PORTLAND — Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam knew scoring was going to be crucial in Saturday’s Class AA boys basketball championship game.

The Vikings needed to score, and if they didn’t they were going to have a hard time beating South Portland.

Oxford Hills kept pace in the first half but struggled in the third quarter, scoring only four points and allowing the Red Riots build a double-digit lead on their way to a 58-44 victory.

“They defended us really well, and we couldn’t score in the second half, we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Scott Graffam said.

JP Estrella’s big second half paced a team effort that earned South Portland its first state title in 30 years.

“It feels awesome,” Estrella said. “… It feels amazing to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.”


Owen Maloney added 15 points for the Red Riots, while Jayden Kim scored seven and Jaelen Jackson and Joey Hanlon tacked on six apiece. 

The Red Riots took control in the third quarter, and after going up 35-27 with 1:40 left in the period, their lead didn’t dip below nine points the remainder of the game.

“In the beginning, we had some jitters, but we settled down. It’s hard to score and it was hard to score on Estrella,” Graffam said. “It was a four-point game at half and we came out and didn’t score for five minutes. We just couldn’t make a basket and that’s because of their defense. I knew that would be a problem. I was concerned whether we could score.

“In that third, that’s what happened. We didn’t get as good of looks as we did in the first half, hiked up some 3s that were ill-advised. That’s a good team. I thought we defended really well.”

Oxford Hills was paced by Teigan Pelletier’s 18 points. Cole Pulkkinen added 11, nine of which came in the fourth.

Defending Pelletier was a priority for the Red Riots after his playoff run that included two game-winning shots that were key to the Vikings reaching to the Class AA title game.


“We really had to focus on Pelletier,” Estrella said. “He already has two game-winners and knocked off No. 1 EL and gets the majority of their points. He did a great job scoring in the first half, and we did a good job of shutting him down in the second half, which was a big piece.”

Twelve of Pelletier’s 18 points came in the first half.

“Just make it hard on him,” South Portland coach Kevin Millington added about defending Pelletier. “He’s a three-level scorer. He can shoot the 3 well, get in the lane well and scores at the basket, as well. We wanted to run bodies at him, and we could mix it up pretty well because we’re pretty athletic. I don’t know what he had but he was still effective.”

South Portland appeared on the verge of pulling away in the second quarter, scoring the first eight points of the period to take a 19-10 lead with 5:49 remaining in the first half.

Then Pelletier got going, and the Vikings got back in the game. 

Pelletier scored 10 points in the second, including a coast-to-coast layup after a steal that cut Oxford Hills’ deficit to 23-21 with 2:24 left in the half.


South Portland’s Jayden Kim scored to give South Portland a 27-23 lead, which the Red Riots took into the halftime break. 

The third quarter started off slow, with neither team scoring for the first 2:22. Estrella broke up the drought with three-point play that put the Red Riots up 30-23.

Oxford Hills didn’t score a point until 3:02 left in the frame, when Pelletier hit two free throws to make it 34-25. Pelletier’s four points were all the Vikings managed in the quarter.

South Portland got another layup from Estrella near the end of the period and took a 38-27 lead into the fourth.

After a scoreless second quarter, Estrella said he carried an increased sense of urgency in the third. 

“I was just missing my shots in the first half,” Estrella said. “In the locker room I was just thinking, ‘Last 16 minutes of the year right now, let’s wrap this up, get our shots to fall, work our butts off and get this W.’”


Estrella added nine points in the fourth to help South Portland keep its distance from Oxford Hills. 

Pulkkinen hit a 3-pointer and three buckets at the rim in the quarter for the Vikings.


Oxford Hills center, Colby Dillingham, had his hands full with Estrella down low. Estrella wanted to make the Vikings big man work all game. 

“Definitely to run him the whole game, which I thought I did a good job at, to get him up and down,” Estrella said. “Mostly to force him right and to take the jump shot, which was big for us because he didn’t really score for much of the game.”

Graffam said that Dillingham defended Estrella well, but struggled to score. The senior center had just five points for the Vikings. 


“We wanted him to play behind him and we were going to try to dig down and dig down when he puts it on the floor,” Graffam said. “Colby held his own, but the bigger issue was trying to score on Estrella, he probably had five or six blocked shots. That hurt us.”


Since their 58-53 loss to Thornton Academy on Jan. 18, the Red Riots rattled off 11 wins in a row. Estrella said that loss might have helped South Portland in the long run.

“We’ve really fought this season,” Estrella said. “We tried to get the perfect season, but honestly I am glad we didn’t.”

Millington wasn’t sure, either, if the loss was a good thing until the final buzzer sounded on Saturday night. 

“People asked me if the loss was a good loss and, first of all, no loss is a good loss, but I said, ‘Ask me after the state championship if it helped,’” Millington said. “I guess it helped.”

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