WESTBROOK – Danica Gleason’s move from point guard to shooting guard this offseason was a matter of less-is-more for the South Portland High girls’ basketball team: less responsibility and more freedom to score.
It’s proven a good move.
Gleason had 32 points, including 13 in a game-changing 22-2 second quarter, to give South Portland a 61-42 win over Westbrook in an SMAA game Friday night.
“At (shooting guard), Danica doesn’t have so much pressure to bring the ball up and score,” said South Portland Coach Mike Giordano. “Now she can just get up there and facilitate her scoring. It’s been a big piece to our success. Her maturity level is tremendous. Sometimes things didn’t go well in the preseason, but she just kept working and good players shine, and she’s a pretty darn good player.”
Gleason finished with six steals, four assists and two rebounds for South Portland (3-0). Brianna Maloney had five points, six rebounds and five steals.
After being held to 4-of-4 shooting from the line in the first half, Paige Baldwin broke through in the second to lead the Blue Blazes with 14 points. Emily Blackmore hit three 3-pointers for nine points, and Maddie Mullet finished with eight.
The Red Riots’ pressure defense was too much for the young Blazes (1-2), who were held without a field goal in the second quarter. Westbrook was missing three regulars: Ashlee Richards (ankle), Amber Richards (concussion) and Marissa Martel (knee).
“We’re playing kids who don’t have a ton of experience,” Westbrook Coach Chris Aube said. “We have ability to play a formidable inside game and we’ll get there. The reality is kids are learning on the fly.”
Leading the press for South Portland were Gleason and freshman point guard Maddie Hasson (nine points, four assists).
Gleason scored 10 of the Riots’ 12 points in the first quarter but Westbrook hung in there, with Lexi Redmond’s basket from the low post cutting the lead to 12-11 as the quarter ended.
Maloney scored from the baseline for a 14-11 South Portland lead in the opening seconds of the second quarter before Baldwin hit two free throws to cut it to 14-13. Gleason then scored 12 of South Portland’s next 19, and the Riots headed into halftime with a 34-13 lead.
“We got caught in their tempo and we didn’t do a good job on Gleason in the first half,” said Aube. “She’s one of those kids, if you don’t get (to) her early, it’s going to be a long night. We did a good job in the second half but by then she’d gotten it going. That was the difference.”
“We definitely stepped up the intensity on defense and just executed on offense,” Gleason said.
As for her move, “It’s been good for the team. I get a lot more open shots and more assists.
“At first I was nervous because I like to be in control, but Maddie has been great at point.”
Giordano acknowledged starting a freshman at point guard is asking a lot, but it’s working well.
“My teammates have been really great so that’s made my job a lot easier,” Hasson said. “When we get the tempo going and Danica gets going, there’s really no stopping her.”