Remijo Wani holds the Class AA North championship plaque while posing for a photo with teammates, including Sam Esposito, left, and Pitia Donato after Portland defeated Oxford Hills in the regional final on Feb. 24. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Remijo Wani missed his first chance to play in a state championship game for Portland High.

A senior who transferred to Portland after three years at Deering High, he suffered an injury in the Class B South football championship game against South Portland. The Bulldogs’ top receiver and a key player on defense, Wani could not play in the title-game loss to Skowhegan.

He’ll have to wait two extra days because of Saturday’s snowstorm, but Wani will get his championship experience.

“And, it’s against SoPo,” said Wani, referring to Class AA South champion South Portland.

Portland (16-5), which upset No. 1 Oxford Hills in the North final, is back in the Class AA boys’ basketball championship game for the first time since 2017. South Portland (18-3) is the defending state champion. The final will be played at 7:45 p.m. Monday at Cross Insurance Arena.

“I mean, being able to play in a state game is special, especially after missing the first one,” Wani said. “I just remember coming home after the game with Oxford Hills and I was like, ‘I’m going to states.’ I just kept repeating to myself, ‘I’m going to states, I’m going to states.’ It was a good feeling. Still is a good feeling.”


Wani scored 11 points in the 47-35 win against the Vikings. In the fourth quarter, his 10-foot floater essentially put the game out of reach at 39-25, then he helped seal the win with an assist to senior captain Pitia Donato and the final two free throws with 1:09 to play that prompted Oxford Hills to empty its bench.

Wani’s football injury slowed the process of melding with his new basketball teammates. During the summer, he played basketball with Deering.

Then, while recovering from the knee injury, he missed the first five games. It took some time for Wani to get comfortable with Portland’s offense, he said.

“I feel like learning the plays was probably the hardest part. I had to find new ways to score,” Wani said. “Because at Deering, I felt more comfortable, shooting my own shot. But here, there’s more structure. I try to do my best and it took awhile, but it’s paying off.”

Wani said he transferred to Portland because he “wanted a new environment,” and that he would have liked to have gone to Portland sooner in high school but his mother felt Deering, closer to their home, was a better option.

“I thought Portland was going to be the right fit for me, and since it was my senior year, my mom gave me the option to transfer now that my siblings are in high school as well,” said Wani. His brother and sister attend Deering.


Wani, a sturdy 6-foot-3 forward, has averaged a team-best 12.7 points, along with 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

“Remijo is a great scorer. I think of him as one of the best scorers in this whole state,”  said Portland senior guard Brady Toher. “But us as a team, it’s whoever the open guy is.”

Portland ruled Class AA the first two seasons of the five-class system, beating South Portland in the 2016 and 2017 title games. The Bulldogs were favored again in 2018 with senior Terion Moss but were upset in the North semifinals by a hot-shooting and gritty Windham squad. That ended a four-year run where Portland went 76-8, with three regional championships and two state titles.

But when the current seniors were freshmen, Portland was just 3-15, last in AA North, and then was dispatched by eventual state champ Edward Little, 77-22, in the quarterfinals.

After the pandemic-shortened season in 2021, Portland went 11-7 and was seeded third in 2021-22 but was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Cheverus on Silvano Ismail’s buzzer-beating 40-foot bank shot.

The 2022 ending served as a catalyst for 2023.


“Last year, we lost on that buzzer-beater to Cheverus. We just brought a different mentality this year,” said junior center Jeissey Khamis, who was the standout against Oxford Hills with 19 points and 19 rebounds.

Donato said, “My whole career, I haven’t been to (Cross Insurance Arena) at all, and my senior year to be in the finals, it feels good.”

In their return to the Cross Arena, Portland has so far avenged four of its five regular-season losses by beating Lewiston and Oxford Hills. Now comes South Portland, which beat Portland in the regular-season finale on a Jaelen Jackson putback off a missed free throw.

“And we also like to look back to the loss to SoPo over winter break,” in an exhibition at the Expo, Toher said. “We count that as a second game, even though it wasn’t an official game. We used a bunch of different people and tried some different looks, but we treat that as a learning loss and they beat us twice, so we have to prove something.”

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