SOUTH PORTLAND — Portland won its fourth straight game and beat South Portland for the second time this season with a 59-54 win in an SMAA boys’ basketball game Tuesday night at Beal Gym.

Seventh-ranked Portland (10-7) trailed early but soon took the lead for good. Fourth-ranked South Portland (12-5) cut it to three points late in the game, but the Bulldogs followed with four straight points in the final minute.

On Jan. 19, the Bulldogs beat the Red Riots in a three-overtime thriller, 80-71.

South Portland played without 6-foot-7 center Matt Russell, who missed the game because of illness.

The Bulldogs took advantage of his absence by going inside to 6-foot-4 Peter Donato, a junior who finished with a game-high 18 points and was strong off the boards. It was one of Donato’s top performances of the season.

With South Portland playing extra attention to Portland’s top scorer, Mike Herrick (32 points in the first meeting), Donato and the other Bulldogs were able to get loose.

“Peter has been playing great lately,” said Coach Joe Russo. “Everyone did something positive out there. Nate Smart had two big plays in the game and Dylan Goodman came off the bench and hit a big basket in the fourth quarter that stemmed the tide. It’s a good time to get hot. We want to keep building on our improvement. I like our attitude. The players are understanding their roles and encouraging each other.”

Donato had six points in the opening quarter and didn’t score in the second quarter. He had a strong second half with 12 points. Donato had three straight baskets in the third quarter to keep the Bulldogs in front.

“They covered Michael Herrick real hard,” said Donato. “I took advantage by getting the ball in the paint. I did it the whole game. We hung in there and played great defense.”

The Riots finally found the range from behind the 3-point arc and made three in the fourth quarter. Trailing 50-40 with three minutes left, South Portland went on a 7-2 spurt.

The Riots then got a stop but couldn’t convert on a drive and Nick Volger of Portland scored on a layup with 1:26 left that gave his team back the momentum, however briefly.

For Tanner Hyland hit the second of the 3s for the Riots to make it 54-50 with 53 seconds left. Portland missed a 1-and- 1 and then fouled Vukasin Vignjevic, who made 1 of 2.

Matt McInnis of Portland was fouled, missed from the line but got the rebound and scored with 25 seconds left. Donato, who was 4 for 4 from the line, sank two to give Portland a seven-point lead with 15 seconds left.

Jordan Muller hit a 3-pointer from the side for the Riots with time running out.

“We concentrated on shutting down Herrick (eight points), but without Russell we couldn’t counter Donato and their other tall kids,” South Portland Coach Phil Conley said. “The kids didn’t quit and made a little run late in the game.”

Portland and Deering close out their regular seasons Thursday night at the Expo, while South Portland closes Friday night at Cheverus.

 

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

[email protected]