Portland sophomore Griffin Foley goes up for a layup as South Portland senior Jack Fiorini defends during the Bulldogs’ 68-38 win Tuesday night. Foley had a game-high 13 points.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
P- 18 13 15 22- 68
SP- 5 12 9 12- 38
P- Foley 5-1-13, T. Moss 3-2-11, Esposito 3-3-10, Lyall 3-1-7, A. Moss 3-1-7, Williams 2-2-7, Yugu 3-0-6, Fonseca 2-0-5, Bellew 1-0-2
SP- Fiorini 5-1-11, Jackson 3-0-6, Bol 2-1-5, Mutombo 2-1-5, Hasson 1-0-3, Pelletier 1-0-3, Kilmartin 1-0-2, Martin 1-0-2, Hodgkin 0-1-1
P (8) T. Moss 3, Foley 2, Esposito, Fonseca, Williams 1
SP (2) Hasson, Pelletier 1
SOUTH PORTLAND—A year ago, in the penultimate game, on the final Tuesday night of the regular season, Portland’s boys’ basketball team went to Beal Gymnasium and scored 16 points in 36 minutes and lost in overtime to South Portland.
Fast forward 52 weeks to the final Tuesday of the regular season, the penultimate game, the same location and the Bulldogs, this time, suffice it say, were far more productive.
It took a mere 6 minutes, 49 seconds for Portland to eclipse last year’s point total and the Bulldogs never trailed en route to another decisive victory.
Portland got 11 first quarter points from super sophomore Terion Moss to lead, 18-5.
While the Red Riots settled down and were more competitive in the second period, the Bulldogs added a point to their advantage to go up, 31-17, at the break.
Portland ended the competitive phase of the contest in the third period, as senior Joe Esposito hit a couple baskets and sophomore Griffin Foley knocked down a key 3.
In the final stanza, the Bulldogs’ bench players helped them pull away and they went on to a 68-38 victory.
Foley paced a balanced attack with 13 points, nine different players scored, Portland won its eighth straight game, improved to 16-1 and dropped South Portland to 9-8 in the process.
“We knew (South Portland would) be fired up,” said Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “We’re worth a lot of points, it’s a rivalry, it was in their gym and they have talent, but all 10 guys contributed tonight.”
Portland and South Portland have combined to win the past three Western A championships, with the Red Riots falling to Hampden Academy in the 2013 state final, the Bulldogs beating the Broncos two years ago at states, then losing to Hampden Academy in a rematch a year ago.
There’s a possibility the ancient rivals could square off in the state final with this year’s new classification, but as the regular season comes to a close, Portland looks like a much safer bet.
The Bulldogs started by downing visiting South Portland (75-56), then defeated host Bonny Eagle (75-49), Oxford Hills (74-57) and Lewiston (85-39), visiting Edward Little (82-64), Noble (100-33) and Bangor (68-39) and host Scarborough (73-38), before finally meeting its match in a 58-55 home loss to Gorham.
“That loss to Gorham was probably better for me than it was for the kids,” Russo said. “That game woke me up a little bit. It’s the best clinic I could have gone to the last 10 years. I learned what I didn’t do. I’m thankful for that game.”
The Bulldogs got back on track with a 72-42 home win over Sanford, then won at Deering (61-51), held on for a 61-59 win at Thornton Academy, dominated visiting Cheverus (72-42), rolled at Windham (62-39), beat visiting Massabesic (71-57), then Friday pulled away to beat visiting Deering (74-62).
South Portland lost two of its first three games under new coach Kevin Millington, 75-56 at Portland and 45-38 at Gorham, sandwiched around a 67-35 home victory over Westbrook. The Red Riots then got things going with a 65-38 home win over Bonny Eagle before downing visiting Noble (78-34), host Scarborough (73-38), host Sanford (63-53), visiting Lewiston (68-43) and host Cheverus (50-42). After a 66-46 home loss to Deering, South Portland beat visiting Scarborough, 60-39, but has struggled since against a tough schedule, losing at Falmouth (63-42), Thornton Academy (52-42) and Massabesic (64-47) and after winning at Windham, Millington’s former team, 70-63, the Red Riots lost at home to Cheverus, 66-53, Friday.
Portland and South Portland started playing in the 1909-10 season and entering play Tuesday, the Bulldogs held a 120-101 lead in the series, including a 27-7 advantage since the start of the 2001-02 season (see sidebar, below).
Due to two lengthy junior varsity games and a girls’ varsity game beforehand, this one didn’t start until 9:02 p.m., but it was worth the wait for the visitors as Portland impressed from start to finish.
The Bulldogs got the jump when Foley knocked down a 3-pointer 92 seconds in.
After the Red Riots got on the board when senior Jordin Jackson tipped home a miss, Terion Moss buried successive 3s, Moss added two foul shots and Esposito hit a 3 for a 14-2 lead less than five minutes in.
“They wanted to play halfcourt and play zone and challenge our shooting,” Russo said. “We ran a little zone offense and got nothing and thank God I changed it and Terion hit shots. Then they went to a 2-3 and we got (junior center) Charlie (Lyall) the ball. He’s our point guard against that zone and we hit more shots. I just helped the guys with the formation and they had to perform.”
A Jackson layup snapped Portland’s 14-0 run, but Esposito hit a free throw and with 1:11 left in the first quarter, another Moss 3 allowed the Bulldogs to exceed last year’s point total in less than a quarter.
A late free throw from South Portland junior Ruay Bol cut Portland’s lead to 18-5 after eight minutes.
Moss stole the show in the first quarter with 11 points.
“I’ve played with Terion and we’ve been best friends for a long time,” Foley said. “Every day, he does something impressive and he gets better.”
After Red Riots senior Jack Fiorini made a layup to start the second period, Moss set up freshman Pedro Fonseca for a fastbreak layup, but sophomore Riley Hasson hit a 3 for the hosts to cut the deficit to 20-10.
Lyall knocked down a jumper for the Bulldogs and after Fiorini made a free throw, Terion Moss set up his brother, senior Amir Moss, for a layup and the elder Moss added a foul shot for a 25-11 lead.
After Fiorini scored on a putback, Esposito made two free throws and Foley drove for a layup to make it 29-13.
South Portland got a driving layup from sophomore Noah Malone and another layup from Fiorini, but just before halftime, Bulldogs sophomore Emmanuel Yugu scored on a putback to make it 31-17 Portland at halftime.
In the first half, the Bulldogs forced 11 Red Riots turnovers.
Portland quickly put it away in the third period.
Esposito got the scoring started with a jumper. After senior Matt Pelletier made a 3 for the hosts, Lyall scored on a putback, Foley went backdoor and took a pass from Terion Moss and made a layup and Amir Moss went coast to coast for a layup and a 39-20 lead.
Fiorini momentarily stemmed the tide with a layup, but Esposito hit a floater. Fiorini set up Bol for a layup, but Foley made a 3. After a Fiorini putback, senior John Williams made two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 46-26 lead with eight minutes to play.
In the fourth quarter, WIlliams helped the visitors open things up further with a layup after a steal and Lyall scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and a 51-26 lead with 5:48 left.
After Bol and Amir Moss traded baskets, Jackson made a layup, but Yugu scored on a fastbreak layup (from Foley) and freshman Trey Bellew set up Foley for a three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and a 58-30 advantage with 2:40 to go.
South Portland got a free throw from senior Thomas Hodgkins, but Williams buried a 3, Yugu made a layup after a steal and Yugu set up Bellew for a layup and Portland’s biggest lead, 65-31.
After the Red Riots got a three-point play from senior Joe Mutombo, a crowd favorite, senior Mike Kilmartin banked home a shot and Mutombo scored on a putback for South Portand’s final points. A late 3 from Fonseca brought the curtain down on the Bulldogs’ 68-38 win.
“We knew they had something to play for and they really wanted to win, so we knew we had to come out and match their intensity and energy and we did,” Foley said. “We knew they were tall and could shoot. We had to be sure we rotated on defense. On offense, we knew they’d come out in their 1-3-1 zone and we wanted to spread the floor and get open shots.
Foley had 13 points to lead the way. Terion Moss (who scored all 11 of his points in the first quarter and also had four rebounds and four assists) and Esposito (10 points, four assists) also scored in double figures. Lyall, Amir Moss and Williams all had seven points, Yugu finished with six, Fonseca had five and Bellew added two.
“We’re deep,” Foley said. “We can come off the bench and play any position we need to.”
The Bulldogs didn’t have to stall this time around.
“I was almost going to do it again, but since they’re in a different division I didn’t,” Russo said. “We didn’t have to stall tonight. The fans were brutal to me last time, so I thought about it.”
Portland only committed nine turnovers and made 10 of 14 foul shots.
South Portland’s lone double digit scorer was Fiorini, who had 11 points, to go with six rebounds. Jackson had six points, Bol and Mutombo five apiece, Hasson and Pelletier three each, Kilmartin and Martin two apiece and Hodgkins one.
The Red Riots only made 4 of 12 free throws and turned the ball over 21 times.
“(Portland’s) really good,” Millington said. “Their guard play was really good. It was a tough matchup for us. They’re almost impossible to defend when they make 3s because they’re so quick and strong. Having to guard them in a man situation was tough. The good part is we did play hard. We were more concerned with fighting from beginning to end than the score.”
South Portland (fourth in the Class AA South Heal Points standings) hopes to finish with a winning record and earn some momentum when it goes to Deering for the regular season finale Thursday. They’ll take part in the quarterfinals (likely against Sanford) Thursday of next week.
“We’re in a much better place than people think we are,” said Millington. “The kids are really focused in practice. We’ve been focused on Sanford for a couple weeks. We think we have as good a chance as anyone to come out of the South and that hasn’t changed.”
Portland (first in Class AA North) finishes at Cheverus Thursday. The Bulldogs will have some time off until taking part in the semifinals, but they like where they stand.
“Coach prepares us for every game and gives us a good game plan,” Foley said. “We’re confident going in, but we have to keep practicing hard, playing hard and do what we have to do.”
“We haven’t peaked yet, which is good,” Russo said. “We’re getting better every game. The Northern Maine routine will be different. It will be like a state tournament game.”
Portland senior Ben Griffin shoots over South Portland junior Ruay Bol.
Portland senior Joe Esposito defends South Portland junior Ansel Stilley.
Portland senior Amir Moss and South Portland junior Deandre White fight for the ball.
South Portland junior Ruay Bol soars to the basket.
Portland sophomore Terion Moss hands the ball off to senior John Williams as South Portland senior Sam DePaolo defends.
Portland freshman Pedro Fonseca shoots over South Portland senior Sam DePaolo.
@ Portland 75 South Portland 56
@ Portland 45 South Portland 43
@ South Portland 20 Portland 16 (OT)
Portland 79 @ South Portland 49
@ Portland 64 South Portland 42
@ Portland 63 South Portland 47
@ South Portland 52 Portland 42
Western A semifinals
South Portland 49 Portland 41
Portland 61 @ South Portland 57
@ Portland 52 South Portland 48
Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 39 Portland 37
@ Portland 80 South Portland 71 (3 OT)
Portland 59 @ South Portland 54
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 69 South Portland 45
Portland 56 @ South Portland 49
@ Portland 49 South Portland 48
@ South Portland 57 Portland 49
South Portland 56 @ Portland 51
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 72 South Portland 49
@ Portland 65 South Portland 50
@ South Portland 67 Portland 57
Portland 79 @ South Portland 76
@ Portland 53 South Portland 51
Portland 75 @ South Portland 63
@ Portland 87 Portland 60
@ Portland 71 South Portland 53
Portland 78 @ South Portland 58
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 58 South Portland 51
Portland 98 @ South Portland 44
@ Portland 66 South Portland 29
Portland 62 @ South Portland 36
@ Portland 59 South Portland 40
@ Portland 65 South Portland 61
Portland 67 @ South Portland 52