Red Riots roar in second half, down Portland in finale

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: February 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Red Riots roar in second half, down Portland in finale
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

SOUTH PORTLAND- The 2007-08 Southern Maine Activities Association boys' basketball regular season came to an end Friday evening and very little went as planned.

While top-ranked Thornton Academy was shocked at home by Scarborough, arguably the two hottest teams in recent weeks did battle at historic Beal Gym.

The Portland Bulldogs made the trip to South Portland full of confidence after winning nine of their 10 games, including a 15-point home victory over the Red Riots a little over a week ago.

South Portland, meanwhile, had won at Cheverus and Deering in recent days and hoped to complete the city trifecta and lock up the No. 3 seed for the upcoming tournament.

Mission accomplished.

The Red Riots dug an early hole, but took the lead for good with an 11-2 run early in the third period, then held on down the stretch for a 67-57 win over a Portland team which let its emotions get the better of it.

For the hosts, it was just another positive step in what has been a magical season to date.

"Our kids played great tonight, both offensively and defensively," said South Portland's first-year coach Phil Conley, who has to be on anyone's short list for consideration as Coach of the Year. "I thought we did a great job tonight against a great team and a well-coached team. It's a big win for our program. These kids have improved throughout the year. I'm happy for the guys."

It's been 11 years since a Red Riots' squad has won more than 13 games in a regular season, but South Portland had a shot to win its 14th game Friday night against a Portland team, which true to form, had come together in ideal fashion the latter part of the season.

Early on, the visitors looked good.

Just 26 seconds into the contest, senior Anthony Passmore converted a three-point play for a 3-0 lead. After the Red Riots answered on a jumper from sophomore standout Keegan Hyland (the first two of his many points on the night), Bulldogs' sophomore Wally Stover scored on a rebound putback. On five other occasions, South Portland would get within a point, but each time Portland answered to stay on top. Leading 13-12 late in the first, Stover scored on a leaner and junior Ed Bogdanovich (the former Red Riot) made a jumper for a 17-12 lead. As time expired, however, the hosts got some momentum when Passmore fouled Hyland on a 3-point attempt and the sophomore made all three attempts, cutting the deficit to two, 17-15.

Forty-six seconds into the second period, senior Will Furbush took a pass from sophomore Matt Lee and made a backdoor layup to tie the game. Fifty-five seconds later, senior Nick Wright took a pass from Furbush and scored on a layup of his own for the Red Riots first and only lead of the first half, 19-17.

The Bulldogs answered and tied the game on a short jumper from senior Mike Harmon. A jumper from senior Jake Longstaff put Portland back on top, 21-19. After sophomore Koang Thok made two foul shots for the Bulldogs, South Portland senior Josh Mackie buried a 3. Portland sophomore Joe Zukowski responded with a 3-pointer of his own and Bogdanovich followed with a layup for a 28-22 lead.

Furbush went coast-to-coast for the hosts and made a layup, but Thok made two free throws and Harmon hit a jumper for a 32-24 lead, but with 6.1 seconds to go in the first half, Hyland made a jumper and it was a 32-26 lead for Portland at the break.

The Red Riots then came out and made noise in the third period, taking the lead for good.

Hyland hit a jumper and Wright made a layup to cut the Bulldogs' lead to just two, 32-30, but Longstaff answered with two free throws.

With 5:31 to play in the third, Hyland made a layup. Twelve seconds later, the whole complexion of the game changed when Furbush went in for a layup and was fouled by Passmore. Not only did Hyland earn a free throw, but a technical on Passmore turned momentum even further in South Portland's favor.

After Furbush completed the three-point play to put his team on top for good, Lee made both technical free throws. The Red Riots kept possession and culminated a seven-point sequence when Hyland made a layup. Furbush then extended the run to 11-0 with a layup after a steal for a 41-34 lead.

The Bulldogs stopped the run with a 3-pointer from Harmon, but Furbush followed with a pair of free throws for a 43-37 advantage. After Bogdanovich scored on a rebound layup for the visitors, Hyland made another jumper. Senior Dewayne Albertie made a layup for Portland, but after Stover was called for a technical, Furbush made one of two free throws and sophomore Connor Hasson capped South Portland's sensational quarter with a layup for a 48-41 lead.

Early in the fourth, the Bulldogs got back within three on back-to-back layups from Thok. After a Red Riots' timeout, Hyland made a jumper for a 50-45 lead, but Bogdanovich answered with a rebound layup and it was a 50-47 game with 5:47 to play.

After South Portland went back up five on a pair of free throws from Hyland, Bogdanovich made yet another rebound layup. Furbush answered with two free throws after a steal, but Stover made a jumper and it was a 54-51 game with 4:22 to go.

Hyland stepped up just 18 seconds later, draining a baseline jumper and senior Nick Gaddar added a free throw, but Bogdanovich made yet another rebound layup with 2:50 to play and the Red Riots' lead was cut to four, 57-53.

After Hyland made two foul shots for a 59-53 lead, Bogdanovich took a pass from Longstaff and made a layup with 1:56 left, cutting the deficit back to four, 59-55, but South Portland would then pull away.

First, Wright made a layup for a 61-55 lead. With 1 minute to play, Gaddar converted a layup and it was a 63-55 game. After Bogdanovich made a layup with 49.7 seconds left, Gaddar hit two foul shots, Furbush made one and Mackie drained one more to account for the 67-57 final score.

South Portland had made another emphatic statement.

"It feels great," Furbush said. "We've been playing with the best teams in the state. Even when we lost, we took a lot from it. We've gained confidence. It means a lot. We wanted to come out and battle. We started doing some traps on defense. We were ready to play. We kept battling. The sophomores were ready to play and the senior leadership was great. It was just a great win.

"We've won three games in a row against Portland teams," Hyland added. "It feels great. We weren't playing badly in the first half, we just didn't have the intensity. We went to the hoop in the second half and played great D. We started hitting shots. That technical gave us the lead and we didn't look back. I like the ball at the end. I won't hesitate to take the shots."

Conley could only marvel only another stellar and gutsy effort from his charges.

"We hit shots tonight and our defense was huge," he said. "We shot the ball well in the second half. We went a little zone and a little man. You have to credit the kids for how they played defensively and how they rebounded the ball. Hyland came up huge. He hit big-time shots against great defensive pressure.

"We've been in some tight, big games and we've learned from experience. We learned to take better care of the ball and that helped us tonight."

Hyland led all scorers with 27 points. Furbush added 17. Wright had eight and Gaddar seven.

For Portland, Bogdanovich led the way with 16 points. He was the only Bulldog in double figures. Harmon added nine and Longstaff and Thok both finished with eight.

"Early on, SP played like we were the better the team," Portland coach Joe Russo said. "They took advantage in the second half. I wanted someone else to score but Hyland. We had a lot of bad shots in the third quarter.

"I'm disappointed with how we lost our composure and got technical fouls. That's not how we play. I wasn't happy with the calls, but that doesn't give us an excuse to act like that. Instead of playing tougher, we let the calls get to us. You can't do that. I'm kind of embarrassed. When the going gets tough, you get tougher."

The Bulldogs, who were 3-3 at one point this winter, finished up 13-5 and will battle No. 5 Deering in the Western A quarterfinal round next weekend at the Portland Expo. The longtime rivals split during the regular season.

"We'll get Deering again," Russo said. "It's wide open. Whoever gets out of the Expo can win. SP can do some nice things. Cheverus can do some nice things. We can, Deering can, TA."

The Red Riots' 14-4 mark gives them the No. 3 seed and a bye into the quarterfinals, where they will like face No. 6 Scarborough (11-7). Back on Jan. 5, South Portland lost 47-41 at home to the Red Storm.

Of course, the Red Riots were a much different team then.

"With six seniors, no juniors and a bunch of sophomores, we hoped to come out strong this year and we did," Furbush said. "We dropped off a little bit in the middle of the season, but we picked it up and played high quality. We want Scarborough back."

"I knew we had a good core group coming back," Hyland said. "I didn't know about 14-4, but it's pretty good winning games against all three Portland teams. We have momentum going into the playoffs. We want to get to the Civic Center."

"I knew we had a good bunch of guys returning and I knew how hard they worked so I thought anything was possible," Conley added. "We get a week of practice to get ready."