SOUTH PORTLAND – Midway through the third quarter Friday night, Matt Cimino, Cheverus’ 6-foot-9 sophomore center, got the ball at the end of a fast break and drilled a 15-foot jumper.

You know things are going your way when that happens.

Cimino’s basket from the side gave Cheverus a 22-point lead.

South Portland followed with a brief run, but not enough to bother the poised Stags, who took charge in the second quarter and rolled to a 63-46 victory at Beal Gym.

The game matched the top two teams in the Western Class A Heal standings. But the No. 1 Stags (12-0) again proved there’s them, then there’s the rest of the league.

“They’re No. 1 in the SMAA for a reason,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. “They played very well in all aspects. Cheverus made some big shots. Their frontcourt is very tall with long wing spans. They deflect the ball and rebound very well.”

The Stags can win with their inside game, their outside game or both, as they did against the Riots.

And then there’s their defense.

The Riots (10-3) couldn’t get the ball inside, and except for a brief flurry in the fourth quarter, couldn’t hit from outside.

To have any chance against the defending Class A champs, the better teams must score from outside.

The Red Riots’ best shooter, Vukasin Vig-njevic, made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter but was cold in the first three.

“It’s tough when they have 6-foot-9 coming at you,” he said.

Louie DiStasio made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to lead the Stags.

The game was close for a quarter. The Riots led 6-3 before Connor O’Neil hit a 3 from the top of the key. The Stags closed the quarter with a 7-2 run, keyed by a DiStasio 3-pointer, to lead 17-12.

Cheverus’ defense sparked a 10-0 run at the start of the second quarter. The closest the Riots got the rest of the way was 13 points after a 9-0 run late in the third quarter. DiStasio got the momentum back with a 3-pointer from the corner.

“It’s always hard to come out quick against a good team like South Portland, especially in their building,” said Peter Gwilym, who came off the Cheverus bench and seemed to be everywhere again.

“We were able to pick up our momentum and extend the lead. Any given night, anyone’s shot can be falling.”

Griffin Brady, a 6-6 forward, scored 14 points for the Stags. Gwilym added 10.

Cheverus had some of its best ball movement of the season, which enabled players to get open.

Defensively, Cheverus gave the Riots few openings.

“At times teams can find holes, but to do that for 32 minutes is hard,” said Coach Bob Brown.

Asked to assess his team with the tournament three weeks away, Brown said: “We’re playing well. I can see improvement.”

Vignjevic ended up with 13 points to lead South Portland. Matt Russell added 10.

“My guys played as hard as they could,” said Conley. “I’m proud of their effort. The shots just didn’t fall. We can’t let this game affect us. We have other big games coming up. My team will be ready to go on Monday.”

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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