PORTLAND – Top-ranked South Portland saw its lead shrink to a point late in the third quarter against No. 9 Sanford.
Panic? Not these Red Riots.
“We have seven seniors who have been here before,” said Coach Phil Conley. “We expect them to perform.”
South Portland answered the call and gradually pulled away to beat Sanford 60-47 in a Western Class A boys’ basketball quarterfinal Friday night at the Portland Expo.
Tanner Hyland scored 23 points for South Portland (16-3), going 10 of 10 from the line. Jaren Muller added 14 points and Conner MacVane had 12.
“We settled down and ran our offense,” said Hyland. “We got the ball into our big men.”
Sanford (11-9) never led, but also didn’t go away.
Hyland said the Red Riots are comfortable being the top seed. Just the same, getting the first tournament win was a big relief.
“The top four teams in the SMAA separated themselves from the rest,” said Hyland. “Two of us are in the semifinals. We’ll see what the other two (Deering and Bonny Eagle) do.”
The win set up a classic semifinal between South Portland and Portland at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cumber-land County Civic Center. The teams split in the regular season, each winning at home.
Sanford outscored the Riots 12-5 through a long stretch of the third quarter to cut its deficit to 34-33, but the ever- present MacVane closed the quarter with five straight points to make it 39-33.
Sanford kept it tight early in the fourth when John Morgan scored and Ryan Camire followed with a 3-pointer after a Hyland basket.
That made it 41-38, the closest the Spartans got. Muller, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, scored eight points in the fourth.
Muller’s first basket of the quarter made it 43-38, then Hyland hit Trevor Borelli with a three-quarter court pass for a layup. Sanford called a timeout and then Coach Paul Nolette was given a technical.
Hyland made two from the line. Moments later, MacVane went 1 of 2 from the line to make it 48-38.
The Red Riots closed with an 8-2 run.
“I told the players to forget about the seedings and play our game,” said Conley. “I told them before the game that there were three keys. We needed to rebound, share the ball and play with intensity. I thought we did all three things.
“We didn’t panic when it got close. The first game in a tournament is often the toughest. I’m glad we got it out of the way.
“I thought (Hyland) played an outstanding game. He was perfect from the line. He scored key baskets and set others up. Conner MacVane got his hands on the ball and pulled down some big rebounds.”
After a slow start, Camire got going in the second half, scoring 10 points and finishing with 15 to lead the Spartans.
In the early going, Camire had a tough time getting free from Calvin Carr.
“I was happy with how we competed,” said Nolette. “We could have been better on offense. South Portland is No. 1 for a reason.”
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: