PARIS — For the second time this month, the Oxford Hills and Portland boys basketball teams played a fiercely contested, close Class AA North game.

Oxford Hills, again, found a way to win, 62-52 in overtime on Friday night.

“It was a great game. Two best teams in our league, that’s how it should be,” Vikings coach Scott Graffam said.

This time, free throw shooting was the deciding factor. The Vikings made 11 of their 15 foul shots in overtime, and 14 of 20 in the fourth quarter and extra session combined. The Bulldogs were 4 of 14 at the foul line in the fourth and overtime.

For the game, the Vikings made 26 of 37 foul shots, while the Bulldogs went 8 for 23.

“I thought it was one heck of a Friday night game. It came down to free throws,” Portland coach Joe Russo said. “Both teams play their heart out. Great, entertaining game. We just got to shoot better free throws — and, believe it or not, we do practice them.”


Oxford Hills’ Teigan Pelletier led all scorers with 17 points — he made 9 of 14 foul shots — but fouled out with 2:30 remaining in regulation and the Vikings leading 48-46.

Portland’s Kevin Rugabirwa made one of the ensuing free throws to cut the deficit to one point.

Oxford Hills (10-1) drained nearly a minute off the clock on its next possession before missing a field goal.

The Vikings, ranked second in the most recent Varsity Maine poll, made a stop at the other end of the court and then let the clock run down until Portland (8-3) was forced to foul Jake Carson, who made one of two foul shots to make it 49-47 with 22 seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs, fourth in the Varsity Maine poll, made two free throws in the final five seconds, including one by Pitia Donato with 2.5 seconds left that tied the score at 49-49, sending the game to overtime.

Oxford Hills’ Cole Pulkkinen was fouled 11 seconds into overtime and made one of two at the line to give the Vikings a 50-49 lead.


Less than a minute later, Pulkkinen stole the ball and he was fouled while making a layup. He completed the three-point play to push Oxford Hills’ lead to four points with 3:12 left in overtime.

“No. 2 for them, Cole, he played one hell of a game,” Russo said. “Besides our poor foul shooting, he was the difference in the game.”

Pulkkinen’s layup was the final field goal until Portland’s Pepito Girumugisha made one with about 1:20 left. In between, both teams attempted six free throws, the Vikings made four while the Bulldogs made one. Girumugisha’s field goal cut Oxford Hills’ lead to 57-52.

By then, Portland had no choice but to foul. Holden Shaw made two free throws and Tanner Bickford made three to lock up the victory.

Russo said that, along with missed free throws, the Bulldogs didn’t benefit from or take advantage of things that could have gone either way, whether it was foul calls — “It wasn’t bad calls,” Russo said — loose balls, close turnovers, rebounds or shots falling.

“In overtime, things just didn’t go our way,” Russo said. “If there was going to be a foul call — a 50-50 call, we could have used it just to be in the game — it was just kind of like, things didn’t go our way: missing a couple shots, get the almost-steal at half-court, they threw it right where we wanted.


“The overtime, all those 50-50 plays, we didn’t capitalize. … So that 10-point (margin), it was, really, one of those five plays away from it not being a 10-point game.”

Pulkkinen, Soehren and Shaw each finished with 13 points for Oxford Hills.

“Eli Soehren had his best game of the year. He stepped up and really made a difference for us,” Graffam said. “Holden Shaw really had a good game for us. Cole always plays well.”

Pulkkinen, Oxford Hills’ second-leading scorer behind Pelletier, scored five of his 13 points in overtime. Though he only scored eight points in regulation — one field goal in each quarter — he, like Soehren, made an impact in many different ways on both ends of the court, such as steals, rebounds, ball handling and passing.

Donato led Portland with 13 points. Remijo Wani added 10 points, Kennedy Charles finished with nine, and Rugabirwa and Jeissey Khamis scored seven apiece.



The game — which started more than 50 minutes late due to Portland arriving at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School late due to transportation issues — opened with Oxford Hills grabbing a couple of offensive rebounds but ultimately coming away from its first possession empty-handed.

Missed shots became a recurring occurrence in the first quarter for the Vikings, who took almost three minutes before scoring their first points.

Scoring wasn’t easy for Portland, either, but the Bulldogs did enough of it to build a 13-7 lead — which would be their largest of the game — on a 3-pointer by Charles in the final minute of the first quarter. In the waning second of the first, Pulkkinen knocked the ball away from a Portland ball handler, and Bickford picked up the ball and threw it up-court to Pulkkinen for a wide-open layup.

The Vikings’ shots started to fall in the second quarter. A steal by Soehren led to a Pelletier layup that tied the game at 16-16. About 30 secondS later, Pelletier made a free throw to give Oxford Hills its first lead, 17-16.

The teams swapped leads or were tied until the closing seconds when Pulkkinen swiped the ball and took it to the hoop, where he nearly dunked it but still scored two points to send the Vikings into halftime with a 25-23 lead.

Pelletier made three field goals and scored eight of Oxford Hills’ 16 second-quarter points.


Portland scored the first four points of the second half, but Oxford Hills responded with an 11-3 run to take a 36-30 lead — their biggest until late in overtime. The Bulldogs spent the rest of regulation playing from behind. They did tie the game at 44-44 on a 3-pointer by Rugabirwa, but Pulkkinen’s lone fourth-quarter field goal put the Vikings back in front moments later.


Oxford Hills came from behind to beat Portland 48-47 in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 3 in Portland. Graffam on Friday echoed what Russo said after that game: the Vikings and the Bulldogs will likely have a third showdown.

“It’s a dangerous game to win,” Graffam said. “Now we’ve beaten them by one and in overtime. And we’re going to play them again, probably, if we both get through the tournament, or we might both be in the same bracket …

“Beating a team three times is tough. We obviously match up well, and it will be another donnybrook.”

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