SOUTH PORTLAND—One point nine seconds.
That’s all that stood between the South Portland girls’ basketball team and a signature victory Wednesday evening.
The Red Riots, who have been competitive all season, but lacked a win over a top contender, welcomed budding powerhouse Gorham to Beal Gymnasium and 32 minutes weren’t enough to decide a winner.
Early on, it appeared South Portland, behind the excellence of junior standout Maddie Hasson, was en route to an easy win when it built a 14-4 lead, but as has been so often the case this winter, the Red Riots suffered through a long offensive lapse and Gorham rallied, taking its first lead just before halftime before taking a 27-23 advantage to the break.
The Rams would lead by as many as 12 points in the third period and took a 40-30 advantage to the fourth, but with its back to the wall, South Portland roared back.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Hasson capped an 11-0 run and put the Red Riots back on top, 41-40, with 5:27 to play, but Gorham, behind a 3 from senior captain Abby Hamilton (remember her name) and a layup from sophomore star Emily Esposito appeared to re-seize control.
Not so fast.
A clutch 3-ball from freshman Abby Cavallaro with just over a minute to play, pulled the hosts within a point and with 24.5 seconds showing, Hasson calmly drained two free throws. She added two more eight seconds later and it appeared South Portland was going to escape, but with 1.9 seconds left in regulation, Hamilton got free and got a great look at a 3, which she buried to force overtime.
There, with all the momentum, the Rams wouldn’t be denied.
A 3 from sophomore Kristen Curley put Gorham ahead to stay and a leaner from sophomore sparkplug Kaylea Lundin helped open it up as the Rams made enough free throws down the stretch to prevail, 65-56.
Hasson’s 22 points were negated by 26 from Hamilton and Gorham improved to 13-2, dropping South Portland to 11-4 in the process.
“I thought we had it,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “We had an opportunity to walk away with a win, but we didn’t. I think the girls are ready to get a big win. I’m disappointed we didn’t get it (tonight), but we’re knocking on the door.”
Gorham won its first two games: 43-40 over visiting Marshwood and 59-24 at Biddeford before losing at McAuley (54-43). A seven-game win streak began with home victories over Portland (51-47), Windham (52-28) and Scarborough (64-37) and continued at Sanford (44-28), Bonny Eagle (52-39), Cheverus (66-47) and Westbrook (49-42). After falling at home to Deering (44-43), the Rams rolled over visiting Noble (57-21), upset host Thornton Academy (53-48) and romped over visiting Massabesic (60-23).
South Portland handled its first three opponents: visiting Noble (79-26), host Sanford (55-26) and visiting Westbrook (74-29), before losing at Thornton Academy, 50-33. The Red Riots then bounced back to beat host Portland (65-55) and visiting Bonny Eagle (62-38) before letting a 20-point halftime lead slip away in a 59-52 overtime loss at Deering. After enjoying wins at Massabesic (63-33) and at home over Scarborough (60-52), South Portland fell at home to McAuley, 45-36. The Red Riots then won at Biddeford, 58-35, at home over Cheverus (61-45), at home over Marshwood (68-50) and at Windham (76-60).
South Portland had won five of the previous nine meetings (see sidebar, below), including each of the past two. A year ago, after Hamilton tied the game late with a 3, the Red Riots had to go to overtime to win a 64-53 thriller at the Rams.
Wednesday, history repeated itself, but this time, the victor would be different.
Maddie Hasson hinted at a big game to come when she opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 63 seconds in. Hasson then finished a feed from Cavallaro and made a layup and freshman Megan Graff banked home a shot for a quick 7-0 advantage.
“I said to Megan before the game, ‘Don’t be nervous’ and she said, ‘I’m not nervous,'” Lynne Hasson said. “She’s tremendous. She’s the type of kid who’s very athletic and skilled. She’s very unselfish. I’ve told her to be more selfish. She’s very much a team player. We’re better when she looks to be selfish and attack.”
Gorham got on the board with 5:38 to go in the first quarter when Curley hit a jumper, but Graff buried a long jump shot for a 9-2 lead. After the Rams got a putback from Lundin, who despite being one of the smallest players on the floor, consistently fought her way in among the trees, Hasson made two free throws and Cavallaro drained a 3 for a 14-4 advantage.
Gorham then ran off nine straight points to get right back in it, as Hamilton made her first 3, Esposito hit a leaner in the lane for her first points, Lundin drove for a layup and Hamilton set up junior Molly Merrifield for a layup.
Just when it appeared the Rams had all the momentum, however, South Portland closed the frame strong, as senior Paige Carter had a steal and set up Cavallaro for a layup just before time expired to make it 16-13 Red Riots.
A Hasson free throw started the second period, but an Esposito fadeaway in the lane and another Esposito fadeaway tied the score, 17-17, with 6:25 to go in the half.
Sixteen seconds later, Esposito was called for her second foul and had to go to the bench, but with 5:06 left in the half, Hasson was whistled for her second and both teams had to play several minutes without their stars.
The Red Riots went back on top, 19-17, when Cavallaro set up Graff for a layup on the fastbreak, but Hamilton answered with a pullup jumper. Two free throws from sophomore Lydia Henderson were countered by a layup after a steal by Gorham junior Emily Bragg.
South Portland retook the lead again, 23-21, when freshman Grace Soucy made two foul shots, but the hosts wouldn’t score again for a long time.
A jumper in the lane from Hamilton tied the score and with 1:04 left before the break, off an inbounds set, Hamilton set up senior Ashley Woodbury for a layup and the Rams’ first lead. A pretty up-and-under layup from Bragg made it 27-23 Gorham at halftime.
After going scoreless the final 2:02 of the first half, the hosts didn’t manage a point in the first 6:07 of the third period and dug a 12-point hole, but it didn’t prove fatal.
Early in the second half, Curley hit a jumper. The Rams then went scoreless nearly four minutes themselves before Hamilton hit a runner off the glass and Hamilton scored on a putback. After a Red Riots’ timeout, Gorham senior Caitlyn Hawxwell drove for a layup and the visitors were on the verge of breaking it open, up, 35-23.
“(We didn’t have) the start we wanted, but it’s a long game and I knew we could score points,” said Gorham coach Laughn Berthiaume. “We just had to play through it. We got back in transition. I thought they beat us down the floor in the first half. We talked at halftime about getting back and protecting the basket. When we sprinted back, we were in good shape. We did a good job defensive rebounding. We didn’t give them many second chances.”
Finally, with 1:53 left in the third, Henderson got a difficult angle leaner to drop to end the 14-0 Rams’ run, but the visitors restored their 12-point advantage when Hawxwell set up Bragg for a layup.
South Portland got a free throw from Graff, a layup from senior Holly Black after a Graff steal and a leaner from Hasson to pull within seven, but in a harbinger of what would happen at the end of regulation, Hamilton hit a clutch 3 with 2.1 seconds showing to make it 40-30 Gorham with eight minutes to play.
Or so we thought.
The Red Riots would rise off the deck and surge early in the fourth period.
A Hasson free throw 12 seconds in got the rally started. Hasson then managed to weave through the defense before making a layup, Hasson fed Soucy for a baseline jumper and after Henderson made things interesting with a 3, Hasson drove for another layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-play and South Portland was back on top, 41-40, with 5:27 to play.
“We went a long stretch without scoring and that hurt us, but we battled and stayed in there,” Lynne Hasson said.
Seconds later, the Red Riots’ hopes took a blow when Graff had to leave the game with a leg injury, but she would return.
A 3 from Hamilton put Gorham back on top, 43-41, with 4:45 to go, ending South Portland’s 11-0 run.
When Esposito took a feed from Lundin and made a layup with 3:29 left, the Rams were on the verge of victory, but three times down the stretch, the visitors missed the front end of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities.
The first miss, by Esposito, on Gorham’s first foul shot attempt of the game, coming with 1:13 to play, set the stage for Cavallaro to make a 3 with 1:04 to go and the Red Riots were back within a point, 45-44.
After Esposito again missed a foul shot, Black got the rebound, but Lundin stole the ball right back and was fouled. She too missed her front end, however, and the hosts responded.
With 24.5 seconds left, Maddie Hasson was fouled on a drive and she made her first attempt to tie the score, then drained the second for a 46-45 lead.
After Lundin’s bid for a layup wouldn’t drop, Black got another rebound and got the ball to Hasson, who was fouled again.
With 16.1 seconds left, Hasson hit both attempts and South Portland was up three, 48-45.
When Esposito missed at the other end, the Rams could have been finished, but Lundin managed to tie up the rebound and the possession arrow pointed Gorham’s way, giving the visitors one final chance to tie.
They made the most of it.
The inbounds pass came to Esposito on the right side. Instead attempting a game-tying 3, however, Esposito waited for Hamilton to come off a screen and pop open up top. Esposito’s pass was on target and Hamilton wouldn’t be denied, burying her 3 to make it 48-48 and force overtime.
“We definitely needed a 3,” Hamilton said. “We drew up a play and it worked. It was a big shot. I knew I only had one chance. My teammates had unbelievable screens to get me that wide open and it worked.”
“That was exactly what we wanted,” Berthiaume said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but she’s one of our best shooters and she’s clutch. We wanted to make sure she touched the ball. Abby had a fantastic year last year. She was injured at the end and she’s battled injuries this year, but this is the Abby I know and I think she’s all the way back.”
Lynne Hasson said she thought about deliberately fouling to prevent such a scenario, but decided against it.
“The question is do you foul?” Hasson said. “Believe me, I thought about it, but I thought the kids could defend. Ironically, the same thing happened last year at Gorham, but we won.”
While it appeared the Rams had momentum, twice in the first minute of overtime, the Red Riots would take a short-lived lead.
First, Maddie Hasson drove for a layup off the opening tip, but Hamilton took a pass from Esposito and countered with a 3. Henderson then set up Black for a bank shot and a 52-51 lead, but that would be South Portland’s last hurrah.
With 3:01 left in OT, Lundin found Curley in the right corner and Curley knocked down the 3-ball, as the seventh and final lead change of the contest gave Gorham a 54-52 advantage.
The Red Riots’ hopes then took a jolt when Hasson was called for a charge, her fifth foul, ending her night.
After the teams traded turnovers, Lundin got into the lane and went one-on-one on Black, who has a foot size advantage, but Lundin contorted her body just right to get some shooting space and managed to hit the leaner, making it a two-possession contest.
“I try not to let size intimidate me,” Lundin said.
“(Kaylea is) so feisty,” Hamilton said.
“Number one, (Kaylea’s) difficult to guard because of her speed, but as small as she is, she can leap and attack the basket,” Berthiaume added. “She’s a very good rebounder. She does a little of everything for us, including guarding the other team’s point guard.”
After Soucy missed at the other end, Hamilton was fouled and with 2:05 to go in overtime, she hit both free throws to push the lead to six.
After a South Portland turnover, Woodbury made a foul shot, but Henderson countered with a pair, keeping the Red Riots’ hopes alive.
They would quickly be dashed, however, as Esposito drove for a layup, Lundin made one free throw and Hamilton did the same.
A long jumper from Graff was too little too late and a pair of Woodbury foul shots brought the curtain down on Gorham’ 65-56 victory.
“It’s incredible,” Lundin said. “I was confident going into overtime. We didn’t want a repeat of last year, which was the same exact scenario.”
“”Everybody made shots,” Hamilton said. “It was great. They punched us in the nose early, but we regrouped after the first quarter. It all started at the defensive end.”
“I felt like we had new life when we got to overtime,” Berthiaume added. “We had control going into the fourth quarter, but they stormed back. They’re a good team, so it wasn’t surprising.”
The Rams got a game-high 26 points from Hamilton (including five clutch 3s). She also had eight rebounds and two assists. Esposito finished with 10 points, seven boards and four assists, despite her foul trouble. Curley (eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists) and Lundin (10 rebounds, five assists and a block) both had seven, Bragg finished with six, Woodbury had five and Hawxwell and Merrifield both added two.
Gorham had a 35-32 rebounding advantage, only committed 13 turnovers in 36 pressure-packed minutes and made 7 of 13 foul shots.
South Portland got 22 points from Hasson before she fouled out. Graff (seven rebounds, four steals) and Henderson each had nine points. Cavallaro wound up with eight (to go with four rebounds, two assists and a steal). Black had four points and more importantly, absolutely dominated the glass to the tune of a game-high 17 rebounds, while also dishing out four assists. Soucy also added four points.
The Red Riots committed just 12 turnovers and made an impressive 16 of 20 free throws, but couldn’t quite pull it out.
“We had a difficult time finishing,” Lynne Hasson lamented. “I actually thought when Maddie scored (early in overtime) we were in good shape, but when Maddie got her fifth foul, I knew we were in trouble, because we need her on the floor. We’re doing a lot of things better. We’ve shown we can hurt people on the glass.”
Both teams are looking to finish in the top four of Western A to avoid a preliminary round game.
Gorham (now third behind McAuley and Thornton Academy in the Heal Points standings) is looking good, presuming it wins out. The Rams are at Windham Friday, host Bonny Eagle Tuesday, then close the regular season at home Thursday of next week versus Westbrook.
“We’re not as young and undersized as people perceive us to be,” Lundin said. “This (win) will get us respect from other teams.”
“I think this means we’ll secure a first round bye, which is huge, but also, anytime you go up against a top team, you want to make sure you’re battle tested and I think we are,” Berthiaume said. “I feel good. You want to be playing well going into the tournament. We’re playing together with a lot of energy. That’s the most important thing.”
South Portland (fifth in the region) has its home finale Friday versus Portland, then closes with games at Cheverus Tuesday and at Scarborough Feb. 5.
“(The league) won’t keep us away from a big win all year,” Lynne Hasson said. “We’re going to get one. Looking forward, we’d rather have it at tournament time. It’s a confident group. We were a young group at the beginning of the season. Now, some of the young kids are feeling comfortable out there. We have three games to try and finish strong. A prelim isn’t a horrible thing. It’s an extra game for free.”
South Portland freshman Megan Graff looks to pass to the ball to senior Holly Black as Gorham sophomore Kristen Curley defends.
South Portland senior Paige Carter attempts to reach a loose ball in traffic.
South Portland junior Maddie Hasson tries to get under Gorham senior Abby Hamilton.
South Portland senior Holly Black shoots over Gorham senior Abby Hamilton.
Gorham sophomore Emily Esposito comes down with a rebound.
South Portland freshman Megan Graff drives to the basket.
South Portland senior Paige Carter and Gorham senior Abby Hamilton fight for possession.
South Portland sophomore Lydia Henderson looks for operating room.
Late in regulation, South Portland junior Maddie Hasson sinks a free throw to tie the score.
South Portland coach Lynne Hasson implores her players during a timeout late in Wednesday’s contest.
South Portland 64 @ Gorham 53 (OT)
@ South Portland 49 Gorham 47
@ Gorham 49 South Portland 36
South Portland 53 @ Gorham 47
Gorham 38 @ South Portland 37
@ South Portland 36 Gorham 34
@ Gorham 50 South Portland 37
Gorham 52 @ South Portland 47
South Portland 58 @ Gorham 49
South Portland junior Maddie Hasson floats for a shot during Wednesday’s thriller versus Gorham. Hasson led the Red Riots with 22 points, but fouled out in overtime and the Rams prevailed, 65-56.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
G- 13 14 13 8 17- 65
SP- 16 7 7 18 8- 56
G- Hamilton 9-3-26, Esposito 5-0-10, Curley 3-0-7, Lundin 3-1-7, Bragg 3-0-6, Woodbury 1-3-5, Hawxwell 1-0-2, Merrifield 1-0-2
SP- Hasson 6-9-22, Graff 4-1-9, Henderson 2-4-9, Cavallaro 3-0-8, Black 2-0-4, Soucy 1-2-4
G (6) Hamilton 5, Curley 1
SP (4) Cavallaro 2, Hasson, Henderson 1