“If someone asks me how we’re doing, I’m going to tell them we have an interesting team,” Portland boys’ basketball coach Joey Russo said. “Come watch us play and they can figure it out.”
After blowing a 14-point lead, the Bulldogs survived a late-game rally by Cheverus to pull out a 55-46 win at the Portland Expo on Monday night to remain one of the two unbeaten teams in Western Class A.
Earlier in the day, Bonny Eagle cruised to a 71-54 win against Noble to improve to 7-0. The Bulldogs finished with a 7-0 run to raise their record to 7-0.
The Bulldogs started the game with a 14-0 run. They held the Stags scoreless until Austin Boudreau made the first of his three first-half 3-pointers with 3:50 left in the first quarter.
“When we get in a rhythm we score points quickly and we look good doing it, but once we get that 15-point lead sometimes it’s tough to play basketball with it,” Russo said. “You get the kids thinking differently, and we did do some cerebral things that were counterproductive. Taking the wrong shot. Taking the bad shot.”
It was a game of runs in the first half.
Boudreau, who scored a game-high 15 points before leaving in the fourth quarter because of illness, started a 10-2 run by hitting his second 3-pointer during the closing moments of the first quarter as the Stags closed to 19-14 with less than four minutes left in the half.
Jayvon Pitts-Young scored two fast-break baskets and assisted on another to fuel a 10-3 run in a 1:03 span to help send Portland into a 29-17 lead.
Noah Stebbins made his second 3-pointer with three seconds left in the second quarter to pull Cheverus back within 30-22.
The Bulldogs took a 46-34 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Stags rallied to make it interesting.
Cheverus started the final period with a 9-0 run and pulled within 48-46 when Derek Hammond made the Stags’ seventh 3-point goal of the game with 2:52 left.
“We did not answer the bell, but (the players) clawed their way back in,” Cheverus Coach Dan Costigan said. “We had a shot and that’s all you can ask for, and I was really proud of that.”
Matt Talbot and Steve Alex reasserted themselves on the defensive boards in the final two minutes to help send the Bulldogs back into a comfortable lead.
They both scored 12 points.
Zordan Holman, who fouled out with 1:46 left, scored 13 points for Cheverus.
“It was the first time most of these guys have been on that court, and Portland is really good,” Costigan said. “They got us rattled right out of the gate. They’re a good team and they’ll do that.”