PORTLAND — The Cheverus Domination Tour delivered another command performance Friday night at Keegan Gymnasium.
Facing 11-1 South Portland, the undefeated Stags forced 14 first quarter turnovers, raced to a 16-0 lead and were never seriously tested en route to an emphatic 66-44 triumph.
Three Cheverus players scored in double figures, the Stags played their normal brand of smothering defense and won once again with such ease that it raised the question if they’ll be tested at any point the rest of the way.
“It was a great start,” said Stags senior Kyle Randall, who led all scorers with 16 points. “We passed the ball around and made some shots and our defense stepped up. We live off our defense.”
More of the same
Entering Friday night, Cheverus had won by less than 20 points just three times and had truly been tested just once, a last-second 50-48 home victory over Westbrook way back on Dec. 8.
South Portland, even without senior standout Keegan Hyland (who remains sidelined with a stress fracture), won 11 of its first 12 outings, but quickly learned it would have no answers for the Stags.
While the Red Riots turned the ball over seven times in the first three minutes, the hosts quickly seized control and built an insurmountable lead.
Junior Alex Furness got the party started with a 3-pointer just 30 seconds in. Senior Indiana Faithfull followed with a tip-in, Furness made a foul shot, sophomore Louie DiStasio sank 3, Randall did the same, junior Griffin Brady made a layup and with 2:45 left in the first, Faithfull made a layup for a 16-0 advantage.
“I was disappointed because I thought we had four opportunities to score even more, but that’s being greedy,” said Cheverus coach Bob Brown.
South Portland finally scored at the 2:12 mark of the first when senior Matt Lee made a layup. After DiStasio sank another 3-ball, Lee made a leaner, but Faithfull hit two foul shots and sophomore Cameron Olson hit a long jumper. A layup by senior Ryan Curit pulled the Red Riots back to within 23-6 at quarter’s end.
South Portland committed 14 turnovers in the first, digging a hole that proved to be impossible from which to recover.
“(The Stags) capitalize on every mistake you make,” Red Riots coach Phil Conley said. “If you have a turnover, they capitalize with a basket. They’re well coached. Coach Brown does a wonderful job with his group.”
Fifty-two seconds into the second quarter, Faithfull made two foul shots, but he left the game seconds later with an ankle injury and was out for almost four minutes. In his absence, South Portland picked up its intensity and attempted to rally.
An old-fashioned three-point play from senior Greg Reinhold, a layup from senior Connor Hasson, a floater by Reinhold and a Reinhold foul shot made it a 25-14 game with 4:14 to go in the half.
With 3:50 left, DiStasio made a jumper to end the 8-0 run. After a layup by senior Jon DiBiase, a driving layup by Lee and a free throw from Hasson got the visitors within 27-19 with 3:12 remaining, Faithfull returned and the Red Riots would draw no closer.
A layup by Brady was followed by a Randall 3. After Lee answered with a 3-ball, Faithfull hit a leaner in the final minute to give the hosts a 34-22 lead at halftime.
As they did to start the game, the Stags came out on fire in the second half and ended all doubt.
A layup from Brady pushed the lead to 14. After senior Spencer Bowring answered with a floater, Faithfull made a free throw, Brady converted a three-point play, then Brady scored on a hook shot to make it 42-24. Hasson stemmed the tide momentarily with a three-point play, but Randall sank a 3 for a 45-27 advantage. After Hasson hit two foul shots, Furness scored on a layup and Randall made a fastbreak layup. Hasson answered with a layup, but a long jumper from Randall gave Cheverus a 51-31 advantage after three.
“They started making some shots so we made some adjustments in the second half and put it away,” Randall said.
In the fourth, South Portland got no closer than 18 (58-40) and both teams emptied their benches as the Stags pulled away to win, 66-44.
“We play well as a team,” Brown said. “We had good passes to open people. We have good outside shooting. We get loose balls because we’re long, quick and our attitude of playing hard every play. They know if they’re not doing that, they know they’ll have problems from me.”
In addition to Randall’s 16 points, Brady (15) and Faithfull (11) also finished with double-figures. Faithfull’s injury was worrisome, but doesn’t appear to be a long-term problem.
“He sprained his ankle, then he tweaked it,” Brown said. “I don’t know what the story will be. He’ll be sore. I don’t know what we’ll do. You’ll see someone else at point guard (against Biddeford).
“Brady had an outstanding game. He’s been sick. He has a nice, soft touch inside. Kyle had an excellent game. Once of his better games. What was really good is that he really stepped it up tonight.”
For South Portland, Hasson’s 14 and Lee’s 12 led the way. Reinhold added six.
“I think we didn’t handle their pressure in the first period, but after their run, we did in the second,” Conley said. “We missed some shots. I thought the biggest thing tonight was that we didn’t do a good job rebounding the basketball. Our team is a rebounding team. We didn’t do it tonight. We’ll learn from that. There’s still a long way to go. We’re 11-2 and we’re still a very good team. I know the kids will come to practice and we’ll continue to work hard.”
The Red Riots (third in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings) host Bonny Eagle Tuesday and welcome Deering Thursday. South Portland sees Cheverus again in the regular season finale, Feb. 5 at home.
“We have a good test Tuesday,” Conley said. “I have confidence in our team. One game won’t make me think any different. We’re competitors, we’ll work hard and get better.”
Cheverus (first in Western A) hosts Biddeford Saturday and goes to Gorham Tuesday. The Stags would love to be tested before season’s end, but a challenge doesn’t appear to be on the horizon for this juggernaut.
“It would be good to get another close game,” Brown said. “The problem with not having one is what do you when you have one? We practice situations, but we haven’t had to do it.”
“The Westbrook game was a blast,” Randall added. “We play every game as hard as we can. If we get to a close game, we’ll see what happens. We’re a young team. We still have a lot to improve on, but we’re off to a good start.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org