The high school basketball tournament begins this week and Forecaster Country teams will be in the midst of all of the excitement.

Can Red Riots repeat?

Gabe Galarraga and his South Portland boys’ teammates are eyeing another state title. File photo.

A year ago, South Portland’s boys’ basketball team finally ended a three-decade Gold Ball drought by beating Oxford Hills in the state final. This year’s team has a drastically different look after the departure of standout big man JP Estrella and team heart-and-soul Owen Maloney, but the Red Riots have to like their title chances as the tournament commences.

Last Thursday, South Portland won its sixth straight game, 47-46, at Portland to finish the regular season 15-3. Gabe Galarraga led the way with 18 points. He missed two free throws with 5 seconds remaining, but Jaelen Jackson capped his breathtaking season-closing stretch by scoring on a putback with 3 seconds to go for the winning points.

“We just had to execute and there was a luck factor for the ball to bounce right to me,” said Jackson, who converted his third buzzer-beater of the year. “I’m lucky to be in the positions I’ve been in. I really thought (Gabe) would make it. I have full faith in him. He’s a great basketball player. It can be tough to shoot in the gym. As soon as he shot it, I just stayed low and got the ball and I just shot it. I’m so focused at that time. I can’t even hear the crowd anymore. I’m just playing basketball. I can’t really explain it.”

“I told the guys with a minute to go that win or lose, this is so valuable heading into the tournament,” added Kevin Millington, the Red Riots’ coach. “Three of our last four games have been a complete grind and that’s got to be good for us.”


South Portland will be the No. 2 seed behind Thornton Academy in Class AA South and hosts No. 7 Sanford (5-13) in the quarterfinals Wednesday (see our website for game story).

The Red Riots twice beat the Spartans this season, 77-68 on the road and 78-41 at home. South Portland is 9-0 all-time (dating to 1975) versus Sanford in the tournament, with a 65-39 win in the 2019 Class AA South quarterfinals the most recent.

“We have to continue to improve defensively,” Jackson said. “Offensively, I really like what we’re doing in general. We’re moving the ball around and spreading out our points.”

“It’s a completely different team from last year,” said Millington. “We do have a lot of kids back, but every one of those kids, even Jaelen, is in a completely different role. We’ve had to adapt and figure out our identity and we’re getting there for sure.

“We don’t shoot really well. We don’t have light the world on fire, but we have to make 3s here and there and we have to defend the 3 because our athleticism makes it hard for teams to get 2s. We need to do those things and not turn the ball over. It is different when you’re the favorite and you expect to win, but it’s fun to be the gritty team. We weren’t that last year, so it’s fun to be back to being the team that has to earn it.”

Scarborough wound up 6-12 and sixth in the region after a 68-53 loss at Deering in the finale last Thursday. De’Angelo led the Red Storm with 16 points and Blake Harris had 12.


Scarborough goes to No. 3 Gorham (13-5) for the quarterfinals Tuesday. The Red Storm twice lost to the Rams this season, 65-47 at home and 66-52 in Gorham. The Rams have won three of the five prior playoff meetings, but Scarborough took the most recent, 59-54, in the 2019 quarterfinals.

The Class AA South semifinals will be next Thursday at the Cross Insurance Arena. It’s possible Scarborough and South Portland could play in that round. The Red Riots swept the regular season games, winning 65-50 on the road and 64-57 at home. The teams split two prior playoff meetings, as South Portland prevailed, 78-53, in the 2017 semifinals and the Red Storm winning, 55-43, in the 2018 regional final.

The regional final is Saturday, Feb. 25. The state game is Saturday, March 4. All of those games will be contested at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

In Class B South, Cape Elizabeth finished 10-8 and eighth following a 66-62 home loss to Lake Region in last Wednesday’s finale.

The Capers sees the ninth-ranked Lakers (8-10) again in the preliminary round of the playoffs Tuesday (see our website for game story). The teams split during the regular season with Cape Elizabeth winning the other meeting, 56-52, on the road. The Capers and Lakers have played seven previous times in the postseason. Lake Region won four of those games, but Cape Elizabeth took the most recent, 51-46, in the 2015 regional final.

If the Capers move on to the quarterfinals, they will take on top-ranked Oceanside (17-1) Friday at 8:30 p.m., at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building. The teams didn’t meet this year and have no postseason history.


The Class B South semifinals are Thursday of next week and the regional final is Saturday, Feb. 25 with both rounds being played at the Expo. The state final is Saturday, March 4 at the Cross Insurance Arena.

A sea of red

Caroline Hartley leads the way for Scarborough’s girls’ team, which has to get past a familiar foe, South Portland, in the quarterfinals. File photo.

In the Class AA South girls’ tournament, fourth-ranked South Portland and No. 5 Scarborough will meet for the fourth time this season Wednesday in the quarterfinals at Beal Gymnasium (see our website for game story).

The Red Riots finished 9-9 after closing with a 50-36 home win over Portland last Thursday, as South Portland coach Lynne Hasson defeated her daughter, Bulldogs coach Abby Hasson. Samantha Duffy had 10 points and freshman Destiny Peter added nine.

The Red Storm wound up 8-10 after a 46-39 overtime home loss to Deering in their finale last Thursday. Caroline Hartley had 29 points in defeat.

South Portland won two of the three regular season encounters, 49-35 at home and 45-31 in Scarborough, while the Red Storm enjoyed a 47-30 win on the road.


The teams have played six previous times in the tournament, with Scarborough holding a 4-2 advantage. The Red Storm won the most recent meeting, 35-25, in the 2019 Class AA South Final.

The winner will take on top-seeded Thornton Academy (17-1) in the semifinals Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

South Portland lost twice to the Golden Trojans, 56-30 in Saco and 58-55 at home. The Red Riots are 4-2 in the all-time playoff series with a 53-46 loss in last year’s quarterfinal the most recent.

Scarborough was also beaten twice by Thornton Academy, 58-33 in Saco and 52-42 at home. Last year, the Red Storm beat the Golden Trojans, 40-31, in the semifinals to take a 2-1 all-time edge in the postseason series.

The Class AA South Final is Saturday, Feb. 25. The state game is Saturday, March 4. Those games will be contested at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

In Class B South, Cape Elizabeth finished 4-14 and 13th, but only 10 teams made the playoffs.

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]

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