Portland survives SP in double OT state game for the ages

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After eight extra minutes, Portland’s boys’ basketball team erupts in relief and exhilaration after holding off valiant underdog South Portland, 52-50, in double overtime, in Saturday’s Class AA state final. 

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 52 South Portland 50 (2 OTs)

SP- 9 7 12 13 2 7- 50
P- 11 11 9 10 2 9- 52

SP- Bol 7-0-14, Fiorini 3-4-12, Pelletier 5-0-12, Jackson 2-1-5, DePaolo 1-0-3, Hasson 1-0-3, White 0-1-1

P- A. Moss 11-4-27, Foley 4-0-11, Esposito 2-2-6, T. Moss 2-1-5, Lyall 1-1-3

3-pointers:
SP (6) Fiorini, Pelletier 2, DePaolo, Hasson 1
P (4) Foley 3, A. Moss 1

Turnovers:
SP- 13
P- 10

Free throws
SP: 6-11
P: 8-10

PORTLAND—It was the game of the year.

A fitting coda to a memorable, historic tournament.

And a passion play between two proud, driven teams that will never, ever, ever be forgotten by those who participated or bore witness.

Saturday evening’s first-ever state championship game matchup between ancient rivals Portland and South Portland, which doubled as the inaugural Class AA state final, exceeded all expectations, as 32 minutes weren’t enough to determine a winner.

Nor were 36.

In fact, 40 minutes were needed to crown a champion at the Cross Insurance Arena.

The Bulldogs, the AA North champions, making their third straight state final appearance, were supposed to have an easy time of it against the AA South champion Red Riots, an improbable finalist, who saved their absolute best for last, but this game didn’t follow the script.

Not even close.

Portland, which dominated South Portland in two regular season meetings, and appeared unstoppable during its regional title run, quickly learned that the Red Riots’ February surge was no fluke and that it would be in for a fight to the finish.

South Portland survived the first quarter, a major victory in and of itself, and was only down two points, 11-9, after eight minutes, thanks to four points from regional final hero junior Ruay Bol and a timely 3-pointer from sophomore reserve and sparkplug Riley Hasson.

The Bulldogs threatened to take their expected stranglehold on the contest when they opened up a 20-12 lead in the second period, but Bol scored four quick points and the game was very much in doubt at halftime with Portland ahead, 22-16.

A 3-pointer from sophomore Griffin Foley gave the Bulldogs a nine-point advantage early in the third period, but by quarter’s end, the Red Riots continued to hang around and thanks to a late putback from Bol, only trailed by three, 31-28.

The fourth period was a thrill a minute, as South Portland forced a tie three different times before taking a 38-37 lead on a 3-pointer from senior standout Jack Fiorini with 4:15 showing.

A driving layup from Portland senior star Amir Moss, who once again played with icewater in his veins, restored the Bulldogs to the lead, but with 2:12 left, Fiorini tied the game with a free throw.

When Fiorini made two foul shots with just under a minute to play, one of the great upsets in tournament history appeared imminent, but Moss tied the game with a leaner with 45.7 seconds left and after Fiorini missed a free throw and Moss failed to hit a shot with time winding down, the teams went to overtime.

In the first four-minute OT session, Moss made two free throws and Bol countered with a layup for the seventh tie of the contest and that’s all either team mustered, meaning the game would need a second overtime to determine a winner and a champion.

When Hasson opened the second extra session with a 3, it looked like Cinderella would dance into eternity, but Portland junior Charlie Lyall made a layup and with 2:09 left, Bulldogs sophomore standout Terion Moss, who had been held in check for the majority of the game, converted an old-fashioned three-point play for the lead.

South Portland refused to buckle, however, as a Fiorini 3 put it back on top, 49-48, with 1:50 to go.

Amir Moss wasn’t about to lose his last game and his spinner with 1:16 showing proved to be the game’s 12th lead change and put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

After a Hasson miss, Portland senior Joe Esposito made two free throws to make it a two-possession game.

After Bol missed a shot with 6.6 seconds remaining, Amir Moss had a chance to secure the Gold Ball once and for all, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one and South Portland had one final chance.

As time  wound down, Hasson was fouled, but was injured on the play. With only 0.2 seconds showing, junior Deandre White replaced Hasson and made a free throw for the Red Riots, then deliberately missed the second, hoping a teammate could tip it home and force an improbable third OT, but South Portland’s stardust finally ran out and the ball glanced off the rim and went untouched as the horn sounded and Portland held on for stirring 52-50 victory.

The Bulldogs finished 20-1, ended South Portland’s season at 12-10 and captured the state title for the second time in three years, the fourth time in longtime coach Joe Russo’s tenure and the ninth time overall since the Maine Principals’ Association starting holding boys’ basketball tournaments nearly a century ago.

“Losing by 10, we’d probably go home and pat ourselves on the back. Losing by 30, we would have been embarrassed. Losing this way, I’m just not going to sleep,” said Red Riots first-year coach Kevin Millington. “I don’t think the kids could have played any harder. What will haunt me is that we didn’t get that one break that might have made the difference.”

“It was an incredible game and it’s so much better from my end because we won,” Russo said. “It’s more fun to win. What a dramatic finish. I thought it was amazing. South Portland’s effort was incredible.” 

First time, long time

Portland and South Portland started squaring off on the hardwood not long after Dr. James Naismith invented the sport of basketball in 1891.

In just the second state tournament, the teams met for the first time in the postseason, a 38-18 Portland victory March 9, 1923 in the West Region first round. That meeting occurred so long ago that Warren Harding’s short-lived presidency was in its final year and the New York Yankees had yet to win a World Series.

The Bulldogs and Red Riots would meet 27 more times over the next 90 years (eight times in the regional final, see sidebar, below) and the winner would go on and take the state championship on 11 occasions.

The most recent encounter came in the 2013 Western A semifinals, which South Portland captured, 49-41, en route to the regional title, giving the Red Riots a 15-13 all-time edge in tournament meetings.

Portland won the Western A title in 2014 and 2015, winning it all the first year, then losing to Hampden Academy, 70-50, in the state final last winter.

This season, the Bulldogs have been dominant almost throughout, save for a home loss to Gorham Jan. 8.

As the top seed in Class AA North, Portland eliminated No. 4 Edward Little, 70-43, then had no trouble with rival and No. 2 seed Deering, 70-39, in a surprisingly lopsided regional final victory.

South Portland, which got to the semifinals a year ago, then underwent a controversial coaching change when Phil Conley was replaced by Millington, started the 2015-16 campaign 7-2, but dropped seven of its final nine games to wind up with a .500 record.

As the No. 4 seed in Class AA South, the Red Riots peaked at the optimal time, ousting No. 5 Sanford, 62-44, in the quarterfinals, upsetting top-ranked Thornton Academy, 39-36, in the semifinals and holding off No. 3 Massabesic in a regional final thriller, 62-60.

The Bulldogs had their way with the Red Riots in the regular season, prevailing, 75-56, Dec. 4 at home and 68-38 at South Portland Feb. 2. 

Saturday, in front of a nearly full house that was equally divided between red and blue, the Red Riots got close enough to taste their 11th state title and first since 1992, but Portland time and again relied on its champion’s heart to ultimately earn the program’s ninth title.

It took 2 minutes, 36 seconds for a point to be scored as Amir Moss broke the ice with a putback.

South Portland tied the score on a jumper from Bol with 4:44 to go in the first period, but Esposito had his way inside on consecutive possessions, first scoring on a putback, then converting a leaner for a 6-2 lead, forcing Millington to call timeout.

It helped, as Bol took a pass from Hasson and made a layup and Hasson took a pass from Fiorini and hit a 3 for South Portland’s first lead, 7-6.

Portland went back on top on a putback jumper from Foley, but a putback from senior Matt Pelletier made it 9-8 Red Riots. 

With 45 seconds to go in the frame, a corner 3 from Foley put the Bulldogs ahead, 11-9, after one quarter.

“Shots weren’t falling for my teammates, so I had to do my part,” Foley said.

Portland had the lead, but hadn’t delivered its accustomed early knockout blow.

“We talked all week about how Portland likes to blitz you right out of the gate, but we held our own,” Millington said.

Portland slowly opened up a lead in the second period, but South Portland refused to go quietly.

Fiorini, fouled after an offensive rebound, hit a free throw to start the new frame, but after a Lyall block at one end, Amir Moss hit a 3 for a 14-10 lead.

Bol countered with a layup, but Foley drained a 3 from the corner, Lyall added a free throw and with 2:52 to go before halftime, Terion Moss set up Amir Moss for a layup and a 20-12 advantage.

It was danger time for the Red Riots, but Bol hit a runner in the lane and after a ridiculously athletic play by Hasson to steal the ball, Hasson set up Bol for a layup to pull South Portland back within four.

“We didn’t look back to those (regular season losses to Portland),” Fiorini said. “We knew what we did wrong and made those points of emphasis to fix.  The offense wasn’t flowing in the first half, but we played great defense and that kept us close.”

With 6.9 seconds to go, after a steal, Terion Moss fed Amir Moss for a layup and Portland was up, 22-16, at the break.

In the first half, Bol led all scorers with 10 points, but the Red Riots shot just 7 of 19 from the floor. Amir Moss had nine points and Foley eight to pace the Bulldogs.

In the third period, South Portland continued to stay close.

A 3 from Foley to open the half gave Portland its biggest lead, but Pelletier countered with a 3 and senior Jordin Jackson scored on a putback while being fouled and hit the free throw for the old-fashioned three-play, cutting the deficit to 25-22.

After a floater from Terion Moss with 5:20 to go in the frame, his first points, extended the lead back to five, a putback from Jordan made it 27-24.

Again, the Bulldogs went up five on two Amir Moss free throws, but again, the Red Riots pulled within three on a driving layup from Pelletier.

The trend continued, as Amir Moss made a layup after a steal and Bol scored on a putback to make it 31-28, a score which held into the final stanza.

There, South Portland and Portland put on a show and while the teams couldn’t come to a resolution, the fans were the ultimate winners.

Just 33 seconds into the fourth, Pelletier canned a long 3 to tie it, 31-31.

A floater from Amir Moss put the Bulldogs back on top, but with 6:19 left, Pelletier drove into the lane for a layup and a 33-33 deadlock.

Again Moss gave Portland the lead back, taking a pass from sophomore Manny Yugu and finishing a layup with his left hand.

With 4:55 to play, Pelletier set up Fiorini for a layup and the game was tied again, 35-35.

The Bulldogs went back to number four again with 4:39 left and Moss hit a jumper for the lead, but 24 seconds later, Fiorini buried a 3 from beyond the top of the key and for the first time since the first quarter, the Red Riots were on top, 38-37.

“It took us almost three quarters to settle in and we started playing really good ball,” Fiorini said. “I heated up and my teammates got me the ball.”

“I told Jack he’d hit a big shot,” Millington said. “That’s the surest bet going.”

After Terion Moss missed a shot, DePaolo got the rebound, but South Portland wasn’t able to add to the lead as Fiorini missed at the other end.

Amir Moss and Bol then were each called for a charging foul.

Yugu missed a 3 for Portland, but Pelletier was off at the other end.

With 2:32 remaining, Amir Moss drove for a layup and Portland retook the lead, 39-38.

After Hasson missed a shot, Bol kept possession alive for the Red Riots and with 2:12 left, Fiorini went to the line for a one-and-one. He made the first free throw, but missed the second and the game was tied, 39-39.

The Bulldogs then milked the clock under a minute before Hasson came up with yet another critical hustle play which resulted in a steal and with 57 seconds to go, Fiorini was fouled again. 

This time, Fiorini made both free throws and Portland was on the ropes.

For all of 12 seconds as it turned out, as Amir Moss again saved the day with a leaner to make it 41-41.

Fiorini had a chance to put South Portland back in the lead with 24 seconds showing, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one (the ball went in and out) and Lyall’s rebound gave the Bulldogs a chance to win it.

Out of a timeout, to no one’s surprise, Amir Moss got the ball as time wound down, but after colliding with Hasson (a no call), his shot was off, Fiorini grabbed the rebound and it was on to overtime.

In Maine high school basketball, teams play a four-minute overtime. If the game remains tied, another extra session is necessitated.

In the final game on the final night of the season, a fantastic showdown would need two OTs to determine a winner and elevate itself into legend.

Every second and every possession were critical in the first overtime, as each team only scored two points.

The Red Riots got the ball first, as Bol won the tip to Fiorini, but Pelletier was off target on a 3 and Lyall got the rebound.

With 3:23 to go in OT, Amir Moss was fouled on a drive and made both free throws to put Portland ahead, 43-41.

Fiorini missed at the other end and senior John Williams got the rebound for the Bulldogs, but after milking the clock down to under the 1:30 mark, Esposito couldn’t convert on a shot and Bol got the rebound.

At the other end, with 1:13 showing, Bol drove for a layup and the game was tied once more, 43-43.

Again, Portland would hold for the last shot and out of a timeout with 15 seconds to go, Terion Moss kept the ball and got a look, but he missed.

Pelletier got the rebound and passed to DePaolo, who pulled up for a desperation heave from midcourt even though he had time to get a little closer. The prayer actually hit the rim, but before a teammate could get to the ball for a rebound, the horn sounded and it was on to overtime number two.

There, Bol again won the tap to Fiorini and this time, South Portland got an emotional lift as Hasson drained a corner 3 for a 46-43 lead just nine seconds in.

To their credit, the Bulldogs answered, as Foley set up Lyall for a layup with 3:31 to go, cutting the deficit to one.

After Pelletier missed at one end, Amir Moss was off target at the other. Moss then stole the ball back and set up Terion Moss for a layup. Terion Moss was fouled on the play and hit the free throw for the three-point play and a 48-46 advantage with 2:09 to play.

That lead lasted exactly 19 seconds, as at the other end, Fiorini took a pass from Hasson and calmly drained another long 3-pointer for a 49-48 lead.

As it turned out, those would be the Red Riots’ final points of the season.

After a DePaolo steal, Portland forced a held ball and the arrow was pointing its way.

Amir Moss made South Portland pay as he spun past a defender and made a layup with 1:16 left.

The game’s 12th lead change put the Bulldogs on top for good, 50-49.

“Shots didn’t fall, but there was more time to be played,” Amir Moss said. “I tried to give the defender an up-fake, but that didn’t work, so I tried to find an opening and I did and the ball went in the basket.” 

At the other end, Hasson tried to answer with a 3, but he missed and Esposito got the rebound.

With 32.7 seconds remaining, Esposito was fouled and went to the line for a critical one-and-one.

After falling agonizingly short of a championship on the gridiron back in November, the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner wasn’t going to be denied on the hardwood and he sank both free throws to push the lead to three.

“I knew thousands of people were watching, but I was focused,” Esposito said. “I had to do it for my team.” 

Out of a timeout, after the Red Riots wasted precious time, Bol tried to counter, but he missed a spinner and Foley got the rebound.

With just 6.6 seconds left, Amir Moss went to the line for a one-and-one with a chance to secure the victory, but after South Portland iced him, Moss’ attempt was no good and Bol got the rebound.

The Red Riots tried to race upcourt for a tying 3, but the ball was knocked loose and just before the scoreboard read 0.00, Hasson dove for the ball and was fouled after a scary collision.

The clock showed 0.2, meaning South Portland had a faint pulse. If the first free throw was good and the second was intentionally missed and tipped in, a third overtime would be necessary.

“I told the kids, ‘Weirder things have happened,'” Millington said.

The problem was Hasson had to leave the game with his injury and White, as his replacement, had to walk to the line for high pressure foul shot.

White calmly made the first attempt and suddenly, the improbable tying tip was within reason.

White, as expected, deliberately missed the second free throw, but he didn’t get enough of an arc on the shot and the ball hit the rim and went straight down, meaning no Red Riot could get a hand on it.

“We tried to either secure the ball or not let them get it,” Amir Moss said. “Coach told us exactly what they’d try to do and we made sure we were in the right spot.” 

At 10:42 p.m., after 100 real time minutes and 40 palpitating basketball minutes, Portland could exhale and celebrate its 52-50 win for the ages.

“It’s very exciting, a great feeling,” Amir Moss said. “We’re two-time state champs. It was great to be in a game like this. They got better every week and we saw that. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy game. We knew it would be a tough battle. We just had to stay confident. Coach kept saying, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ We kept that in our minds.”

“It actually feels amazing,” Foley said. “We knew they were coming off some big playoff wins, so they’d have a lot of emotion. We knew it would be a good game and we’d be in for a fight. We knew we had to take over. We knew we could win.” 

“This is how you draw it up,” Esposito said. “Having the whole thrill of two overtimes was amazing. They hit a 3 at the start of the second overtime, but we didn’t get down on ourselves.”

Heart of a champion

Amir Moss, who will go down in history as one of the great Bulldogs of recent vintage, might have trumped his dramatic game-winner against Deering in last year’s semifinals with his effort Saturday night.

Moss had a double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds, but his impact truly can’t be quantified. Every time Portland’s title hopes were in jeopardy, Moss came through.

“I was feeling it, but the team comes first and if someone else was open, I’d get them the ball,” Moss said.

“Just watching Amir take over like he did tonight, I was excited,” Esposito said. “He’s pretty special.”

“When we were struggling on the offensive end, we just kept giving Amir the ball,” Russo added. “He’s a very good basketball player and a seasoned veteran. We didn’t need him a lot this year to make big shots because we’re very team oriented and weren’t in close games.”

Even South Portland’s coach had to tip his cap.

“Amir’s a great player,” Millington said. “The biggest travesty is that he didn’t get the (MVP Award) in the north (which went to Oxford Hills standout Andrew Fleming, even though his team didn’t even make it to the regional final). It’s embarrassing for the MPA, or whoever gives out that award.”

Foley, whose shooting ability and poise as a mere sophomore isn’t truly appreciated, came up big again with a game-high three 3-pointers and 11 points in all. Foley also blocked a pair of shots.

Esposito had a quiet six points, but his defensive effort was off the charts and he also finished with seven rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.

Terion Moss was held well below his accustomed offensive production, but he was steady at the point and had five assists to go with his five points.

Lyall added three points, five rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

Portland held a 29-28 rebound advantage, shot 20 of 48 from the floor, made 4 of 9 3-point attempts, was 8 of 10 from the free throw line and only turned the ball over 10 times.

The Bulldogs were impressed with South Portland’s effort, but ultimately, they weren’t going to go home without the title.

“It’s fitting it was Portland-South Portland, teams that have been battling for years and years,” Russo said. “We came in number one and they were 9-9 and they were outplaying us, taking the lead now and then. They were already champions just by doing that. They played a terrific game. They’re a hell of a team. It was really scary. They controlled the tempo, they have a lot of size, they pounded it inside, they have good shooters.

“Our guys had to respond. As much as we like to go up-tempo and press, we had to rely on good old fashioned halfcourt, man-to-man basketball. That’s the only way we could survive. We gave  up six to eight inches per player. It came down to the kids’ heart and soul. That game right there was almost like no words could describe it because the scenario was so different. I’ve coached in some incredible games in front of a packed house, but this game was special.” 

Russo said that while Portland’s title was gratifying, it took a lot out of him and his players.

“It’s been a fun ride, but the last three weeks have been too long,” Russo said “It’s been a long, emotionally and physically draining three weeks with the bye, waiting a week for a game, driving up north, getting home late at night. We played just three games in three weeks.”

Russo wouldn’t commit to returning next season, but that might have been the raw postgame emotions speaking.

“I just go day to day, year to year,” Russo said. “It’s the energy level. Maybe I should let somebody else try it and not take all the fun. I watched the other games on TV and all I see is all the young coaches.”

Heroic

South Portland was led by Bol, who had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

Fiorini, the regional tournament MVP, bowed out with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. 

Pelletier had a fantastic swan song as well, scoring 12 points and grabbing four boards.

Jackson added five points (and six rebounds), DePaolo and Hasson (four rebounds, three assists, two steals) had three points apiece and White wound up with one.

The Red Riots only committed 13 turnovers over 40 minutes, but didn’t shoot as well as they’d hoped, making just 19 of 51 field goals and 6 of 11 free throws. South Portland did drain 6 of 17 3-pointers.

South Portland overcame an offseason of controversy and strife and a regular season that was viewed by most to be a disappointment to become the finest 12-10 team in state history.

The Red Riots’ regional tournament run was inspirational, but only one word can describe their effort Saturday night.

Heroic.

Time and again, South Portland could have been content just with playing the mighty Bulldogs close and settling for a moral victory, but no, the Red Riots wanted the biggest, brightest and shiniest prize instead and they came oh so close to achieving it in an effort that will be hailed as long as this program exists.

“Obviously it hurts, but I can’t thank my teammates and all the fans enough,” said Fiorini, who was a freshman on the 2013 state finalist. “The atmosphere on that court was absolutely unbelievable. We knew all along we were a completely different team from the regular season. We kept shocking people. We shocked people when we beat Thornton Academy. We shocked people when we beat Massabesic. We shocked everyone by sending this game to two overtimes. Everything each of those teams threw at us we answered and we answered quite well. This is my second time going through us. It hurts pretty bad. When you’re sitting on the bench, you just think about what you could have done better and that’s haunting. I wish I could have made just one more shot. I tried really hard and I know my teammates did too.”

“These guys are winners and I love them,” Millington said. “It just took us awhile to figure each other out. We were losing, but we kept fixing things. We’ve always been pretty solid in the locker room. There was a lot of noise outside the locker room and (the coaches) had to shield (the guys) from it, but we enjoyed each other and that goes a long way. 

“Portland’s obviously a great team, but I never thought we couldn’t beat them. This was Portland-South Portland at its finest and it shouldn’t have been any other way. There’s so much mutual admiration. Joe (Russo) is one of my closest friends. We said afterwards that it was just a great game.  

“(South Portland) is where I’m from. It’s a privilege to represent South Portland. I was thinking about the 1992 game and I don’t think I had the energy for five (overtimes). I’d have to put this behind that game because South Portland won that game and we lost.”

The Red Riots have to part with eight seniors, including tri-captains DePaolo, Pelletier and Fiorini, who is going to Syracuse University on a lacrosse scholarship. 

While their departure will hurt, South Portland returns Bol and Hasson, as well as several others who saw limited time this winter. The program also figures to be bolstered by a handful of newcomers.

After coming so close to the big prize, the 2016-17 Red Riots will look to finish the job.

“I think we have a chance to be really good the next several years,” Millington said. “We’ll look back at this group as the one that had to pave the way. They had it harder than any group will have. They were the foundation and always will be.

“Tomorrow morning, we’ll start thinking about getting back here.”

Glory days

Portland is in the midst of one of the great runs in program history (rivaled only by four straight regional and two state titles between 1942-45). 

“These particular kids have had so much success,” Russo said. “We’ve been (to states) three times. The kids work hard and they love basketball with a passion.”

Graduation will take its toll on this group.

For starters, Amir Moss has played his last game in a Portland uniform.

Moss said he’ll never forget his time with the Bulldogs.

“The team welcomed me my freshman year and all the way through my senior year, they kept me focused and made sure I stayed out of trouble,” Moss said. “All the coaches were great with me. I felt loved. I’ll miss it a lot.”

The Bulldogs will miss Moss and Esposito greatly and the departure of Ben Griffin and Williams will also be felt.

“The seniors taught me to play my heart out,” Foley said. “Amir, Joe, Benny and John all play extremely hard.”

The 2016-17 edition figures to be very competitive once more.

Next year’s team will be led by Foley, Lyall and Terion Moss. Look for Yugu, junior Ethan Hoyt and freshmen Trey Bellew and Pedro Fonseca to step into much bigger roles as well and don’t be surprised if a few newcomers to the program make an impact.

We’ll have the personnel to make another run,” Foley said. “We just have to work hard in practice.” 

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

Portland senior Amir Moss, who led all scorers with 27 points, soars to the basket over South Portland senior Matt Pelletier, left, and sophomore Riley Hasson.

South Portland senior Jack Fiorini snares a rebound away from Portland junior Charlie Lyall.

Portland sophomore Manny Yugu, right, takes a charge on South Portland junior Ruay Bol as Portland senior Amir Moss also defends.

South Portland sophomore Riley Hasson, who provided tremendous energy off the bench, leans in for a shot as Portland sophomore Griffin Foley defends.

South Portland junior Ruay Bol, left, Portland senior Amir Moss, South Portland senior Jordin Jackson and Portland senior Ben Griffin all go for a loose ball.

South Portland senior Matt Pelletier, who bowed out with a fabulous effort, goes up for a shot as Portland junior Charlie Lyall (32) and sophomore Griffin Foley defend.

Portland senior Joe Esposito goes up with one hand as South Portland sophomore Riley Hasson defends.

Portland sophomore Terion Moss soars to the basket as South Portland senior Jack Fiorini defends.

Portland’s student section got creative and loud during the victory.

As was the case on the court, South Portland’s student section was every bit Portland’s equal Saturday night.

At the final horn, Portland sophomore Griffin Foley squeezes the ball tight and the celebration begins.

Portland senior Amir Moss willed his team to victory and got to exult after cutting down the net.

After just missing out on a state championship back in November, senior Joe Esposito, the football Fitzpatrick Trophy winner, reveled in the postgame celebration.

South Portland’s proud senior captains Matt Pelletier, left, Sam DePaolo and Jack Fiorini receive the runner-up trophy.

All of the Bulldogs wanted to get an up close view of the Gold Ball.

Senior captain Joe Esposito, left, wore the net and freshman Pedro Fonseca held the trophy during a postgame team photo.

Previous Portland-South Portland tournament results

2013 Western A semifinals
South Portland 49 Portland 41 

2012 Western Class A quarterfinals
South Portland 39 Portland 37

2011 Western Class A quarterfinals
Portland 69 South Portland 45

2009 Western Class A quarterfinals
Portland 72 South Portland 49

2005 Western Class A quarterfinals
Portland 58 South Portland 51

1999 Western A Final
Portland 79 South Portland 67

1998 Western A quarterfinals
Portland 58 South Portland 49

1987 Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 57 Portland 46

1986 Western A semifinals
Portland 65 South Portland 47

1981 Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 92 Portland 47

1975 Western A semifinals
Portland 53 South Portland 49

1971 Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 61 Portland 38

1968 LL West Final
South Portland 56 Portland 54 (OT)

1962 LL West quarterfinals
South Portland 66 Portland 56

1958 L West Final
South Portland 70 Portland 58

1950 L West semifinals
Portland 43 South Portland 33

1949 L West Final
South Portland 60 Portland 42

1943 Western Maine Final
Portland 33 South Portland 20

1942 first round
Portland 34 South Portland 22

1940 second round
South Portland 25 Portland 22

1937 second round
Portland 35 South Portland 5 

1935 third round
South Portland 30 Portland 27 

1932 Western Maine Final
Portland 24 South Portland 18 

1931 second round
South Portland 48 Portland 19 

1929 second round
South Portland 26 Portland 20 

1928 Western Maine Final
South Portland 21 Portland 14 

1926 Western Maine Final
South Portland 29 Portland 14

1923 first round
Portland 38 South Portland 18 

Previous Portland state games

2015
Hampden Academy 70 Portland 50 

2014
Portland 54 Hampden Academy 40

2007
Bangor 56 Portland 39

2004
Portland 69 Brunswick 63 (OT)

1999
Portland 77 Lawrence 58

1986
Portland 58 Lawrence 52

1950
Portland 28 Stearns 23

1945
Waterville 42 Portland 35

1944
Waterville 53 Portland 33

1943
Portland named winner (no state final due to WWII)

1942
Portland 27 John Bapst 19

1936
Portland 30 Bangor 15

1932
Presque Isle 31 Portland 30

1923
Bangor 41 Portland 22

Previous South Portland state games

2013
Hampden Academy 45 South Portland 41 

1993
Bangor 62 South Portland 37

1992
South Portland 81 Bangor 79 (5 OT)

1985
Waterville 60 South Portland 35

1983
South Portland 66 Caribou 49

1980
South Portland 75 Old Town 51

1979
South Portland 102 Presque Isle 58

1978
Cony 84 South Portland 63

1971
South Portland 55 Presque Isle 53

1970
Stearns 73 South Portland 67

1968
Stearns 59 South Portland 57 (OT)

1958
South Portland 83 Caribou 70

1954
Ellsworth 61 South Portland 40

1949
Waterville 51 South Portland 42

1938
Winslow 41 South Portland 26

1931
South Portland 34 Presque Isle 29

1929
South Portland 25 Old Town 15

1928
South Portland 20 Bar Harbor 17

1926
South Portland Bangor (game not played)

1922
South Portland 24 Bangor 21

2
Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.