Portland boys ring in new year with another decisive win

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Portland sophomore Terion Moss goes up for a shot during the Bulldogs’ 68-39 home win over Bangor Saturday afternoon. Moss had 15 points in the victory as Portland stayed unbeaten.

Chris Lambert photo.

More photos below.


Portland 68 Bangor 39

B- 10 6 13 10- 39
P- 15 25 17 11- 68

B- Smith 4-0-10, Alley 3-0-9, Dorman 2-0-4, Kemble 2-0-4, H. Nagle 1-0-3, I. Nagle 1-1-3, Spekhardt 1-1-3, Tuell 1-0-2, Slick 0-1-1

P- A. Moss 7-5-19, T. Moss 6-3-15, Esposito 4-2-11, Fonseca 4-0-9, Lyall 1-2-4, Yugu 1-2-4, Griffin 1-1-3, Foley 1-0-2, Williams 0-1-1

B (6) Alley 3, Smith 2, H. Nagle 1
P (2) Esposito, Fonseca 1

B- 16
P- 7

B: 3-5
P: 16-20

PORTLAND—Coming into the 2015-16 season, perception held that it might take awhile for the Portland boys’ basketball team to hit its stride.

After all, the Bulldogs featured several players who took part in the football state game and missed the start of winter practice, but as it turned out, that hasn’t been a problem at all.

Saturday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building, the Bulldogs hosted Bangor and after a sluggish first period, ended all doubt.

Portland led only 15-10 after one quarter, but started the second with a 14-0 surge and by halftime, thanks in large part to big contributions from seniors Joe Esposito and Amir Moss, sophomore Terion Moss and freshman reserve Pedro Fonseca, enjoyed a commanding 40-16 advantage.

The Bulldogs never looked back from there, extending their lead to 31 by the end of the third period, and they went on to a 68-39 victory.

Amir Moss had 19 points, Terion Moss added 15 and Esposito finished with a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Portland improved to 7-0 and dropped Bangor to 2-6 in the process.

“I knew we’d be pretty good, but to play this well so far, I really didn’t expect that,” Amir Moss said. “Playing together in the summer and fall helped a lot.”

Chasing perfection

Bangor beat Portland, 56-39, in the 2007 Class A state final in Augusta and the teams hadn’t met since in a countable game. The teams also met in the state final in 1923 (Bangor, 41-22) and 1936 (Portland, 30-15).

With the statewide reclassification this winter, the Bulldogs and Rams are part of Class AA North and are meeting in the regular season for the first time in memory.

Portland, once again, has dazzled in the early going, downing visiting South Portland (75-56), host Bonny Eagle (75-49), Oxford Hills (74-57) and Lewiston (85-39) and visiting Edward Little (82-64) and Noble (100-33). The Bulldogs also beat Hampden Academy in a non-countable scrimmage Wednesday in a rematch of the past two state finals.

“I’m very surprised (we’ve done this well) because we had a tough schedule early,” said longtime Portland coach Joe Russo. “Playing South Portland the first game with four football players getting ready, then Oxford Hills. We’ve played some pretty solid games this year.” 

Bangor started by losing at home to Edward Little (67-62), then beat visiting Lewiston (59-42). After a 53-39 loss at Cheverus, the Rams lost at defending Class A champion Hampden Academy (54-46) and at home to Deering (66-60), then got back in the win column with a 58-54 home victory over Windham. Wednesday, Bangor fell at rival Brewer, 54-43.

Saturday, the Rams hung tough for a quarter, but no more.

Terion Moss broke the scoring ice 77 seconds in with a floater, then set up Esposito for a layup and a 4-0 lead.

Bangor got on the board on a free throw from junior Ian Nagle, then got a layup from senior Justin Smith, but Moss again set up Esposito for a layup and Moss scored on a putback to make it 8-3.

After the visitors got a basket from Nagle, Amir Moss drove for a layup. Senior Ethan Dorman hit a jumper for the Rams, but Fonseca made his presence felt off the bench with a jump shot, followed by a 3-pointer. At the horn, Bangor sophomore Henry Nagle knocked down a 3-ball, making it 15-10 Bulldogs heading for the second period.

Where they promptly pulled away.

Thirteen seconds into the second quarter, Amir Moss drove for a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. Moss then added two free throws to push the lead to double digits. Esposito added a 3, Fonseca set up Terion Moss for a reverse layup, Esposito sank a free throw, then hit a leaner for a 28-10 advantage.

After Terion Moss made a foul shot, Smith hit a 3 to end the 14-0 run and Bangor’s 4 minute, 21 second drought.

Amir Moss answered with a layup and junior Charlie Lyall scored on a putback to make it a 20-point contest, 33-13.

The Rams got a point back on a free throw from junior Phillip Slick, but senior John Williams made a foul shot for Portland, Williams set up Terion Moss for a layup and a Moss leaner made it 38-14.

In the final minute, Rams junior Peter Kemble scored on a putback and Bulldogs sophomore Manny Yugu drove for a layup and a 40-16 advantage at the break.

“It was a slow start, but we picked it up in the second quarter,” Amir Moss said. “Coach stressed to come out hard.”

In the first half, Portland only turned the ball over twice, got 11 points from Terion Moss, 10 points and seven rebounds from Esposito and nine points from Amir Moss to pull away.

The Bulldogs didn’t let up in the third period.

Amir Moss started the second half with a driving layup, then hit a leaner. After Smith made a layup for Bangor, Lyall hit two free throws, Esposito added one, Esposito set up Amir Moss for a reverse layup and Moss made another layup with 4:18 remaining in the frame for a 51-18 lead.

A putback from Kemble stemmed the run, but Terion Moss answered with two free throws for Portland’s biggest lead, 53-20.

A 3 from Smith was countered by a Fonseca jumper. After junior Logan Alley sank a 3 for the Rams, Yugu made a pair of foul shots. Alley hit a 3 late in the quarter and the Bulldogs took a 57-26 lead to the fourth period.

After Dorman made a layup to begin the final stanza, Portland sophomore Griffin Foley hit a jumper, Terion Moss drained a nice spin shot and Amir Moss tacked on two free throws to make it 63-31.

Another Alley 3 followed by a three-point play from senior Jeff Spekhardt pulled Bangor within 63-37, but senior Ben Griffin converted a three-point play for the Bulldogs and after sophomore Luke Tuell drove for a layup and the Rams’ final points, Fonseca drove and finished with the left hand to put the finishing touches on Portland’s 68-39 win.

“We came out really strong,” Esposito said. “We do a lot in practice to make sure the conditioning is there. Little things in practice push us to be good in the games. Our defense wears teams down.”

“Our chemistry is working,” Amir Moss said. “We’re getting after it on the boards and running the floor. Our defensive intensity is helping us a lot. We’re all capable of putting points on the board. We stick together.”

“I like our defense and I like the way we shoot the ball,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “We play defense as well as any team I’ve had man-to-man. The kids are very unselfish.” 

The Bulldogs placed three scorers in double figures and had a fourth just miss.

Amir Moss led all scorers with 19 points and also had five rebounds and three steals, while Esposito had 11 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

“I focus on rebounding, getting tips, steals, playing defense,” Esposito said. “We have other guys who can score. I’m happy to get them to ball.”

“Those two guys (Amir and Espo), who are 6-feet, play like they’re big men,” Russo said. “They’re in perpetual motion.”

Terion Moss had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“Terion, as a sophomore, has been leading the team,” Russo said.

Fonseca continued to impress with nine points and a pair of assists and Yugu had four points.

“The bench contributed early today,” Russo said. “Manny and Pedro gave us instant energy, which they’ll be asked to do. Our freshmen are playing good minutes. The future is bright for those guys.”

Lyall finished with four points, but was dominant inside to the tune of 11 rebounds and three blocks. Griffin added three points, Foley had two and Williams finished with one.

The Bulldogs made 16 of 20 foul shots and only committed seven turnovers (just four in the first three quarters).

“I just emphasize that turnovers are the worst thing and the players usually take care of the ball,” Russo said.

Bangor was led by Smith’s 10 points. He also grabbed four rebounds. Alley had nine points, while Dorman (three boards, three steals) and Kemble (four rebounds) had four points apiece. Henry Nagle, Ian Nagle and Spekhardt each added three points, Tuell had two and Slick finished with one.

The Rams had 16 turnovers and made 3 of 5 free throws. 

“(Portland’s) a really talented team,” said Bangor coach Carl Parker. “They play extremely hard. They got about 90 percent of the 50-50 balls. You can’t give extra possessions to teams that talented. They’re really good defensively. They’re not only physically strong, but they have quick hands.” 

Closer to home

Bangor returns home Tuesday to host Oxford Hills. Thornton Academy pays a visit Friday.

Portland is at Scarborough Tuesday, then welcomes dangerous Gorham Friday. After hosting Sanford, the Bulldogs will square off against city and Class AA North rivals Deering and Cheverus, contests Portland’s looking quite forward to.

“We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, but we have to execute a lot better,” Amir Moss said. “We can’t be fazed by the pressure. We’re looking forward to the big games.”

“It’s good to have those games later in the season,” said Esposito. “That will help us when the tournament comes. We can still play better defense and rebound better.”

“Things are going well,” Russo added. “The kids are getting along and doing what I’m asking. We can still get better. It will be nice to play our rivals. Those will be awesome games.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland senior John Williams drives past Bangor senior Justin Smith.

Chris Lambert photo.

Portland senior Amir Moss goes up for two of his game-high 19 points.

Chris Lambert photo.

Portland junior Charlie Lyall converts a layup.

Chris Lambert photo.

Portland senior Joe Esposito wrests a rebound away from Bangor sophomore Henry Nagle.

Mike Strout photo.

Portland sophomore Griffin Foley shoots over Bangor junior Peter Kemble.

Mike Strout photo.

Portland freshman Pedro Fonseca defends Bangor junior George Payne.

Mike Strout photo.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.