WANI DONATO, Senior – Basketball

File photo

• SMAA Class AA all-star, first-team
• Maine McDonald’s Senior all-star

Donato

Donato was the sparkplug for a Bulldogs team that surpassed expectations this winter, as he took on as much responsibility as any player in recent memory.

Donato first made his presence felt as a sophomore and his athleticism and ability to get to the basket set him apart. He continued to impress during a COVID-shortened junior campaign, then did a little of everything this winter as Portland knocked off several top teams en route to its best record in four years.

Not only was Donato a force on offensive end, he was usually tasked with stopping the opponent’s top player, an exhausting combination which didn’t faze him in the least.

Donato finished with an average of 12.2 points per game (14th best in the conference), 10.6 rebounds (second), 1.5 blocks (tied for second), 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. On 11 occasions, he had a double-double (at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in the same game) and in three other contests, he fell a basket shy.

Advertisement

Highlights included 10 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a season-opening loss to Lewiston; 18 points in a victory over Bonny Eagle; 12 points and a whopping 16 rebounds in a win at Deering; 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals in a win over eventual regional champion Oxford Hills; 10 points and 13 rebounds in a home loss to Cheverus; 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Falmouth; 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in a victory over Windham; 13 points in a second win over Windham; 14 points and 10 rebounds in a second win over Deering; and 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in a stunning buzzer-beating playoff loss to Cheverus.

A quiet leader, Donato chose to let his play do the talking this season and it spoke volumes, as his consistency and brilliance helped the Bulldogs return to form.

Coach Joe Russo’s comment: “Wani recorded the most double-doubles of any player I’ve coached. I have never had to ask so much from one single player that I did from Wani. We needed him to score, rebound and cover the other team’s best player. He didn’t complain and I had a hard time getting him off the floor. He led by example. I’m going to miss his demeanor, his coachability and his kindness.”

Previous winners:

MARIA DELMONTE, Sophomore – Swimming

File photo

• Class A state champion, 100 backstroke
• Class A state champion, 500 freestyle
• North Division Southwesterns Co-Swimmer of the Year
• All-State, 100 backstroke
• All-State, 500 freestyle
• All-State, 200 medley relay
• All-Conference, 100 backstroke
• All-Conference, 500 freestyle
• All-Conference, 200 medley relay
• All-Conference, 400 free relay

Advertisement

DelMonte

DelMonte splashed her way into our consciousness this winter with a series of dazzling performances, and she saved her absolute best for when it mattered the most.

DelMonte essentially missed out on her freshman season due to COVID, but did she ever sparkle this season.

DelMonte showed off her dexterity during the regular season, winning everything from the 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke to her best events, the 100 backstroke and 500 free.

At the North Division Southwesterns, DelMonte won the 500 free in 5 minutes, 15.27 seconds and was runner-up to Greely’s Abby Hollis in the 100 backstroke (58.79) seconds.

That proved to be an appetizer to what she’d accomplish at the Class A state meet, where DelMonte won the 100 backstroke (58.27) and the 500 freestyle (5:09.60). Both times were the fastest in Maine this winter, regardless of class. DelMonte also anchored her team’s fourth-place finish in the 400 free relay with a split of 53.53 seconds, easily the best of the meet.

Along the way, DelMonte set new records in the 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 100 fly and 200 individual medley.

Best of all, DelMonte is only getting started. She still has two more years to excel at the high school level and you can only imagine just how high she’ll set the bar.

Coach Sarah Rasmussen’s comment: “Maria is an all-around amazing athlete and is also just extremely versatile. In addition to qualifying in every individual event this season, she was ranked among the top five swimmers in the latest Class A top times in all but two of these events. Her speed and versatility is also historic. Yet as fast and versatile as she is, it is true that every so often a swimmer of this caliber does come along. However, what makes Maria truly special is her intangible nature, the effect she has on others. Maria is someone in whom talent meets up with very hard work. But she is special because the whole time she also is laughing, cheering for and encouraging her teammates. Maria has become a rising tide, lifting the dedication and performances of girls older than her and truly inspiring her peers and those younger than her. It is sometimes the case that elite athletes will think themselves above the team aspect of high school swimming. It is the opposite for Maria. She loves the camaraderie, competition and campaign of a high school season. Her enthusiasm brings everyone along in her very fast slipstream.”

Previous winners:

• 2020-21 Gemima Motema (basketball)
• 2019-20 Amanda Kabantu (basketball)
• 2018-19 Jaidyn Appel (track)
• 2017-18 Shayla Eubanks (basketball)
• 2016-17 Maggie Hosmer (track)
• 2015-16 Lauren McIntyre (hockey)
• 2014-15 Gabby Wagabaza (basketball)
• 2013-14 Brianna Holdren (basketball)
• 2012-13 Abby Popenoe (Nordic skiing)
• 2011-12 Kylie Dalbec (hockey)
• 2010-11 Nicollette Kapothanasis (basketball)
• 2009-10 Raechel Allen (hockey)
• 2008-09 Nyachuol Biliew (basketball)
• 2007-08 Nyachuol Biliew (basketball)
• 2006-07 Alex Perdomo (hockey)
• 2005-06 Regina Roberts (track)
• 2004-05 Ashley Anderson (basketball)
• 2003-04 Ashley Brownlee (basketball)

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

Comments are not available on this story.