2012-12-28 / Community

South Portland b-ball off to quick start

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


South Portland senior point guard Tanner Hyland, right, drives to the lane against Kennebunk sophomore Jack Lapham at Beal Gymnasium on Dec. 21. Hyland scored 19 points and knocked down four threepointers to lead the way in the Riots’ 69-39 win over the Rams that sent South Portland to 5-0 on the season. (Jack Flagler photo) South Portland senior point guard Tanner Hyland, right, drives to the lane against Kennebunk sophomore Jack Lapham at Beal Gymnasium on Dec. 21. Hyland scored 19 points and knocked down four threepointers to lead the way in the Riots’ 69-39 win over the Rams that sent South Portland to 5-0 on the season. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND - There are plenty of similarities between varsity boys and varsity girls basketball teams this year at South Portland High School. Both are led by versatile senior guards. Both play with aggressive defensive styles that lead to turnovers and easy points in transition.

But most importantly, both the Red Riots girls and boys hoops teams hit the winter vacation with matching undefeated records. The two teams are a combined 10- 0, and are each beating their opponents by an average of about 19 points a game.

Both the South Portland squads cruised to easy wins over Kennebunk High School on Friday night, Dec. 21 – the boys by a final score of 69-39 at home, the girls 47- 27 on the road. The matching blowout wins over the Rams sent both Riot teams to Christmas without a loss.


South Portland girls basketball head coach Mike Giordano said junior forward Brianne Maloney (23) has been instrumental to the Riots’ improvement this season. (Kevin A. Byron photo) South Portland girls basketball head coach Mike Giordano said junior forward Brianne Maloney (23) has been instrumental to the Riots’ improvement this season. (Kevin A. Byron photo) The boys’ team is led by Tanner Hyland, a senior who is playing at the point guard position for the Red Riots for his fourth consecutive year. Hyland leads the team in scoring with 21.25 points per game, but his value may be higher as a facilitator.

Hyland is the conductor of the offense for South Portland. He slows the game down when the team wants to enter its half court set, and makes plays in transition when South Portland wants an easy layup. Hyland led South Portland with 19 points in the lopsided win over Kennebunk at Beal Gymnasium Friday, 16 of which came in the decisive first half, which saw the Riots lead 36-18.

But the scoring numbers don’t tell the full story of Hyland’s impact on the game. He also contributed eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.

“He gets better each and every game,” said South Portland head coach Phil Conley, who added he has noticed Hyland “grow as a teammate” over the last three years as point guard.

On the girls’ side, another senior is leading the charge. But unlike Hyland, Danica Gleason is not playing the same position she did for her first three years of high school. Instead, Gleason has transitioned from the point guard, a position that usually runs the offense to create opportunities for other players, to the shooting guard, where her role is more simple – to score.

Gleason has done plenty of scoring in the first five games of the season. She is leading the team averaging 22.6 points a game. As the point guard, head coach Mike Giordano said she probably averaged less than 10.

“She’s a scorer,” said Giordano. “Out of necessity we’ve had to play her at the (point guard). Now we’ve got her in the role she belongs.”

While the records for each team match, the supporting casts for the two squads differ in their experience level. Six seniors join Hyland in the on the boys roster on what Conley called a “veteran” team.

That senior group includes 6-foot 5-inch forward Ben Burkey and 6-foot 7-inch center Jack Tolan. The pair create a height mismatch that most Class A Maine teams can’t match. Burkey had 12 points in the victory over Kennebunk. Tolan chipped in with 10, all in the second half, including a mammoth fourth-quarter dunk that put an exclamation point on the blowout win.

In contrast, the South Portland girls’ roster is significantly younger. Freshman point guard Maddie Hasson has stepped into the point guard position. Hasson “has a good ball mind,” said Giordano, coming from a family of basketball coaches. He also praised the defensive efforts of sophomore center Holly Black and junior forward Brianne Maloney, who anchor the team’s full court press defense.

“I would say we have kids now to play the tempo we’re playing,” Giordano said. “Up and down, full court, pressing, we have the personnel.”

Last year, Giordano’s team made the Class A tournament as the 11th seed, but lost in its first game to Thornton Academy. This season, the South Portland girls avenged that loss with a 57-37 win over the Trojans at home on Dec. 18.

Giordano’s team will match its win total from last season with two more victories, but the schedule will take a difficult turn at the end of the month. Between New Years Eve and Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Red Riots have three consecutive games against Deering, Scarborough and Sanford, a group that currently has one loss between them. That stretch, Giordano said, “will give us an idea of where we fit in the league.”

The South Portland boys will also hope to improve on last year’s results, although Conley’s team made a deep run in last year’s playoffs. The Red Riots entered the tournament as the seventh seed and upset second-seeded Portland before it lost to Bonny Eagle in the Class A West semifinals.

Despite the fact that South Portland has two dates with undefeated rivals Deering and Portland coming up this season, Conley cautioned against looking too far down the road.

“We don’t look past the game we’re playing. We just try to improve as the season goes on, and if we do that, we should make a deep run,” Conley said.

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