Bulldogs have no trouble with Bonny Eagle Portland rides first half surge to 84-39 victory
It appeared as if the Bulldogs had their work cut out after a 67-46 Opening Night loss to visiting Thornton Academy, but Portland has come a long way in a short time as evidenced Monday night at the Portland Expo when it rode a 21-2 second period run to a decisive 84-39 win over the Bonny Eagle Scots.
The Bulldogs had five players score in double figures as they improved to 2-1.
"We're trying to get healthy," said longtime Portland coach Joe Russo. "We weren't healthy Opening Night. We're still not really healthy. We've been really changing the lineup."
Russo is considered the best around at taking a disparate collection of talent and turning it into a formidable unit by February, but the Thornton Academy setback appeared to hand him one of his biggest challenges.
The Bulldogs began to turn things around last Wednesday with an easy win at Noble (by the same 84-39 score). In that one, Portland got 23 points from junior Koang Thok and 20 from senior standout Ed Bogdanovich.
Monday, the Bulldogs wasted little time delivering a message to a Bonny Eagle squad, which had defeated Kennebunk and lost to Cheverus in previous action.
Just eight seconds in, sophomore James Ek scored on a rebound layup to put Portland ahead to stay. Bogdanovich followed with an old-fashioned three-point play, Ek buried a 3-ball, Bogdanovich hit two foul shots and Thok scored on a rebound putback to make it 12-0 with 4:58 to go in the first period, forcing Scots' coach Rick Simonds to call timeout.
The visitors finally got on the scoreboard 18 seconds later when junior Lincoln Sanborn buried a 3-pointer, but Bulldogs' freshman Will DeFanti answered with two free throws for a 14-3 lead. After Sanborn made a free throw and Bonny Eagle sophomore Steven Simonds made a leaner, Portland junior Wally Sanborn made two free throws and Ek made a pull-up jumper. Sanborn and junior Robbie Harvey each hit one foul shot for the Scots, but senior Joe Violette ended the quarter in style for the Bulldogs, making a layup with one second left for a commanding 20-8 bulge.
Bonny Eagle appeared primed to get back in the game when senior Brett Benner made a layup and Simonds hit a jumper in the lane, but the hosts then completely seized control, scoring 21 of the next 22 points.
Junior Joe Zukowski got things started with a leaner and Bogdanovich followed with a slam dunk. Violette then made his presence felt with a layup and a three-point play. After Bogdanovich made one of two free throws, Thok buried a 3 to make it 33-12. Scots' junior Jake Spiller sandwiched two free throws around a Violette layup, but Ek made a floater and Portland junior Jalen Neal made two free throws, then converted a rebound layup to cap the surge and make it 41-14 with 1:28 to play in the first half.
By halftime, the Bulldogs were in command 43-19. Bonny Eagle never seriously threatened in the second half, getting no closer than 24. Portland senior Charlie Ho and Stover put on a show in the fourth period and the Bulldogs cruised home to the 84-39 win.
"James Ek started and played well tonight," Russo said. "I put Koang at the point and he did a great job at the point. We ran the floor well and that helped us out, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Bogdanovich wound up leading all scorers with 17 points. Violette had 15, Stover 13, Ek 11 and Thok 10. DeFanti and Ho both scored six.
"Joe helps with our chemistry and he knows what's going on," Russo said. "I have to let my freshman point guard make his mistakes. Charlie was super-quick the second half and put on a show. I'm happy for him."
Bonny Eagle put 10 players in the scoring column, but none had double figures. Simonds led the way with nine points.
Portland hoped to go to 3-1 Tuesday when it visited Kennebunk (too late for this edition). Friday brings a huge barometer of the team's progress when the Bulldogs host defending Class A champion Cheverus, which has yet to be tested this winter.
The Bulldogs will keep their sights set ahead of them and hope to continue to grow into a top contender.
"I'm not bummed out about the TA game," Russo said. "We were half a team. Unfortunately, we only play them once. I think it's possible we'll see them again. We're still young. Only two seniors. I have to have patience with them. We don't really have a feeder system. It's good and bad. Hopefully we'll get some wins on the way. We want to have enough wins to get a good playoff spot."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com