Bangor junior Matt Fleming soars to block the shot of Portland senior Terion Moss during Saturday afternoon’s contest. Moss still managed to score 19 points and lead the Bulldogs to a 77-47 win.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
B- 8 13 7 19- 47
P- 20 19 10 28- 77
B- Fleming 6-3-17, Vance 6-0-14, Westrich 4-4-13, Missbrenner 1-1-3
P- Moss 6-6-19, Foley 6-2-17, Chadbourne 4-0-11. Bellew 4-1-9, Yugu 3-2-8, Fonseca 3-0-6, Ben 1-0-2, Fisher 1-0-2, Greenwood 1-0-2, Thea 0-1-1
B (5) Fleming, Vance 2, Westrich 1
P (7) Chadbourne, Foley 3, Moss 1
PORTLAND—Following last Saturday’s surprising loss at Scarborough, there were some rumblings that the Portland boys’ basketball team was vulnerable.
Fast forward a week and those rumblings have been put to bed.
The two-time defending Class AA state champion Bulldogs quickly fixed what ailed them, first downing Thornton Academy by 39 points Friday night, then Saturday afternoon, they had their way with visiting Bangor at the Portland Exposition Building.
In an infrequent meeting between two schools who first squared off 102 years ago, the Bulldogs were able to hold Bangor junior standout Matt Fleming at bay and raced to a 20-8 lead after one quarter, as senior star Terion Moss paced a balanced attack.
By halftime, Portland’s lead was 39-21 and the Bulldogs never let up in the second half either, making it 49-28 after three quarters before going on to a decisive 77-47 victory.
Moss led all scorers with 19 points, senior Griffin Foley had one of his best outings of the season, producing 17 points, and Portland improved to 13-1 on the year, dropping the Rams to 7-6 in the process.
“The kids did a nice job today,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “We talked about going back to team basketball, making the extra pass, sharing the ball, playing helpside defense. We played really good helpside defense today. We’ve been winning, but we weren’t doing some of the things I wanted. We did that today, so I’m pleased.”
Portland has defended its back-to-back state titles in style virtually the whole winter, with just one exception.
The Bulldogs started with impressive victories over visiting Noble (101-43), host Windham (61-44), visiting Oxford Hills (66-50) and visiting Massabesic (86-43). After downing visiting Deering (53-34), Portland beat visiting Gorham (73-52), held on for a 78-70 victory at Edward Little, then rolled at Sanford (82-54). After downing visiting South Portland in a state game rematch, 62-53, the Bulldogs handled host Lewiston (80-48) and Cheverus (59-37). Last Saturday, Portland was upset, 69-66, at Scarborough, but Friday night, the Bulldogs responded with a 78-39 home win over Thornton Academy.
“We didn’t talk about going undefeated,” Russo said. “You can learn from losses. You don’t want one loss to define you. It refocused us.”
Bangor, meanwhile, has played tight games more often than not and managed to win seven of its first dozen outings.
Last year, in Bangor, Portland prevailed, 71-32, to take an 18-17 all-time lead in the series (that includes a 2-1 edge for the Rams in state finals over the years).
This time around, the Bulldogs rolled again.
A turnaround jumper from junior Pedro Fonseca 14 seconds in put Portland on top to stay.
Classmate Trey Bellew added a free throw, then took a pass from senior Manny Yugu and made a layup for a quick 5-0 advantage.
Bangor got on the board with 6:22 to go in the opening stanza, on a bank shot from junior Damien Vance, but Moss countered with a layup.
The Rams got back within two on a 3-ball from Vance, but Bellew made a layup, Moss banked home a shot after a steal, Moss fed Fonseca for a layup and after a timeout by Rams coach Carl Parker, Portland extended its run to 10-0 and its lead to 17-5 when Moss drove for a layup and senior Griffin Foley hit two foul shots.
After Fleming got his first points on an old-fashioned three-point play (putback, foul, free throw) with 2:15 remaining, Moss stole the ball and went in for what appeared to be a sure layup, but out of nowhere, Fleming came from behind, soared over the rim and blocked the shot.
Foley then made a 3-pointer to five Portland a 20-8 lead after one quarter.
Moss led the way with six points and Bellew had five in the first eight minutes.
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the second period.
Bangor sophomore Henry Westrich, who was a force on the boards all afternoon, started the new quarter with two foul shots, but Moss hit two, then after a steal, Moss was fouled again and hit two more free throws for a 24-10 lead.
After Fleming made two free throws, senior Ben Fisher made a layup for Portland and Fonseca, on his third try, put home a miss to extend the lead to 16.
After Vance set up Fleming for a backdoor layup, Yugu countered with a driving layup.
With 3:41 to go in the half, Fleming drove and slammed the ball home, but Moss countered with two free throws.
After Westrich hit a long jumper, Foley scored on a putback and Fonseca set up Yugu for a layup.
Westrich hit a free throw, but Chadbourne hit a 3.
With 30 seconds left, a fadeaway jumper from Vance pulled the Rams within 39-21 at halftime.
Moss led all first half scorers with 12 points, while Fleming paced Bangor with nine.
Portland never let the Rams entertain thoughts of a rally in the third period.
After nearly two scoreless minutes, Moss opened the second half scoring with a 3.
Westrich countered with a jumper, but Bulldogs senior Lino Ben drove for a layup.
After junior Noah Missbrenner converted a three-point play for Bangor, Bellew hit a runner in the lane and Chadbourne added a 3. In the waning seconds, a runner from Vance cut Portland’s lead to 49-28 heading for the final quarter.
There, the Bulldogs wrapped it up, ending any remaining doubt by going on a 10-1 run to start the final stanza.
Foley got things started with a 3-pointer. After Westrich made a foul shot for the Rams, Foley drained a 3 from the corner, Moss drove and finished with a finger roll and on the fast break, Yugu set up Foley for a layup and a 59-29 lead.
A turnaround jumper from Fleming ended the run and Vance added an NBA-range 3-pointer, but Foley set up Yugu for a layup and after Bellew stole the ensuing inbounds pass, he fed Moss for a layup and a 63-34 lead.
Vance got two points back with a leaner, but Chadbourne hit a floater in the lane and Foley drove for a layup.
After Westrich sank a 3, Moss set up Bellew for a layup and Yugu drained two free throws for a 71-39 lead.
Westrich countered with a jumper, but Chadbourne made another 3.
With 2:38 left, Fleming made his first 3 and 35 seconds later, he added a second, but sophomore Ethan Thea made a free throw for Portland and sophomore Richard Greenwood added a putback to account for the 77-47 final score.
“We had some turnovers in the first half, but in the second half, we took care of the ball a little bit more and played as a team,” Foley said. “We looked at (losing a game) as a challenge. Once you lose, people think differently (about you). We met the challenge to get better.”
“We had been getting complacent winning by 20 or 30 points, but today, we were focused,” Russo said. “The bench came in and did well. (Bangor will) be a good team next year and they won’t be a cakewalk in the playoffs either.”
Moss scored 19 points and also had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“Today, he was vintage Terion,” Russo said. “He made good decisions and made nice, crisp passes.”
Foley had one of his strongest efforts, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds. Foley, who suffered a foot fracture during the football season, is still rounding into top form.
“During practice, it gets a little sore and after games, it’s sore too, but during games, it’s a lot better,” Foley said. “I’ve tried to step up. The game comes naturally to me in the offensive end.”
“Griff can’t really take off on that foot,” Russo said. “He’s kind of playing on one foot. That fracture took a toll on him. He’s making up for it. He’s using his strength. He can shoot if we can find him in the open court.”
Chadbourne also wound up in double figures with 11 points. Bellew had nine (to go with six rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals), Yugu eight (to go with five rebounds and four assists), Fonseca six (as well as five rebounds and a pair of assists), Ben, Fisher and Greenwood two apiece and Thea one.
Portland had a 45-33 advantage on the glass, turned the ball over a dozen times and made 12 of 14 free throws.
Bangor was paced by 17 points from Fleming, who finished with a double-double, as he also had 11 rebounds.
Vance added 14 points (four assists and three steals) and Westrich contributed 13 points, as well as eight boards.
All in all, the Bulldogs’ defense did a solid job keeping the top Rams in check.
“We knew they had Matt and we know he’s a great player,” Foley said. “I know him personally from AAU. It was challenging for us to stop him. We knew we couldn’t shut him down completely, but we slowed him down pretty well.”
“Fleming is the real deal, Vance is excellent and they have some nice shooters,” Russo said. “We did a nice job scouting what their strengths are. We worked on Fleming and Vance and their pick-and-roll. They have great range and work well together. We were prepared to do something else if they were successful. I put Trey on Fleming. I usually put Pedro on the other team’s big man, but I wanted more size. Trey got his hand in his face.”
Misbrenner had Bangor’s other three points.
The Rams made 8 of 11 free throws and committed 15 turnovers.
Bangor (currently fourth in the Class AA North Heal Points standings) has games remaining at home versus Brewer, at Oxford Hills, Skowhegan and Hampden Academy and at home against Edward Little. The Rams hope to finish in the top four, so they can host a quarterfinal round game and avoid a long trip south.
Portland will be the number one seed in AA North and the Bulldogs simply want to show consistency as the regular season winds down. Portland has several tough tests to close the schedule, beginning Tuesday at Bonny Eagle. After hosting Cheverus, the Bulldogs go to South Portland, then finish at Deering.
“As long as we can work hard, I think we can pull it out,” Foley said. “We have a lot of talent.”
“We have a great schedule,” Russo said. “To finish up with South Portland, Cheverus and Deering, that will get us ready for the playoffs. It’s nice for us to play those teams.”
Portland junior Pedro Fonseca sails to the basket.
Portland senior Griffin Foley dribbles past Bangor sophomore Henry Westrich. Foley finished with 17 points.
Portland senior Ben Fisher battles Bangor junior Noah Missbrenner for a rebound.
Portland junior Trey Bellew shoots over Bangor sophomore Henry Westrich.
Portland senior Manny Yugu floats for a shot.
Portland junior Simon Chadbourne drives on Bangor sophomore Henry Westrich.