsetting Portland on an epic buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals. Waynflete sprung a memorable upset up in Augusta and Deering was also in the mix.

On the ice, Cheverus/Yarmouth’s boys took part in one of the most memorable playoff games ever contested, a five-overtime thriller in the semifinals, which ultimately ended in defeat to a Brunswick team which went on to win the Class B state title. Portland/Deering and the South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport co-op squad were also eliminated in overtime, both by eventual Class A champion Scarborough.

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On the girls’ side, Cheverus and the Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland co-op team were beaten by Scarborough, in the semifinals and South Region Final, respectively, while Portland/Deering fell in the quarterfinals against Falmouth.

The indoor track, swimming, skiing and wrestling state meets featured strong performances across the board.

While it’s time to spring forward, let’s not do so too quickly and with that in mind, here’s one last look at and tribute to the stars and champions of winter.

Deering/Portland’s Maria DelMonte is all smiles after winning the girls’ 500 freestyle at the Class A swimming state meet. File photos.

Portland edition team state champion

Cheverus Stags girls’ basketball, Class AA

Portland edition individual state champions

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Indoor track
Frank Morang, Cheverus, Class A boys’ long jump

Swimming
Taylor Belanger, Cheverus, Class A girls’ 100 breaststroke
Taylor Belanger, Cheverus, Class A girls’ 50 freestyle
Maria DelMonte, Deering/Portland, Class A girls’ 500 freestyle
Maria DelMonte, Deering/Portland, Class A girls’ 100 backstroke

Michael’s top five stories/moments

5 Deep run for girls’ hockey teams

The Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland and Portland/Deering girls’ hockey teams squared off in the first round of the playoffs.

The season on the ice resulted in strong play, as Portland/Deering, Cheverus and Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland all made the girls’ hockey playoffs. The Stags defeated Gorham with ease, 10-3, in the South Region quarterfinals, but were then upset by Scarborough in a marathon game in the semifinals, 1-0, in triple-overtime. Cape/Waynflete/SP defeated Portland/Deering, 8-2, in the South Region quarterfinals, then engaged in arguably the most exciting, and certainly the longest contest in girls’ hockey history, tying upset-minded Falmouth with just seconds to go in regulation, then outlasting the Navigators in a four-overtime epic, 5-4, on freshman Libby Hooper’s goal. Cape/Waynflete/SP finally met its match in Scarborough in the regional final, which prevailed, 3-1.

4 Cheverus/Yarmouth plays a marathon

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You want to talk about multiple overtimes? The Cheverus/Yarmouth boys’ hockey squad exceeded imagination when it played five of them in the Class B South semifinals versus Brunswick earlier this month. Cheverus/Yarmouth, now in its second year as a co-op, started the year 0-2, but eventually hit its stride, winding up 12-5 and third in the region. After eliminating York, 5-1, in the quarterfinals, Cheverus/Yarmouth went to Brunswick for the semifinals and the teams would need far more than 45 minutes to determine a winner. Cheverus/Yarmouth had a 3-2 lead early in the third period, but the Dragons pulled even and Brunswick goalie Luke Patterson and Cheverus/Yarmouth goalkeeper Neal McQuarrie stopped every shot they faced the rest of regulation and through four, eight-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes. The Dragons finally broke through in the fifth OT to end Cheverus/Yarmouth’s terrific season, but even in defeat, Cheverus/Yarmouth could only marvel at what took place.

“It was insane, but it was a lot of fun,” Cheverus/Yarmouth coach Dave St. Pierre said. “Unfortunately, we just came out on the wrong end. It was a battle of two evenly matched teams. We went toe-to-toe and both teams left it all on the ice.”

3 Waynflete boys spring tournament surprise

Waynflete celebrates its upset win over top-ranked Winthrop in the Class C South quarterfinals last month.

Waynflete’s boys’ basketball team has enjoyed high seeding in recent tournaments, but this winter was a different story, as the Flyers wound up eighth in Class C South. Regardless, Waynflete saved its best basketball for February and went on another playoff run. After outlasting No. 9 Madison, 54-53, in overtime, in the preliminary round, the Flyers traveled to Augusta to take on top-ranked Winthrop, the reigning state champion, which had beaten Waynflete in the 2020 regional final. This time around, it was all Flyers, regardless of the rankings, as they shot to a 21-7 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened en route to a 44-27 victory.

“No one saw it coming and in the doldrums of January, when we paused for a week and we had different guys testing positive for COVID, if you told me this would happen, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said.

The Flyers would then lose to Monmouth Academy in the semifinals.

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2 Cheverus girls strike gold for the first time

Cheverus girls’ basketball team shows off the program’s first Gold Ball. 

Cheverus’ girls’ basketball team has made its share of runs in recent seasons, but this was the finest Stags team of them all. Despite battling a COVID-breakout and having to play half the regular season without injured sophomore standout Maddie Fitzpatrick, Cheverus went into the Class AA North tournament as the No. 2 seed and made quick work of No. 7 Portland, 72-45, in the quarterfinals before eliminating No. 3 Hampden Academy, 35-25, thanks to a smothering defensive effort, in the semifinals. The Stags then had to solve reigning champion and top-seed Oxford Hills in the regional final and after a slow start, they did exactly that, punching their ticket to the state final for the first time, 52-36. Cheverus squared off against a talented Gorham team in the state final, but again, the Stags’ defense was the difference, holding the Rams to just 36 points in a 13-point victory. Senior Julia Kratzer had the game of her life, making five 3-pointers, good for 17 points, and Emma Lizotte added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

“We really dealt with a lot and the girls are mentally tough,” said Cheverus coach Billy Goodman, who won three state championships at McAuley last decade and got the Stags to the pinnacle in just his third season with the program. “They really motivated themselves. They found a way to win a lot of games.”

1 The answered prayer

Cheverus’ boys’ basketball team erupts with joy after Silvano Ismail’s miraculous game-winning 3-pointer beats Portland in the Class AA North quarterfinals. 

The single most memorable moment of the winter sports season involving city teams came the night of Feb. 16 at the Portland Exposition Building, where No. 3 Portland hosted sixth-ranked Cheverus in the Class AA North quarterfinals. The Stags, who had returned to prominence in the first year of Richie Ashley’s coaching tenure, trailed almost the whole way, but the Bulldogs couldn’t put them away. Cheverus still trailed, 44-42, with 4 seconds left and after Portland missed the front end of a one-and-one, Stags senior Seth Huntington got the rebound, quickly passed the ball to junior Silvano Ismail and Ismail raced up the right side before throwing up a prayer from well beyond the 3-point line just before the horn sounded. The prayer was answered, as the ball bounced off the backboard and in, giving Cheverus an improbable 45-44 victory, setting off a wild celebration.

“Seth Huntington had the rebound of his life and the outlet pass of his life and Silvano made the shot of his life,” Ashley said.

Cheverus lost to Oxford Hills in the semifinals, but the program is back and more triumph is sure to await.

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

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