Portland junior Terion Moss makes a layup for two of his game-high 25 points as Cheverus junior Jesse Matthews defends during the Bulldogs’ 69-46 home win in the teams’ mutual regular season finale Wednesday night.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
C- 15 13 8 10- 46
P- 22 10 16 21- 69
C- Casale 7-3-18, Matthews 3-3-9, Ephron 3-0-7, Johnson 2-0-4, Duchaine 1-0-3, Foster 1-0-3, Flaherty 1-0-2
P- Moss 10-2-25, Hardy 3-0-7, Yugu 3-1-7, Chadbourne 1-3-6, Fonseca 3-0-6, Lyall 2-2-6, Foley 2-0-4, Joyce 2-0-4, Ballew 1-0-2, Clarke 0-2-2
C (3) Casale, Duchaine, Ephron 1
P (4) Moss 3, Hardy 1
PORTLAND—Beware the Portland Bulldogs boys’ basketball team after it suffers a rare loss.
The defending Class AA state champions were beaten at Edward Little earlier this season, then rattled off 11 straight victories.
Monday, Portland fell at home against South Portland, but Wednesday evening, in the regular season finale at the Portland Exposition Building, the Bulldogs returned to form and there was nothing the rival Cheverus Stags could do about it.
Three 3-pointers and 15 points total from junior standout Terion Moss helped Portland open up a 22-15 lead after one quarter, but the visitors hung tough in the second period and only trailed by four points, 32-28, at halftime.
When Stags senior standout Jack Casale drained a 3-pointer from beyond the NBA stripe early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs’ lead was a mere three points, but they roared to life and went on a 12-3 run, sparked by six points from Moss, to earn some breathing room and take a 48-36 lead to the fourth quarter.
There, Portland ended all doubt, as after Cheverus drew within nine, 53-44, on a Casale putback with 4:48 remaining, the Bulldogs scored 16 of the final 18 points and went on to a 69-46 victory.
Moss led all scorers with 25 points as Portland finished its stellar regular season 16-2 and left the Stags 11-7 in the process.
“The kids should be proud of the effort they put forth this year,” said Bulldogs coach Joe Russo, who earned his 398th victory with the program. “Usually after winning a championship, you’re depleted, but we came right back. Going 16-2 is impressive. We lost two close games to quality teams. We wanted to win tonight to earn first place and we did. Now, we have to move on.”
Both teams have enjoyed their share of success this winter.
Portland began its title defense with a 61-54 win at South Portland in a state game rematch, then downed visiting Bonny Eagle (71-45), Oxford Hills (73-52) and Lewiston (73-31). After stumbling at Edward Little (76-70), the Bulldogs caught fire and won at Noble (87-41) and Bangor (71-32), handled visiting Scarborough (67-38) and prevailed at Sanford (72-41) and Gorham (58-44) before downing visiting Deering (63-44) and rallying to edge host Cheverus, 47-43 and visiting Thornton Academy, 68-64. Most recently, Portland easily defeated visiting Windham (96-48) and host Massabesic (81-40) and Friday, the Bulldogs rolled at Deering, 67-47. Portland finally met its match Monday when it couldn’t rally late and lost at home to South Portland, 74-69.
Cheverus started by downing host Sanford in overtime (51-49) and edging visiting Scarborough (57-51) and Windham (64-59). After a 71-51 loss at Edward Little, the Stags downed visiting Oxford Hills (54-44) and won at Massabesic (56-45) and Bangor (58-44). A 67-48 home loss to Deering was followed by a 51-43 home triumph over Bonny Eagle and a 77-37 victory at Noble. Cheverus nearly upset visiting Portland, but fell just short, 47-43, then did upset host South Portland, 60-55, before downing visiting Lewiston (70-59). Losses at Deering (57-44) and Thornton Academy (62-53) and at home to South Portland (48-34) followed before the Stags got back on track with a 63-50 home victory over Gorham Monday.
Entering play Wednesday, Portland held a 92-90 all-time lead in the series, thanks to three straight wins, including the 47-43 triumph Jan. 20, as the Bulldogs closed strong and held on despite 24 points from Casale.
This time around, Portland won with more ease.
Even if it took awhile to pull away.
The Stags had the game tied early, 5-5, but Moss began to heat up and his long-range shooting put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. Late in the first quarter, Casale scored on a putback, but Moss’ driving layup gave him 15 points and put Portland ahead, 22-15, after eight minutes..
Moss picked up right up where he left off when he began the second period with a floater, but Casale hit a jumper, then made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play, cutting the deficit to 24-20.
The Bulldogs got a driving layup from junior Manny Yugu, but Casale scored after a steal, then hit a jumper to make it a two-point contest, 26-24.
Portland senior Charlie Lyall countered with a bank shot, but with 1:43 to go before halftime, a 3 from sophomore Pat Foster helped Cheverus pull within a single point.
The Bulldogs didn’t relinquish the lead, however, as Lyall hit a short jumper and senior Thomas Joyce scored on a leaner and despite a free throw from Stags junior Tobias Ephron with 22.3 seconds to go, Portland held a 32-28 advantage at the break.
In the first half, Moss led all scorers with 17 points, while Casale led the Stags with 11.
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs eventually gained some separation.
After Moss set up Yugu for a layup and Moss hung in the air and banked home a shot to extend the lead to eight, Ephron hit a long jumper and with 6:18 to go in the frame, Casale’s long-range 3 made it a three-point game, 36-33.
That would prove to be Cheverus’ highwater mark, however.
A layup from sophomore Trey Bellew started Portland’s run. Yugu set up senior Clay Hardy for a layup and after Stags sophomore Matt Duchaine hit a 3, the final eight points of the quarter went to the Bulldogs.
First, Moss scored on a putback. He then made two foul shots. After Bellew set up Hardy for a transition layup, Moss drove for a layup with 48.8 seconds remaining and Portland took a 48-36 lead to the fourth quarter.
Where it quickly ended all doubt.
A Lyall free throw started the frame. After Casale countered with two foul shots, sophomore Simon Chadbourne buried a 3 to put the Bulldogs on top, 52-38.
Junior Jesse Matthews made a layup for the Stags, but Lyall countered with a free throw.
After Matthews hit two foul shots, Casale scored on a putback with 4:48 to play, pulling Cheverus within nine, 53-44, but Portland quickly put the game out of reach.
First, junior Griffin Foley scored on a layup.
With 4:17 to play, Yugu was fouled while making a layup and making matters worse for the Stags, Matthews was called for a pair of technical fouls, which got him ejected for the game and per Maine Principals’ Association rule, will force him to sit out a game, which will be Cheverus’ first postseason contest.
Yugu missed the free throw, but Chadbourne went to the line for four shots and hit three to make it a 60-44 game.
Sophomore Pedro Fonseca then took over for the Bulldogs, hitting a leaner and a jumper and after Yugu made a free throw, Fonseca made a layup after a steal for a 67-44 lead.
In the final minute, junior Quinn Clarke made two foul shots for Portland before the Stags’ final points came from sophomore Ryan Flaherty, whose jumper accounted for the 69-46 final score.
“The (South Portland) loss motivated us to come out and play with energy,” Moss said. “We came out slow against South Portland and now we know we can’t do that. Cheverus is very good. They have a good defense. They play 94 feet like we do. At halftime, Coach told us to play as a team and we did. We’ve had a good year this year. We came together. We have a special bond.”
“The kids took it on their own to focus on defense and that was nice to see,” Russo said. “We let two teams score 70 points on us and we lost both. Their defense held us in check. We couldn’t quite get away from them, but once we got a lead, we spread the floor and our speed took over.”
Moss led the way with 25 points, setting the tone early for his team.
“My teammates found me and I just had to shoot it,” said Moss. “I was feeling good shooting the ball.”
“We struggled offensively in the first half, but Terion got us through that half.,” Russo said. “He stepped up.”
Hardy and Yugu both added seven points, Chadbourne, Fonseca and Lyall had six apiece, Foley and Joyce four each and Ballew and Clarke two apiece.
Cheverus’ leading scorer was Casale, with 18 points. Matthews added nine, but both were held below their season average.
“Our goal was to respect Matthews and Casale and we played much better defense tonight,” Russo said. “
Ephron had seven points, Johnson added four, Duchaine and Foster three apiece and Flaherty two.
“It was a three-point game and then we had some breakdowns defensively,” lamented Stags’ coach Ryan Soucie. “Our rotations weren’t good. They’re tough to guard. We turned the ball over too much and they cranked up their pressure. We knew it was coming, but we didn’t execute. Once they got the lead over 10, there was no looking back from there.
“We’re 11-7 and we knew the last three weeks would be challenging. We showed flashes of being a tough team to play against and we’ve always shown flashes of being a young team, which on paper we are.”
While final Heal Points won’t be out until the weekend, both teams know they’re tournament bound.
Cheverus (fourth in Class AA North at press time) will likely play Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. The Stags won the regular season meeting, but that result means little at this point as Cheverus will be without the services of Matthews.
“It’s a new season,” Soucie said. “Everyone’s 0-0 now and we have a week to prepare for Oxford Hills it looks like. It’s not ideal (being without Jesse). We don’t like it, but we have to move forward with what we have. I’m confident the other guys will step up and fill the void Jesse leaves for one game. Oxford Hills has improved. They’ve beaten Deering, Windham and EL. They’re tough, they’re well coached, they’re physical. We have to play our best basketball.”
Portland will be the top seed in the region (for the fourth year in a row) and has a bye into the semifinals Tuesday, Feb. 22, where it will most likely see the Cheverus-Oxford Hills winner.
“I think we have what it takes, but we can’t come out slow,” Moss said. “We have to play defense. Hopefully we’ll go far in the playoffs.”
“The parity is in our region,” Russo said. “Every team has two or three good players. It’s not going to be easy. We have to focus on what we do. We’ll practice every day and get some scrimmages lined up. We’ll watch film and focus on fitness. Two weeks off isn’t ideal for the kids or for basketball, but that’s out of my control. We’re playing well.”
Cheverus junior Will Shibles drives on Portland senior John Bento.
Portland junior Manny Yugu shoots over Cheverus senior Noah Johnson.
Cheverus senior Jack Casale defends the shot attempt of Portland senior Thomas Joyce.
Portland senior Clay Hardy shoots a 3-pointer.
Portland senior Charlie Lyall makes life miserable for Cheverus junior Jesse Matthews.
Portland 47 @ Cheverus 43
@ Portland 72 Cheverus 42
Portland 59 @ Cheverus 48
Portland 57 @ Cheverus 45
Cheverus 55 @ Portland 44
@ Portland 55 Cheverus 46
Portland 64 @ Cheverus 53
@ Cheverus 63 Portland 35
Cheverus 58 @ Portland 41
@ Cheverus 59 Portland 44
Cheverus 50 @ Portland 33
@ Cheverus 68 Portland 62
@ Portland 37 Cheverus 31
Western A semifinals
Cheverus 63 Portland 49
Cheverus 65 @ Portland 59
Portland 69 @ Cheverus 63
Western A Final
Portland 62 Cheverus 44
@ Cheverus 60 Portland 53
Cheverus 64 @ Portland 58
Western A semifinals
Portland 55 Cheverus 44
Cheverus 43 @ Portland 41
Cheverus 52 Portland 50 (OT) (@ SMCC)
Western A Final
Portland 68 Cheverus 52