GORHAM — This year’s crop of winter athletes turned in some standout performances, worthy of recapping now that the season’s over. No doubt the biggest story belongs to the girls basketball team, who barreled through a second straight perfect season to retain their Class AA State Championship title, but quite a few other Rams deserve nods as well.
Sean Munkacsi’s downhillers, who ski together with a cadre of compatriots from nearby Bonny Eagle, repped well at SMAAs, then sent a contingent on to States. Owen Smith, Victor Popov, Derek Kuusela, Jacob Polchies, Grant Hamblen, Maeve Pitman, Caroline Dowdle, Maggie Munkacsi, Emily O’Donnell and Estelle Ballard took to the slopes at Mt. Abram Feb. 21-22, competing admirably, though neither the boys nor the girls ultimately finished high in the team rankings.
Mark Karter’s boys struggled to finish through the regular season: The Gentlemen Rams dropped several near-misses against tough teams, including their season-opener hosting Sanford, a pair of matchups vs. Windham and a bout with No. 2 Thornton Academy.
“This season as a whole was much more successful than our record showed,” said senior Captain Logan Drouin. “For a team that finished 4-14, we gave almost every team we played a run for their money.”
Luckily, the wins Gorham did pick up – over Massabesic, Bonny Eagle, Scarborough and Noble – earned them just enough Heal Points to claim AA South’s six-seed, the last tourney slot. The quarterfinals, then, are where Gorham finally found its groove – if only for one final, beautiful game. Handed a rematch with Sanford, (the three-seed by now, at 8-10), the Rams grabbed a little redemption, prevailing 42-31.
Their semis contest, another stab at TA, turned against them early. Oh, they battled back: Jackson Fotter lit up in the late going, hashing 25 points in roughly the final 12 minutes, but even that remarkable effort wasn’t enough to reel in a second consecutive upset, and they succumbed 56-49.
“Our team was full of a bunch of athletes,” Drouin said. “None of us chose basketball as our first sport; we all just enjoyed playing with each other and competing for the guy next to us. We just kept competing all season long and managed to get a playoff win, the first in the last 10 years for our boys basketball program.”
The Gentlemen Rams featured seven seniors this year: Drouin, Fotter, Jason Komulainen, RJ St. Cyr, Andrew Brown, Cam Holmes and Cam Wright.
“Being a senior and leaving my basketball career behind me is hard,” Drouin said, asked to reflect on his tenure with the team. “But I don’t feel any regrets. Basketball has never been my first sport, but I’ve always been a competitor and that’s what I’ve tried to bring to playing basketball. I’ve put pride into being a leader and someone that the younger guys could look up to. Over the last four years, I’ve been on teams that went 13-5 all the way to 4-14, and that’s taught me a lot, not only as an athlete but as a person, and I’m grateful for that.”
“When it comes to the future of the team, I see really good things,” Drouin said. “Coach Karter had three freshmen practice with us all year long and that shows his acknowledgement of the younger talent. We had a couple freshmen and sophomores this year that showed a lot of skill and dedication to basketball and I’m excited to see where they’ll take this team and their own abilities over the next couple years.”
Laughn Berthiaume’s Lady Rams completed their second consecutive 21-0 season, capturing, at the Augusta Civic Center on the evening of March 4, another gold ball to squeeze into the school’s trophy case. Gorham defeated North Reps Oxford Hills by the comfortable margin of 45-31 to secure the crown – but only after falling uncharacteristically behind in the early going.
The Rams kicked off their season in style, slaughtering neighboring Westbrook 64-26; to be fair to the Blazes, though, the Rams slaughtered most every opponent they met. Their toughest competition came from Class A powerhouses Greely, whom Gorham bested only narrowly, 67-64, on Dec. 20, and South Portland, whom the Rams squeaked past 46-44 in the Regional Finals on Feb. 24.
Of special note: Team Co-Captain Emily Esposito, now the school’s all-time leading scorer with better than 1,400 points to her name, won the Ms. Maine basketball award, bestowed upon her at a banquet in Bangor on Friday night, March 10. Esposito heads off in the fall to continue her studies and her basketball career at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
“Pretty much, this season as a whole ended exactly the way we wanted it to,” said sophomore standout Mackenzie Holmes. “At the beginning of the season, we set a goal for ourselves and knew the hard work we were going to have to put in in order to reach it. We took it one practice and game at a time and fought through some adversity along the way, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
Only three seniors depart the team: Esposito, Kaylea Lundin, and Kristen Curley – but they are three critical seniors who will sorely be missed. Luckily, the team remains deep, and should play excellent ball next year as well.
“It’s definitely going to be a huge hit losing our three seniors,” Holmes said. “We will be missing three great leaders, players, and friends. For a lot of us, we’ve never been in a high school game or practice without them being there so it will be a huge change.”
“Losing them also means that spots will be opening up,” Holmes said, “and new people are going to be filling into new roles. We will continue to keep expectations for ourselves very high. We know how hard we are going to have to work to reach those expectations, but we will still take it one game and practice at a time and always look to get better.”
“Our seniors have really experienced a storybook ending to their exceptional careers,” Berthiaume said, “and in my mind it was certainly how their careers were suppose to end. Kaylea, Kristen, and Emily started 210 career games collectively. They own a career record of 73-9 including 42 in a row. It is definitely hard to say goodbye to them, but the legacy they leave will be here forever. Regardless of how much time passes, their banners, pictures, and gold balls will be a lasting reminder of how special they were to their teammates and to each other.”
Julie Dvilinsky’s squad, a top contender in recent years, assembled another stellar run in ’16-’17, finishing third at States.
The team says goodbye to six seniors: Kelly Aube, Sally Aube, Jamie Carter, Meredith Dvilinsky, Brooke hall and Caroline Smith.
Jon Portwine’s boys struggled a bit this winter, finishing 4-12-2 – just outside the playoffs.
It didn’t help that one of their primary weapons, Adam Peterson, was out, injured, through the first part of the season, and their other primary weapon, Carter Landry, was out, also injured, through the last part of the season. Still, the Gentlemen Rams soldiered on, taking their schedule one game at a time.
“This wasn’t the season we were hoping for,” said Landry. “We started off strong, but things just weren’t going our way. Had some tough injuries and lost a few games we should’ve had.”
Gorham kicked off their schedule with three consecutive victories, including a 4-1 home-opener W vs. Cape Elizabeth, who eventually entered the bracketing ranked third at 12-5-1.
That’s when the Rams stumbled however. They picked up just one more win, a 4-3 triumph over Brunswick (4-13-1), and two ties, a 2-2 draw vs. Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/OOB and a 2-2 draw vs. Kennebunk. To the Rams’ great credit, both Massabesic/Bonny Eagle/OOB (11-6-2) and Kennebunk (12-6-1) were tough outfits this winter.
“This group of guys was very hardworking and we battled hard on and off the ice to get better,” Landry said. “At the end of the day the league was very strong this year and no matter how hard we worked, many other teams had elite talent and depth and we ended up not making it to our end goal of a State Championship.”
Six seniors depart the team: Peterson, Landry, Noah Bird, Dylan Weeks, Jordan Gaudreau and Ethan Joyce.
Landry reflected on his time with the team, and where he hopes Gorham will go in years to come. “Being a freshmen and sophomore and winning back to back Western Maine Championships was an unbelievable experience,” he said, “and it will be something I will never forgot. I hope that future guys will be able to rebrand the winning tradition in Gorham hockey. I think we have enough young talent coming up to do that.”
Nat Germond’s squad, a co-op with Bonny Eagle, took impressive strides this year. After going 0-18 in ’15-’16, finishing in dead last and (naturally) missing the playoffs, the team picked up six wins this winter: a pair over Portland/Deering, one over Mt. Ararat/Morse, one over York/Traip and a pair over Biddeford. That performance earned them the six-seed, come tourney time.
Unfortunately, the team fell in their quarterfinals matchup to No. 3 Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland. Four seniors leave their high school hockey careers behind: Mary Adams, Karen Stemm, Jordan Currier and Catherine Biegel.
Despite incredibly low numbers, Adam Cyr’s Gentlemen Rams kept their noses to the proverbial grindstone this winter. Sam Martel, Ben Clark, Max Harvey and Patrick Bishop left it all in the pool at South Southwesters in early February. Clark scored in the 200 Free, Harvey in the 500 Free and Bishop in the 100 Free; as a relay squad, the four took eighth in the 200 Medley. None ventured on to States.
A number of their Lady counterparts, however, did.
Girls States unfolded at Bowdoin on Feb. 21. There, Molly Sposato picked up points in the 200 Individual Medley and 100 Breast, Caelyn Smith in the 100 Free and 100 Back, and Laura Bolduc in the 100 Back.
As foursomes, Smith, Sposato, Bolduc and Narissa Libby scored in the 200 Medley Relay; Hannah LeBlanc, Alyssa Dolley, Delaney Burns and Sierra Lumbert scored in the 200 Free Relay; and Burns, Bolduc, Sposato and Smith scored in the 400 Free Relay.
As a team, the Lady Rams took 10th.
Burns, Dolley, LeBlanc, Libby, Sposato, Kristen Stoddard, Callie Cullinan all put their high school swimming careers behind them with the close of the ’16-’17 season.
Collectively, Jason Tanguay’s boys, in 13th, and John Caterina’s girls, in 16th, both finished middle of the pack at States; as individuals, and as relay squads, they posted a number of strong finishes. Some, including Ethan Orach and David Drew, even advanced to New Englands, held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston on March 4.
Orach finished 21st in the 1000 in a time of 2:40.75. Stephen Tyler (not that Steven Tyler) of Weston, CT won the event in 2:31.53. Drew finished 19th in the 55 Dash prelims, needing 6.87 seconds to cross the line. Alas, that time did not qualify him to advance to the event finals.
Both the boys and girls 4×800 outfits also earned a spot on the larger stage, with the Gentlemen Rams – Orach, Zackory Brown-Davis, Wil Rossignol and Alex Ousback – finishing 17th (8:32.95). The team from Danbury, Conn. took first (7:57.60). For their part, the Lady Rams – that’s Sarah Johnson, Iris Kitchen, Kate Tugman and Anna Slager – took 21st (10:10.20); the team from Glastonbury, Conn. finished first (9:13.06).
Gorham says goodbye to a modest list of seniors, come June: Orach, James Benson, Tony Cooper, Jack Lamont, Ken Richard, Sarah Lorello and Audrey Perreault.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Emily Esposito shows off her Miss Maine Basketball award.
Gorhamite Celia Begonia eludes a Mt. Ararat/Morse opponent in an early-season bout.
Gorham’s Dylan Weeks (12) shoulders away a Kennebunk opponent in an early-season matchup, allowing teammate Tyler Weeks to press forward unharassed.