South Portland’s bench stands and cheers in the waning moments of the Red Riots’ 40-32 win at Scarborough Tuesday night. South Portland won at the Red Storm for the first time in four years.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
SP- 12 14 2 12- 40
S- 10 4 5 13- 32
SP- M. Whitmore 5-3-13, Graff 4-2-10, Leckie 2-1-5, K. Whitmore 2-0-4, B. Cloutier 1-0-3, Towle 1-1-3, O. Cloutier 1-0-2
S- Glidden 5-0-10, Dickinson 2-0-6, Jefferds 2-0-4, Blanche 1-0-3, Freeman 1-1-3, Kelley 1-1-3, Taylor 1-0-3
SP (1) B. Cloutier 1
S (4) Dickinson 2, Blanche, Taylor 1
SCARBOROUGH—To become a champion, you can’t always rely on playing your best.
No, to become a champion, you have to find a way to win when little is going your way.
Especially at a venue where almost nothing goes well.
South Portland’s girls’ basketball team, the Class AA South favorite, made the trek next door to rival Scarborough’s Alumni Gymnasium Tuesday evening and not surprisingly, the Red Riots got off to a slow start.
South Portland trailed for a good chunk of the first quarter, but junior Jena Leckie came off the bench and gave the Red Riots a spark which ultimately spelled a 12-10 advantage after eight minutes.
South Portland then ramped it up in the second period, forcing the Red Storm to turn the ball over time and again, while seven points from sophomore standout Maggie Whitmore extended the lead to 26-14.
But just when it appeared the Red Riots were on their way to victory, they couldn’t find the basket in the third quarter, scoring a mere two points, as Scarborough pulled within nine, 28-19.
The Red Storm then roared to life to start the fourth period, capping a 14-0 run when sophomore Bella Dickinson hit a 3-pointer with 5:43 to play, giving the hosts a 30-28 advantage.
South Portland pulled even on a putback from senior Meghan Graff, but with 4:17 remaining, a jumper from sophomore Julia Freeman gave Scarborough the lead again and an upset appeared imminent.
But despite everything going against them, the Red Riots closed strong, scoring the final 10 points of the game.
A jumper from sophomore Olivia Cloutier tied the score and with 1:46 remaining, South Portland finally went on top to stay, as off an inbounds set, Graff fed Whitmore for a layup.
With the Red Storm going cold, the Red Riots pulled away, as Graff made a layup, Whitmore sank two foul shots, then Whitmore took a pass from her sister, junior Katie Whitmore, and made a layup to slam the door on a 40-32 victory.
South Portland got 13 points from Maggie Whitmore, 10 from Graff, won its fourth game in a row to start the season and in the process, dropped Scarborough to 2-2.
“So much of it’s mental when we walk into this gym,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “We were able to hold on and gut it out. We’ve got a lot of good things going.”
The last two times South Portland traveled to Scarborough, the Red Riots lost (46-42 in 2014-15 and 46-40 last winter).
The programs have developed a competitive rivalry since they began playing in the 2003-04 season (see sidebar, below), with South Portland holding a 14-9 all-time advantage.
The Red Riots won the first seven meetings, the Red Storm took seven of the next eight and in each of the past two postseasons, South Portland has eliminated Scarborough.
This winter, both teams are on the short list of Class AA South favorites.
The Red Riots, who lost to Gorham in the regional final a year ago, began the season by dispatching visiting Bonny Eagle (61-41), Cheverus (49-31) and Greely (63-53).
The Red Storm started with wins at Sanford (63-23) and at home over Falmouth (46-33) before stumbling at home to Bonny Eagle (45-34).
Tuesday, Scarborough hoped to continue its recent home success against South Portland, but despite its nice comeback, the Red Riots, in their first road test, proved too deep and talented and stayed undefeated.
Both teams struggled shooting in the early going and it took 2 minutes, 28 seconds for the ice to be broken when Maggie Whitmore made a layup.
The Red Storm took their first lead 19 seconds later, when sophomore Madison Blanche sank a 3-pointer and senior Emily Jefferds followed with a long jump shot, but Leckie got a point back at the line. After Freeman hit a free throw for Scarborough, Leckie took a pass from senior Eva Mazur and made a layup, then took a feed from Maggie Whitmore and made another layup for a 7-6 South Portland lead.
“Jena gives us a spark,” Hasson said. “Good energy. She’s played well this year. She’s rebounded well. She just needs to be a little more confident when she catches the ball near the basket. She’s kicked it out, but she’s a strong kid.”
After a Glidden putback gave the Red Storm the lead, Graff scored her first points on an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw).
A scoop shot from Glidden tied the score, but with 49.3 seconds to go in the frame, Graff banked home a runner for a 12-10 Red Riots’ advantage after eight minutes.
Graff and Leckie both had five points in the quarter, while Scarborough turned the ball over seven times.
Things got even worse for the Red Storm in the second period, as they gave the ball away nine times and only managed four points and South Portland opened up a seemingly safe lead.
A Glidden putback tied the score early in the second quarter, but a corner 3-pointer from junior Bela Cloutier put the Red Riots back on top. Graff added a free throw, but Glidden finished on a nice runner with 4:14 to go in the half to cut the deficit to 16-14.
Scarborough wouldn’t score again until the second half and South Portland got the final 10 points of the frame.
A three-point play from Maggie Whitmore was followed by a Whitmore layup after a Graff steal, a three-point play from sophomore Kaleisha Towle and a runner off the glass from Whitmore to make it 26-14 at halftime.
In the first 16 minutes, the Red Storm had a 17-13 rebounding advantage, but was hindered by 16 turnovers. Maggie Whitmore had seven points, Graff added six and Leckie had five to help the Red Riots open it up.
Just when South Portland appeared en route to an easy win, it went ice cold in the third quarter.
As was the case to start the game, neither team could buy a basket early in the second half before Freeman set up Jefferds for a layup 3:06 in to end the Red Riots’ 12-0 run and a 7 minute, 20 second drought.
Katie Whitmore countered with a layup, but Glidden banked home a runner and a free throw from senior Lindsey Kelley pulled Scarborough within 28-19 after three periods.
The Red Storm finally rediscovered their offense in the fourth quarter and roared into the lead, but ultimately, South Portland awakened just in time.
A mere 11 seconds into the final stanza, a 3-point shot from Scarborough senior Natalie Taylor rattled in to give the hosts life.
With 6:54 to go, Dickinson sank a 3 from the corner and 45 seconds later, Kelley made a layup after a nice baseline drive to pull the Red Storm within one, 28-27, forcing Hasson to call timeout.
It didn’t help, as with 5:43 to play, Dickinson sank another 3 and Scarborough had the lead for the first time since the first quarter, 30-28.
“I thought the kids dealt with the adversity of not playing well for a half and throwing the ball over the place,” said Red Storm coach Mike Giordano. “We looked very rattled and amped, but to the girls’ credit, they hung together and held them to two (points) in the third quarter and came back. We got a few shots to go. They’re very good defensively, but we stood around a lot. Once we got movement, it created open looks. We have kids who can shoot it and we started to make some and it gave us confidence defensively.”
The Red Riots drew even with 5:03 on the clock, as after Maggie Whitmore twice kept possession alive with offensive rebounds, Graff scored on an offensive board of her own.
The basket ended the Red Storm’s 14-0 run and a 7:41 drought.
With 4:17 remaining, Scarborough went ahead again, 32-30, as after a Dickinson steal, Freeman sank a jump shot.
That would be the Red Storm’s highwater mark, however, as with 3:28 to go, South Portland tied the game for the fourth and final time, as sophomore Olivia Cloutier, fresh from entering the game for the first time, drained a long jumper.
Scarborough had its chance to go back on top, but turned the ball over.
The Red Riots then made the key plays down the stretch to prevail.
First, Olivia Cloutier missed a shot, but Katie Whitmore got the offensive rebound.
After Cloutier missed again, Mazur kept possession, but Katie Whitmore missed a follow-up shot.
South Portland managed to keep possession again, as the ball went out of bounds.
Then, with 1:46 on the clock, Graff inbounded the ball to Maggie Whitmore, who found herself alone under the basket, and Whitmore’s layup gave the Red Riots the lead for good, 34-32.
“That’s something my grandfather (Red Riots assistant Richard Whitmore) put in from Colby (College),” Katie Whitmore said. “It’s amazing how many teams get faked out on that play.”
Mazur then stole the ball and passed to Maggie Whitmore for another layup and a two-possession lead.
Kelley looked to answer, but missed and Mazur got the rebound.
With 49.2 seconds to go, Maggie Whitmore was fouled and calmly made both free throws to stretch the lead to six.
“Maggie wasn’t feeling well, but she decided we weren’t losing,” Hasson said.
After Dickinson missed a 3, Mazur was fouled. She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Katie Whitmore grabbed the rebound and passed to Maggie Whitmore for a layup which ended all doubt.
“(Maggie) yelled and I just got it to her,” Katie Whitmore said.
Another Scarborough turnover later, South Portland was able to celebrate its 40-32 victory.
“This says that in the end, we give it all we have, even if it’s not pretty,” Katie Whitmore said. “Playing here is probably in our heads. I think that rebounds were really helpful and our communication on defense was really good at the end of the game.”
“Scarborough had all the momentum,” Hasson said. “They came back at us. We only scored one basket in the third quarter. They went into that 2-3 zone and we’re good shooters, but we didn’t move the ball very well or knock down shots. We should have gotten skip passes and good looks, but we held the ball. We gutted it out. We had some good shots and good steals. Once we got the lead, we have three kids who can handle the ball. Evan, Meghan and Maggie are also good foul shooters. I was confident we could hold on.”
Maggie Whitmore led all scorers with 13 points and also grabbed five rebounds.
Graff also finished in double figures with 10 points (to go with four boards and four steals).
Leckie had five points and six rebounds off the bench.
Katie Whitmore’s impact wasn’t accurately measured by stats, as she had just four points and six rebounds.
“Katie does a lot of little things,” Hasson said. “She always hustles and plays hard. I’m happy for her that she was a big factor in finishing the game.”
Bela Cloutier (four steals) and Towle both added three points, while Olivia Cloutier had two points.
Mazur didn’t score, but had four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
The Red Riots hit 7 of 10 free throws and overcame 16 turnovers.
Scarborough was paced by a double-double from Glidden (10 points, 10 rebounds).
“Sophie is our glue,” Giordano said. “She’s a senior, four-year starter, a scholarship player. There are kids around her who can do things too.”
Dickinson had six points (and two steals), Jefferds added four points (and four boards) and Blanche (six rebounds, four assists, three steals), Freeman (six boards, two assists), Kelley and Taylor all had three points.
The Red Storm enjoyed a 38-34 rebounding advantage, but made just 2 of 8 free throws and turned the ball over 23 times.
Scarborough is back in action Friday at two-time defending AA champion Gorham, then finishes the old year with a game at Edward Little Dec 29.
“I love these kids,” Giordano said. “They work hard. They make it fun coaching. We’ll build off this, but it doesn’t get any easier. Now we go to the two-time champs, who haven’t lost a game in three years. They’re a quality team, well-coached and they know how to win. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”
South Portland is back at home Friday when Thornton Academy pays a visit. The Red Riots then play their final 2017 contest Dec. 29 at home versus Oxford Hills.
“We’ve bonded really well,” Katie Whitmore said. “We’re like a big family. We have no drama. We have to keep pushing 100 percent in practice and make each other better.”
“We’re a good team, but we’re not shooting well right now,” Hasson said. “The girls need confidence. We need to go inside-out better. Then that will start to develop different opportunities for us.”
South Portland sophomore Maggie Whitmore is hounded by Scarborough sophomore Madison Blanche, left, and senior Sophie Glidden.
South Portland senior Meghan Graff goes up for two points.
Scarborough senior Sophie Glidden shoots in traffic.
South Portland senior Eva Mazur dribbles past Scarborough sophomore Madison Blanche.
Scarborough senior Emily Jefferds keeps the ball away from South Portland junior Katie Whitmore.
Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson lines up a 3-pointer.
South Portland junior Katie Whitmore shoots over Scarborough senior Emily Jefferds.
Scarborough senior Lindsey Kelley goes up for a shot as South Portland junior Jena Leckie, left, and senior Eva Mazur defend.
South Portland senior Meghan Graff knocks the ball away from Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson.
@ Scarborough 46 South Portland 40
Class AA South semifinals
South Portland 43 Scarborough 27
@ South Portland 42 Scarborough 25
Class A South quarterfinals
South Portland 49 Scarborough 41
@ South Portland 60 Scarborough 52
@ Scarborough 46 South Portland 42
South Portland 54 @ Scarborough 46
@ South Portland 71 Scarborough 39
@ Scarborough 58 South Portland 37
@ South Portland 54 Scarborough 44
@ Scarborough 43 South Portland 23
Western A quarterfinals
Scarborough 40 South Portland 22
@ Scarborough 45 South Portland 41
Western A quarterfinals
Scarborough 53 South Portland 26
@ South Portland 50 Scarborough 38
South Portland 52 @ Scarborough 40
@ South Portland 65 Scarborough 38
South Portland 68 @ Scarborough 39
@ South Portland 65 Scarborough 37
@ South Portland 55 Scarborough 35
South Portland 73 Scarborough 51