PORTLAND, ME – JANUARY 23: Oxford Hills’ bench celebrates a basket by Brooke Carson (12) during their game at the Portland Expo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Oxford Hills won 48-38. (Staff Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer) Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

PORTLAND — Defending state champion Oxford Hills is still the team to beat in Class AA North girls’ basketball.

But the Portland Bulldogs are closing the gap.

Oxford Hills hit pressure free throws in the fourth quarter to pull out a 48-38 win Thursday night at the Portland Expo. The Vikings had beaten the Bulldogs by 28 earlier this season.

Cassidy Dumont made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch and wound up with 16 points and Julia Colby added 16 to help Oxford Hills improve to 14-1.

“These are the type of games that we need,” said Vikings Coach Nate Pelletier. “We’ve been waiting for teams to challenge us a little bit. At playoff time, we’ll see these types of games every night. I thought we got better tonight.”

Portland started fast and took a 6-0 lead on a layup after a steal from Davina Kabantu, a floater from Gemima Motema and a Kiera Eubanks layup after a Motema steal, which forced Pelletier to call timeout.

And the Vikings responded, going on a 12-2 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from Cecelia Dieterich and Maggie Hartnett, to take a 12-8 lead after one quarter.

“I said in the timeout, ‘We’ve been waiting for someone to punch us in the face and they did and now it’s a fight,’” Pelletier said. “We were ready to fight.”

Oxford Hills threatened to run away with it when Dumont made a layup and Colby hit a floater to start the second quarter, but the Bulldogs settled down and drew within four, 24-20, on Eubanks’ putback.

Then, at the buzzer, Colby launched a 3 that hit just about every part of the rim before falling to stretch the lead to seven.

“That shot was pretty big for momentum,” Colby said.

Portland again crept within four late in the third quarter on a 3-point shot from Elizabeth Yugu, but off an inbounds set, Brooke Carson fed Dieterich for a 3 and after Carson kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, Colby drained another clutch 3 before the buzzer for a 36-27 advantage after three quarters.

Portland had one run left. Motema converted a three-point play, then scored on a putback with 2:39 left, moving the Bulldogs within three, 38-35. They never got closer as Dumont hit seven straight free throws to help ice the victory.

“I hit some big shots like that in the state game last year, so I just had to calm myself down and breathe and do the same routine every single time,” said Dumont.

Dieterich (10 points) also wound up in double figures for Oxford Hills.

Portland (11-3) was paced by 13 points from Motema and knows that it’s getting closer to knocking off the Vikings.

“(Oxford Hills) is just a team that makes plays,” said Bulldogs’ Coach Gerry Corcoran. “When the game was on the line, they got rebounds, hit free throws. They don’t get rattled. We’re not quite there yet.”

 

PORTLAND, ME – JANUARY 23: Oxford Hills head coach Nate Pelletier talks to his team during their game against Portland High at the Portland Expo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Oxford Hills won 48-38. (Staff Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer) Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

PORTLAND, ME – JANUARY 23: Portland’s Davina Kabantu (4) and Oxford Hills’ Brooke Carson (12) both drive for a loose ball during their game at the Portland Expo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Oxford Hills won 48-38. (Staff Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer) Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

PORTLAND, ME – JANUARY 23: Portland’s Justice Smart (21) tries to guard Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby (21) as she races down the court during their game at the Portland Expo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Oxford Hills won 48-38. (Staff Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer) Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo

PORTLAND, ME – JANUARY 23: Portland’s Gemima Motema (23) blocks a shot by Oxford Hills’ Cecelia Dieterich (10) during their game at the Portland Expo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Oxford Hills won 48-38. (Staff Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer) Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe Buy this Photo


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