Austin Brown, left, of Edward Little High School and Pedro Fonseca of Portland High School compete for a rebound during the first period in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — Portland couldn’t shake short-handed Edward Little for the first two-and-a-half quarters of Friday night’s rematch of last year’s Class AA North final, so Bulldogs coach Joe Russo called a timeout.
It was time for Portland to get back to basics.
The Bulldogs came out of that timeout and went on a 10-0 run that the Red Eddies could never overcome in a 78-70 Portland victory.
Terion Moss led the Bulldogs (7-0) with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Trey Ballew added 15 points and eight rebounds and Simon Chadbourne also had 15 points off the bench.
Darby Shea paced the Red Eddies (4-3), who were playing without junior Wol Maiwen for disciplinary reasons, with 24 points. Ibn Khalid added 20 points and seven rebounds.
After trailing by as much as 10 in the first half, EL rallied to tie it at 41-41 on back-to-back hoops by Xzabier Weaver (nine points off the bench) with 3:52 left in the third quarter, prompting Russo to call the time out.
“We went straight man-to-man and played solid in hopes of slowing them down,” Russo said. “They were on a nice little roll scoring. We’ve been holding teams under 50, so I know we can play better ‘D’ than we did tonight. But that little stretch was a time to say now is the time we’ve got to step up our defense. The energy came from the defense.”
Portland held the Eddies scoreless over the next 3:27 while getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Chadbourne and Moss, an inside hoop from Ballew and a pair of Moss free throws that made it 51-41 with 2:20 to go in the third. The Bulldogs made their run with second-leading scorer Griffin Foley relegated to the bench with four fouls.
“A bad shot, two turnovers… (Portland) is just that good,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said. “We had some great contributions from bench guys who came in and gave us great minutes. I was wicked proud of those kids. But we can’t make any excuses. We gave up 78 points.”
EL also had some foul trouble as Khalid had to go to the bench after drawing his fourth foul midway through the third. Shea finally broke the run with a layup with 2:14 to go in the quarter, but the Eddies never got closer than seven points as the fourth period turned into a free throw shooting contest.
Both teams struggled to find the range in a fast-paced first half. Portland got a boost off the bench from Chadbourne, who drilled a pair of threes, en route to 13 points in the first half, to help the Bulldogs build a 20-16 lead after the first quarter.
Chadbourne, who had 12 key points off the bench in last year’s regional final, kept it going in the second quarter with five points during an 8-0 Bulldogs run in which they extended the lead to 28-18.
“He loves playing against us,” Adams said. “He’s like, ‘Yes, EL’s coming. That means I get to hit corner threes again.'”
“He’s been playing great this year, and he’s getting so much better with his rebounding and defense,” Russo said. “I don’t like taking him off the court because he’s such a threat (offensively).”
EL finished the half strong and trailed by only two at halftime thanks to a nice dribble drive and spinning layup by Ahmed Safi.
Russo felt his team counted on the Eddies rolling over because they were playing without Wol’s paint presence.
“I think it affected us for a couple of reasons,” Russo said. “One, we know how good he is and we had to to game plan for him. And, I don’t know if the kids got a little lackadaisical because they didn’t have him. We got a little bit of a lead and we got complacent and EL played hard, focused and together.”
Ibn Khalid of Edward Little High School shoots over Trey Ballew of Portland High School during the second period in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Grant Hartley of Edward Little High School competes for a rebound with Griffin Foley, left, Terion Moss and Benjamin Fisher, right, of Portland High School during the second period in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Ahmed Abidir of Edward Little High School drives on Griffin Foley of Portland High School during the first period in Auburn on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)