PORTLAND – Portland believes if it plays strong defense, the offense will come. After strong defense produced a 23-11 halftime lead, the Bulldogs’ offense did arrive.
It wore No. 5.
Matt Talbot scored 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter to lead Portland to a 54-32 win over Westbrook in a Western Class A boys’ basketball quarterfinal Friday night at the Portland Expo.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (15-4) move to the regional semifinals Wednesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center against South Portland.
Westbrook, the No. 5 seed, finished 13-6.
Talbot, the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-5 center, pulled down 17 rebounds and had three blocked shots.
“Matt Talbot played the way everyone knows he can play,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo. “People try to pull it out of him in all kinds of ways, but Matt can play like that when he decides to play like that.”
Talbot scored eight straight points — two tip-ins of outside shots around two free throws and a nice layup off the glass — to counter an eight-point Westbrook spurt that included a basket by Keenan Lowe, and 3-pointers by Aquai Alexandre and Aaron Duncanson (team-high eight points).
That gave Portland a 30-19 edge with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
What makes Talbot so tough?
“It was just energy, I guess,” Talbot said. “They’ve got some of the best big men in the league and we knew they weren’t going to give up. We wanted to maintain that 11-point lead from halftime.”
That’s in part because it was so difficult to achieve.
The Bulldogs came out playing their usual frenetic defense, holding Westbrook to one field goal in the opening four minutes, but they trailed 6-5 after one quarter.
“We came out tight and we were really playing on our heels,” Westbrook Coach Mark Karter said. “We just couldn’t make our shots.
“Those kids gave me everything they had this season. I just wish we could have played a little better tonight.”
Jayvon Pitts-Young scored the first points of the second quarter with a drive at 6:33.
Then, a minute later, he made a diving steal. He hit the floor hard, but his pass found a breaking Stephen Alex, who glided in for a layup.
Nate Smart (13 points, eight rebounds, two steals) and Pitts-Young hit a combined 3 of 4 from the line before Justin Zukowski ripped the ball from a Westbrook player and launched another long pass to Alex, who again finished with ease.
The 9-2 run gave Portland a 14-8 lead. The Bulldogs extended it to 22-11, then Talbot took charge.
Now it’s on to the semifinals.
“We played three very solid games,” Russo said, referring to slim season-ending losses at top-seeded South Portland (52-42) and No. 2 Deering (37-30) before topping Westbrook.
“It’s nice to know we haven’t peaked yet.”