2013-03-01 / Front Page

‘City win’

South Portland heads to championship
Staff Writer
By Jack Flagler


South Portland’s Calvin Carr raises the plaque declaring the Riots’ first Western Maine Class A championship in 20 years. South Portland defeated Bonny Eagle 56-52 to move on to the state championship. (Jack Flagler photo) South Portland’s Calvin Carr raises the plaque declaring the Riots’ first Western Maine Class A championship in 20 years. South Portland defeated Bonny Eagle 56-52 to move on to the state championship. (Jack Flagler photo) PORTLAND — In the second quarter of the Western Maine Class A boys basketball final, Bonny Eagle’s Dustin Cole had taken over. It appeared South Portland’s resilient, senior-laden group wouldn’t have enough to overcome a simple basketball truth: the team with the best player usually wins.

Cole scored 38 points, many from the foul line, and smashed the record for most free throws in a tournament. But South Portland senior guard Tanner Hyland matched the Scots’ superstar nearly shot for shot, and South Portland came from behind in the second half to earn a 56-52 victory at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Hyland scored 30 points, tied a tournament record with seven three-pointers, and took home the George Vinall Award as the tournament’s most outstanding player. The victory sends the Riots to their first state final in 20 years. South Portland will face Hampden Academy Saturday, March 2 in Augusta.

South Portland will face undefeated Hampden Academy in Augusta for the state final on Saturday, March 2. (Jack Flagler photo)South Portland will face undefeated Hampden Academy in Augusta for the state final on Saturday, March 2. (Jack Flagler photo)“It’s fun. Me and (Cole) are one and two in the SMAA, and we know that,” Hyland said. “We like going against each other. It’s just a lot of fun going back and forth like that.”

Hyland said he didn’t feel any added pressure because of Cole’s outstanding performance.

“I’ve got faith in Calvin (Carr) and Trevor (Borelli) playing defense and what they do,” Hyland said. “If they go down and he hits a three, who cares? We’ll run our offense and we’ll get a good shot.”

Sophomore Jaren Muller cuts down the nets after South Portland’s victory. Muller came off the bench to score 12 points and keyed a third-quarter turnaround that swung the momentum of the game. (Jack Flagler photo) Sophomore Jaren Muller cuts down the nets after South Portland’s victory. Muller came off the bench to score 12 points and keyed a third-quarter turnaround that swung the momentum of the game. (Jack Flagler photo) The first half of the game belonged to Cole. Bonny Eagle’s superstar junior guard didn’t score until nearly seven minutes into the first quarter, but in the blink of an eye he had taken over. Cole scored 17 of Bonny Eagle’s 20 points to close the half, and South Portland’s offense sputtered. The Scots won the second quarter 16-5 and went to the half with a 29-22 lead.

South Portland seniors Carr and Borelli split defensive duties against Cole almost equally. Despite Cole’s high point total, South Portland head coach Phil Conley said he was proud of the effort from his two senior guards. Carr, who fouled out late in the game, said he knew one player couldn’t lock down Cole by himself.

“I couldn’t have guarded him the whole game. I would have fouled out in the second quarter,” Carr said. “I knew he was going to get his points and I couldn’t let that get to me. I just had to try to do what I could to make every shot tough.”

The momentum of the game turned the Riots’ way in the third quarter, when Bonny Eagle struggled to stop South Portland’s pick-and-roll offense with Hyland and sophomore forward Jaren Muller.

“Running a pick and roll with Tanner is probably the most fun thing you can do, because either way your team is going to score,” Muller said.

Muller scored three straight baskets in the paint, leading South Portland on a 12-0 run to take the lead and shift the momentum of the game. The Riots held Bonny Eagle without a field goal in the third quarter, limiting the Scots to four Cole free throws.

“Without him, we probably don’t get back in it at that point,” Conley said of Muller. “He made some big baskets for us, and that gave us some confidence.”

Muller finished with 12 points off the bench, but said he wasn’t feeling well throughout the entire game. In the second half, Muller told Conley he was feeling so sick that he needed to run to the locker room. He returned to the bench after a few minutes.

“It might have been nerves, I don’t know what it is. I’ve had butterflies all week coming up to this game,” Muller said.

Conley expressed his gratitude to the South Portland community for its support throughout the year, and called the title a “city win.”

“It’s been a long time coming for South Portland. I’m happy for our team, our coaches, our school, and I’m happy with the city of South Portland. They’ve stayed with me, stayed with our program and have been so supportive,” Conley said.

Hampden Academy enters the state final after an emotional win over Lawrence High School. Broncos freshman Nick Gilpin hit a buzzer-beating three-point heave to win the Eastern Maine Class A title and preserve an undefeated season for the Broncos. Muller said the undefeated record doesn’t intimidate the Riots.

“In our opinion, westerns is a lot stronger than easterns. There’s no way you’re going to go undefeated in SMAA. It’s just not possible,” Muller said.

The state championship game tips off at 7 p.m. from the Augusta Civic Center.

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