Portland junior Charlie Lyall and Cheverus sophomore Jesse Matthews (23) and senior Andrew Roberts battle for a rebound during the Bulldogs’ 72-42 win Wednesday night.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
C- 7 10 10 15- 42
P- 24 24 11 13- 72
C- J. Casale 5-0-11, Matthews 4-0-8, Shibles 2-0-5, Boudreau 2-0-4, D. Casale 1-0-4, Napolitano 1-0-3, Fletcher 1-0-2, Hamilton 0-2-2, Thete 1-0-2, Drelich 0-1-1
P- A. Moss 6-5-18, T. Moss 7-0-15, Esposito 4-0-10, Foley 3-0-7, Lyall 3-0-6, Williams 2-0-6, Bellew 2-1-5, Griffin 1-1-3, Fonseca 1-0-2
C (4) J. Casale, D. Casale, Napolitano, Shibles 1
P (7) Esposito, Williams 2, Foley A. Moss, T. Moss 1
PORTLAND—On the heels of a pair of inspirational and draining road wins, Portland’s boys’ basketball team could have been ripe for a letdown when it welcomed rival Cheverus for a makeup game Wednesday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, but it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to demonstrate that their focus takes second place only to their immense talent.
Portland rode the 3-point shooting of sophomores Griffin Foley and Terion Moss and seniors Joe Esposito and John Williams to a 24-7 lead after one quarter and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Portland put up 24 more points in the second period as every player, starter and reserve, came up with key contributions, and by halftime, the Bulldogs had a commanding 48-17 advantage.
Cheverus won the second half, but never made a serious run and the Bulldogs went on to put the finishing touches on the Stags, winning, 72-42.
Senior Amir Moss had 18 points, Terion Moss added 15 and Esposito finished with 10 as Portland won its fourth game in a row, improved to 12-1, dropped the Stags to 8-5 and evened the 91-year all-time series at 90 wins apiece in the process.
“It’s an interesting stat (90-90),” said Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “We’ll see them once, maybe two more times, so we have to get one more. Most of the teams, we’re leading (all-time), but against Cheverus, we were behind.”
Cheverus and Portland first did battle on the hardwood way back on Jan. 16, 1925 when Calvin Coolidge was in the White House and the Washington Senators were the reigning World Series champions.
In that first encounter, in a hint of how close the rivalry would become, overtime was needed for Cheverus (then known as the Catholic Institute) to prevail, 17-16.
Cheverus beat Portland nine straight times during the height of the Bob Brown Era, a run which began in the 2008 Western A semifinals and didn’t end until Jan. 23, 2012, when Nick Volger’s buzzer-beater gave the Bulldogs a thrilling one-point win.
That victory was the first of six straight for Portland, but in the second meeting last winter, Jan. 30, 2015, the Stags sprung a 55-44 upset at the Expo, snapping the Bulldogs’ overall 37-game win streak in the process.
This winter, Portland has remained at championship form, while Cheverus is hoping to get to that point.
The Stags welcomed new coach Ryan Soucie by winning their first five outings: 39-24 over visiting Sanford, 59-39 at Windham, 53-39 over visiting Bangor, 62-58 at Scarborough and 52-40 over visiting Edward Little. The fun ended with a 77-62 loss at Oxford Hills. After beating visiting Noble, 74-33, the Stags fell at home to Massabesic, 61-54, lost at Deering, (69-45), and again at home to South Portland (50-42). Cheverus bounced back with a 57-45 victory at Bonny Eagle, then won at Lewiston Monday, 66-54.
Portland 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. The Bulldogs got back on track with a 72-42 home win over Sanford, then enjoyed a 61-51 victory at then-undefeated Deering and Monday, held on for a 61-59 win at Thornton Academy.
Wednesday, the Stags hoped to shock Portland for the second year in a row, but the Bulldogs continued their climb to the top of the region.
Foley started the scoring with a 3 that rimmed around and dropped. Amir Moss added a free throw before Cheverus got on the board as junior Jack Casale stole the ball and fed junior Austin Boudreau for a layup. Portland then returned to its long bombing ways, as first Terion Moss, then Esposito (on the fastbreak on a pass from Amir Moss) hit 3s to make it 10-2.
After Terion Moss made a layup after a steal, Boudreau fed sophomore Jesse Matthews for a layup, but Williams canned a 3.
After blocking a shot, Matthews threw a gorgeous fullcourt pass to Casale for a layup, but junior Charlie Lyall answered with a layup (from Amir Moss). After senior Kenny Drelich made a free throw, Portland ended the quarter in fitting fashion, getting a layup from Terion Moss after he weaved through the defense, a floater from Amir Moss and an Amir Moss old-fashioned, three-point play (layup after a feed from Terion Moss, foul and free throw) to take a commanding 24-7 lead after eight minutes.
“We started slowly on the road against Deering and TA and today, Coach stressed coming out with a lot of energy and getting going early,” said Amir Moss. “We’re a very unselfish group. I feel like the team chemistry is there. We look for the open man.”
As well as the Bulldogs played in the first eight minutes, they were even more impressive in the second period.
A free throw from senior Ben Griffin got Portland started. Foley took a pass from sophomore Manny Yugu on the fastbreak and made a layup and after senior Luca Napolitano made a 3 for the Stags, Esposito drained a 3 from the corner, Griffin hit a jumper and Amir Moss made a layup after a steal to make it 34-10.
A jumper from Cheverus senior David Thete ended the run, but Amir Moss made two free throws, Terion Moss scored on a putback, Lyall did the same and Amir Moss knocked down a 3 for a 43-12 bulge.
After the Stags got a 3 from junior Dominic Casale and a leaner in the lane from Jack Casale, the Bulldogs closed their phenomenal half with a 1-2-3 3-pointer (Williams, who wears number 1, took a pass from Terion Moss, who wears number 2, and hit a 3) and a bank shot from Esposito for a 48-17 advantage at the break.
In the first half, Portland made 18 of 26 shots and sank seven 3s. Amir Moss led the way with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, Terion Moss had nine points and four assists and Lyall snared six rebounds. Ten turnovers didn’t help Cheverus’ cause.
The Stags played better in the second half, but the deficit was far too steep.
Esposito started the third quarter with a bank shot, but Cheverus ran off six points, as Jack Casale made a bank shot after a steal, Boudreau spun and banked home a shot and Matthews hit a leaner in the lane to make it 50-23.
Portland then flipped the switch again, getting a layup from Amir Moss (set up by Lyall), a foul shot from Moss, a fastbreak layup off a Lyall rebound which saw Foley set up Terion Moss (Lyall should’ve gotten an assist too, but alas, this is basketball, not hockey) and a Terion Moss reverse layup after his brother set him up for a 57-23 advantage.
Cheverus got a bank shot from Jack Casale and a bank shot from sophomore Will Shibles, but Bulldogs freshman Trey Bellew scored on a putback to make it 59-27 after three quarters.
The fourth period was academic, but featured some highlights.
A jumper from Lyall was followed by a Foley bank shot. The Stags answered on a foul shot from Dominic Casale and a putback from Matthews, but Amir Moss made a floater and after Jack Casale hit a 3, Terion Moss scored on a leaner to make it 67-33.
That was it for Portland’s starters and down the stretch, Matthews made a layup, Shibles hit a 3, Bellew made a foul shot for the Bulldogs, freshman Tre Fletcher made a layup after a steal for Cheverus, freshman Pedro Fonseca countered with a layup for the Bulldogs and after Stags junior Dante Hamilton made a pair of free throws, a putback from Bellew brought the curtain down on Portland’s 72-42 triumph.
“We just came out strong tonight,” Terion Moss said. “Before the game, Coach said to come out with energy and we did that. We do well under pressure.”
“We wanted to come out from the get-go and keep the tempo going because teams are trying to slow us down,” said Russo. “We trusted our offense and got good shots off our offense, which was nice to see. We executed and got good looks and we shot really well. They’re a good shooting team. If you let them get to the paint and kick out, they can stay in any game. We didn’t want them to play inside-out. We slowed down their penetration.
“We talked about last year us being 15-0 and them making their shots and beating us. We focused on not letting them do it this game. Last year was an afternoon game. Afternoon games against Cheverus aren’t good.”
The Bulldogs put nine different players in the scoring column.
Amir Moss led the way with 18 points. He also had six rebounds and five assists.
Terion Moss continued his return to dominance with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“It’s fun playing with everyone,” Terion Moss said. “Amir has taught me to be myself and just play. Whatever comes to me, that’s what I do.”
“Terion is playing well lately,” Amir Moss said. “He was in a little slump, but he’s bounced back and is playing well now.”
“Terion played like he did at the beginning of the year,” Russo added. “He focused on his teammates and he was able to take his shots when they were there. Tonight he was perfect.”
Esposito had 10 points, Foley seven, Lyall six (to go with nine rebounds and three assists), Williams six, Bellew five, Griffin three and Fonseca two.
Portland had a 29-12 rebounding advantage, turned the ball over 13 times and made 7 of 11 free throws.
Cheverus’ top scorer was Jack Casale, who had 11 points. Matthews finished with eight, Shibles had five, Boudreau and Dominic Casale four apiece, Napolitano three, Fletcher, Hamilton and Thete two each and Drelich one.
The Stags turned the ball over 13 times and made 4 of 8 free throws.
“We knew they’d be tough and it would be a challenge,” Soucie said. “They got out fast and we couldn’t get out of that hole. They’ve had a few tough games in a row. They wanted to come out and prove a point tonight and they accomplished that. They’re the two-time defending regional champion for a reason. They’re well-coached, they’re disciplined, they have veterans and we’re not there yet. We’re trying to get there, but we’re not there yet. We talked at halftime about trying to win the second half and we did that by one.”
Cheverus (fourth in the Class AA North Heal Point standings) has no time to lick its wounds. The Stags welcome Deering Friday. Next week, they welcome Thornton Academy and play at South Portland. Cheverus then closes the regular season with a trip to Gorham and a home game versus Portland.
“We have to work on being more disciplined,” Soucie said. “We have to come back to work tomorrow. We can’t hang our heads. We have to look at what we did well tonight and do more of that and try to correct the little things. I don’t believe we’re far off. We have to play with the confidence Deering and Portland play with. We’ll work to get there. We have a tough stretch, but that’s good because we’ll get a challenge and that’s what we’ll see in the tournament.”
The Bulldogs (second behind Deering in Class AA North) go to Windham Friday, then host Massabesic and Deering next week before closing with games at South Portland and Cheverus.
“We’re definitely getting there,” Amir Moss said. “We’re winning close games and that helps a lot during tournament play. Knowing what to do in close situations helps.”
“We have a tough stretch, but if we can stay focused and play as a team like we did tonight, we’ll be fine,” Russo said. “We can create separation. All our games are tough. Being (the 1 seed) is always good, but it’s not critical. Going in 1 is always better than 2, I think.”
Portland senior Amir Moss splits Cheverus senior David Thete, left, and junior Jack Casale en route to the basket for two of his game-high 18 points.
Portland senior Ben Griffin knocks down a jumper over Cheverus freshman Tre Fletcher.
Portland senior John Williams tries to handle the ball while being pressured by Cheverus sophomore Tobias Ephron.
Portland senior Amir Moss goes up for a shot as Cheverus freshman Tre Fletcher defends.
Portland senior Joe Esposito drives on Cheverus junior Austin Boudreau.
Cheverus junior Jack Casale shoots over Portland sophomore Terion Moss.
Cheverus senior Luca Napolitano is surrounded by Portland senior Joe Esposito, left, sophomore Tanner Foley and Terion Moss.
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