PORTLAND—The Cheverus Stags used a dominant third quarter to pull away from the South Portland Red Riots Friday night in a Western Class A boys’ basketball showdown at Keegan Gymnasium.
A balanced scoring attack paced the way for the home team, as senior big man Shawn Grover scored 16 points, senior Cam Olson had 15, and classmate Louie DiStasio added 10.
It was 21-17 Cheverus at halftime as both teams had off nights shooting from outside. However, a 13-2 Cheverus run from the end of the first half and carrying midway through the third quarter really pulled the Stags into a controlling position. The hosts outscored the Red Riots, 16-6, in the third, getting two 3-pointers from DiStasio, six points from Olson, and four from junior Drew Ferrick.
A more patient attack and getting the ball down low was the key for the Stags’ second half success.
“We ran our offense better,” said coach Bob Brown, who earned his 200th win with Cheverus. “We were a little bit more patient and I thought our shot selection was better.”
Grover had a monster game down low, as did Olson. Both play as physical of a game as anybody in the conference. DiStasio didn’t have his greatest game, but he certainly brought the crowd to life on three phenomenal plays.
“They all bring different aspects, their games are very different,” said Brown. “We’ve got good size and we’ve got good athleticism in that size.”
Just 3:20 into the game, DiStasio had a steal and went down to slam it through with authority with defender right beside him. The Cheverus student section burst into an enthusiastic, “We got Louie!” chant to combat the South Portland students who had been doing a few of their own.
It was 8-8 after the first quarter and a 3-pointer from Calvin Carr with 5:05 to play in the second quarter gave South Portland a 13-9 lead. Cheverus answered back, though, with buckets from Ferrick, DiStasio, and Grover. An old-fashioned three-point play for junior Conner MacVane gave the Red Riots the lead again, 16-15 with 2:28 left in the half.
However, that was the last lead they would have.
The Stags came out in the second half and had nice open looks close to the rim. DiStasio made a fancy behind-the-back bounce pass to Olson on a two-on-one fast break to bring the crowd to life less than a minute into the third quarter. Olson then was wide open after he made an inbounds pass and nobody covered him for a bunny layup. Grover then made a mid-range jumper and senior Logan Gaddar answered for the Red Riots with two free throws, but DiStasio drained a 3-pointer on the next Cheverus possession to make it 30-19 with 5:32 left.
DiStasio found the ball in his hands with just a couple seconds remaining in the third quarter and needless to say he knew what to do with it, even if he was 10 feet beyond the arc. Nothing but net. It was a dagger that put Cheverus up 37-23. The Stags shot seven-for-11 in the quarter.
“We just came down and said we wanted to swing the ball,” said DiStasio of the second half strategy. “Be patient and wait until we got open stuff.
“It was a team effort big time and definitely a good win. We needed a win at home. We just got to keep getting better and be patient from the beginning and our offense will come because we’re playing great defense.”
South Portland was unable to answer throughout the Cheverus rally.
“I thought Cheverus shot the ball very well in the second half and we didn’t come back down on the other end and shoot,” said South Portland coach Phil Conley. “I thought that was the difference in the game.
“We’ve shot the ball well all year. So this was one game that we just didn’t shoot well. Credit Cheverus’ defense. Cheverus is very well coached with coach Brown and assistant coach (Dan) Costigan. That’s a great pair right there. They deserved to win tonight. We have one more game left with them (Feb. 10th, in the regular season finale) and we’ll look to make improvements and be ready to play.”
The Red Riots shot just one-of-nine from 3-point range through the first three quarters.
Mid-range jumpers and openings down low led to points for forwards Ferrick and Grover in the fourth quarter. When Grover got the ball with any bit of opening around the paint, he showed his versatility. He could slash, make a post move, or simply drain a jumper.
“I thought Grover played about as well as he has all year,” said Brown. “I think that when we get him the basketball a lot of good things happen. And not just him.”
Patient offense is Cheverus basketball. The overall pace of the game was on the slower side for the Stags, but the high percentage looks they were capitalizing on in the second half is their style.
“It isn’t so much the win,” said Brown. “It’s the way we got the win.”
“Three losses (in January) are prime examples of us not playing Cheverus basketball. And I thought tonight especially in that second half when we really got good looks, good shots, and I thought we got back to playing our basketball.”
Olson didn’t hesitate to attack the rim, either. The down low duo of him and Grover proved too strong for the Red Riots to handle. The 6-2 Gaddar battled all night in the paint against the taller Stags, collecting many offensive rebounds which prolonged his team’s possessions. But open looks were far and few between for South Portland, as the Cheverus zone defense was stifling for all 32 minutes.
Gaddard led the Red Riots with eight points and junior Ben Burkey had six.
“Everyone played a part no matter if they were scoring points, rebounding, taking charges,” said Olson. “Everyone stepped up big. James (Kapothanasis) is out with mono, so we know everyone needs to step up every game.”
Kapothanasis’ return date is still uncertain, but hopefully he will be game ready come playoff time, as his senior leadership at the point guard position is vital if the Stags hope to finish the deal and capture the gold ball come March (they lost in state final last year to the Bangor Rams).
The Red Riots and Stags both have tough matchups in their remaining four regular season games.
Cheverus (fourth in the Western A Heal Points standings) plays at Kennebunk on Tuesday, then has Thornton Academy, Deering, and the finale rematch with South Portland.
South Portland (sixth in Western A) plays at Deering Tuesday, then has Noble, Portland, and Cheverus.
Cheverus senior Shawn Grover shoots over South Portland junior Jack Tolan.
Cheverus senior Louie DiStasio loses control of the basketball while driving to the hoop.
Cheverus junior Drew Ferrick and South Portland senior Logan Gaddar battle for possession.
South Portland coach Phil Conley shouts out a play to his team during Friday’s game.
South Portland senior Logan Gaddar battles (from left) Cheverus senior Shawn Grover, freshman Zordan Holman and senior Cam Olson for a rebound during the Stags’ 49-33 victory Friday night.
More photos below.