BIDDEFORD — Tanner Hyland wasn’t afraid to admit that it wasn’t too long ago that he could easily be rendered nearly useless if things didn’t go according to plan.
“I’ve learned to deal with it,” said Hyland, a third-year starter for South Portland.
“In the beginning when I’d lose my head I’d be done. I wouldn’t come back. I’d go somewhere else (mentally) and play like garbage and most of the time we’d lose. I’ve been working on trying to keep my head so I can stay in games and we can win.”
Hyland showed his evolution into a more composed and complete competitor Tuesday night in leading the Red Riots to a 68-43 win over Biddeford in a Southern Maine Athletic Association boys’ basketball game.
The Red Riots (2-0) looked out of sync to begin the game, allowing the Tigers (0-2) to jump out to a 9-3 lead by the midpoint of the opening quarter.
Hyland, considered one of the best point guards in the SMAA, found himself in an unlikely early spot — on the bench.
“Every now and then a player, not just Tanner, needs a breather to refocus,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. “I thought once he refocused himself after I took him out, our offense got much better. He responded the way a senior who has started three years at the point should.”
When Hyland re-entered the game in the second quarter, things started to click.
Conner MacVane started the comeback with six straight points to reverse a 14-9 deficit into a 15-14 advantage. Hyland followed with back-to-back three-point plays the hard way – getting fouled on a basket and draining each free throw that followed – and just three minutes into the period the Red Riots were off and running with a 21-14 lead.
South Portland outscored Biddeford 23-7 in the decisive quarter to carry a 32-19 lead into the half.
“We knew after they outscored in the first quarter we had to come back and play hard in the second to get the lead back,” said Hyland.
“Once we get a lead we play pretty well with it. It was good that Conner came out and made some layups and then I hit a couple shots.”
While South Portland was flourishing, the Tigers were floundering. Biddeford managed to create some good inside presence early on but continually missed from in tight.
Things weren’t much better from the outside as the Tigers went three for 18 from 3-point distance in the opening half.
“We had a lot of wide open shots and the shots didn’t fall tonight,” said Biddeford Coach Mike Fecteau.
“A lot of those 3’s were wide open shots and we had some open layups that we didn’t finish, especially in that first half when we needed to score to stay close to them.”
Hyland, who finished with a game-high 24 points, knocked down four more 3-pointers in the third quarter, including two in the final 10 seconds of the period, to give South Portland a 54-31 lead after three.
Cameron Nadeau paced the Tigers with 17.