With the way the Portland boys are playing, the Western Class A tournament can’t come soon enough.
The Bulldogs had their third straight impressive game against a quality opponent Tuesday night. With Matt Talbot scoring 26 points and Steve Alex adding 16, Portland rolled to an 81-52 win over Scarborough in an SMAA basketball game at the Portland Expo.
Portland (13-0) jumped to a 12-0 lead, forcing the Red Storm (7-6) into early turnovers.
Talbot, a 6-foot-6 center, scored eight points in the opening quarter. Alex, a 6-2 swingman, had five.
A week ago the Bulldogs beat Bonny Eagle 69-60 in a game between unbeaten teams. Last Friday, Portland dismantled Deering – ranked fourth at the time – 77-42, and now Scarborough is its lastest victim. The Red Storm, hopeful of making the tournament, entered the game ranked 11th in the Heal point standings. Twelve teams make the postseason.
The Bulldogs got their running game cranked up early, which led to easy baskets.
Scarborough, which also likes to run, couldn’t keep pace because Portland was dominating the boards, getting second and third shots, and forcing turnovers with its press.
“We love getting up and down the floor,” said Travis Godbout, the team’s 3-point specialist. “We love fast-break basketball. That’s our game. We find guys open. As the assists go up, so do the points.
“We want to be the No. 1 seed and the team to beat going into the playoffs. We can still play better.”
After Godbout buried a 3-pointer from the corner to start the game, Alex, seemingly improving with each game, drove for a basket while getting fouled. He missed the free throw, but seconds later Portland stole the ball at midcourt and Alex tipped in a basket to make it 6-0.
Nate Wessel ended Scarborough’s drought with a basket to make it 12-2. Portland closed the first quarter with a 22-7 lead.
It was more of the same in the second. Talbot had four more baskets to finish with 16 first-half points. Godbout, finding the range from behind the arc, had two 3-pointers and by halftime, the Bulldogs held a 47-16 lead.
Portland Coach Joe Russo called the last three games the team’s best stretch of the season.
“The kids are in a nice rhythm and playing well as a team,” he said. “They understand their roles and each other. Hopefully we keep getting better.”
With two of their better scorers, Justin Zukowski and Jayvon Pitts-Young, not having their typical offensive games, the other Bulldogs stepped up, like Alex and Godbout.
Talbot also has stepped up his game recently, which is bad news for the rest of Western Class A.
That’s the way it’s been all season for Portland. If one or two players are a little off, the Bulldogs have others who can take over.
“If Jayvon struggles, Matt Talbot is there to pick him up,” said Godbout. “If (Talbot) struggles, there’s Zuk (Zukowski). Steve Alex is playing really well.”
Godbout can be added to that list. He’s hit some big 3s this season and has earned a starting role.
“I love shooting the 3-pointer,” he said.
Amir Moss and Dan Kane continued their strong play off the bench for Portland.
“It’s a good sign that we played the way we did with Justin scoring six points and Jayvon four,” said Russo.
Portland led 70-38 when Talbot, Zukowski and Pitts-Young were taken out with five minutes remaining. Godbout ended with 11 points.
Wessel led the Red Storm with 15 points, 13 in the second half. Matt Hartl added 13 points and Milani Hicks had 12.
“You don’t want to be playing your best basketball at this point,” Russo said.
That’s for the tournament. The Bulldogs will be ready.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org