LEWISTON — Lewiston turned sophomore guard Natalie Beaudoin loose and the Blue Devils eventually ditched the Portland Bulldogs to earn a 55-44 victory in a Class AA girls basketball season opener Friday.

Nothing came easy for Lewiston, which watched the Bulldogs try to claw their way back in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils’ shooting was cooling off and Portland’s press was having an effect.

But Beaudoin’s key baskets in the fourth quarter made the difference. She finished the game with 27 points, while teammate Koral Morin scored 13 points.

Beaudoin was reluctant to talk about herself after the game and instead steered the conversation toward her coach, Craig Jipson, and team, crediting the entire squad for making it all happen on the court.

“I mean, I think coach really prepared us for the game last practice with the scout report,” Beaudoin said. “I think we really worked together as a team, and I wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities without my teammates.

“I knew it was a little nerve wracking (in the fourth quarter), but I knew in the end we plugged the line. I think Portland was a really aggressive team.”

With the Bulldogs (0-1) hot on its heels, Lewiston (1-0) slowed the ball down to a walk in in the final four minutes of the game.

Jipson said there is still much work to be done, adding that the Blue Devils do not have as much depth as some teams in AA North.

“We just got to play better defense,” Jipson said. “You’ve got to be able to play hard without fouling. I liked how some kids were resilient shooting the ball. They didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half.

“We are not very deep. We had only nine varsity players here tonight. We have only 10 on the team. Our numbers aren’t great in the program. We probably ran a little out of gas. But we’ve got play better D and take better care of the basketball. Natalie played great, but it was a team game. I thought she did better job of taking care of the ball. I thought defensively all of us have to get a lot better.”

Both teams began working the fast break in the third quarter, and the Blue Devils stepped out to a 29-14 lead with 5:36 left play. Beaudoin kept moving, and on one possession made a spectacular drive to the hoop after her teammates set her up with some fancy passing. The Bulldogs stepped up their pressing, but Lewiston constructed a sturdy 48-26 lead.

“We are still putting the pieces together,” Portland coach Abigail Hasson said. “We lost a lot of scoring (to graduation). … We have kids who haven’t played significant minutes yet, so we are waiting for them to get more comfortable in their role and understand their role.”

Liz Yugu led the Bulldogs with 12 points.

Beaudoin recorded 13 points in the first half and hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Blue Devils some distance and a 20-12 lead going into halftime.

Both teams were tentative on offense and struggled to score in the opening two quarters. Numerous turnovers on both sides of the court didn’t help. By the end of the first quarter, the Devils held a narrow 8-6 lead.

The game became more physical by halftime, but Beaudoin’s perseverance inside and outside the key in the second quarter gave the Devils an eight-point lead going into the second half.

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