GORHAM — South Portland Coach Lynne Hasson had a minute to get her team settled for overtime.
The Red Riots had rallied with a dominant fourth quarter to take a lead at Gorham in Tuesday’s battle of top Western Class A girls’ basketball teams only to see Gorham’s Ashley Woodbury tie the game with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“You haven’t lost this game. You’ve got to win it in overtime. Keep playing. We’re fine,” Hasson said. “That kind of got their chins back up and they went out and played a hell of an overtime.”
South Portland scored the first seven points of the overtime and finished with a 64-53 win.
The Riots, fourth in the Heal point standings entering the game, improved to 12-3 with their fifth straight win and ninth in 10. Gorham (10-5), ranked sixth, had won five straight and 8 of 9.
The Rams led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter and still held a 44-37 lead entering the fourth.
“We’re in the Gorham gym with two teams that are on a roll and we didn’t play especially well in the first half. We could have quit but I don’t think this team has any quit in them,” Hasson said.
South Portland took over with suffocating defense, continued relentless rebounding and 11 critical points by senior Bri Maloney in the fourth quarter. Maloney finished with a game-high 20 points, five in the overtime.
“We realized we needed to do more to attack the basket on offense and personally, I needed to be more aggressive in the post,” Maloney said.
Maloney scored South Portland’s first nine points of the fourth quarter, capping her personal run with a tough basket inside and the ensuing free throw to cut Gorham’s lead to 47-46 with 2:16 to play.
Maddie Hasson (18 points) gave the Riots their first lead with a driving bank shot through traffic with under two minutes to play.
Neither team scored again until Maloney made a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to play, setting the stage for Woodbury’s dramatic 3-pointer.
“We had new life. We had a second opportunity,” Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume said. “We were looking to be aggressive offensively.”
But while Gorham’s good looks rolled off the rim and were quickly corralled by South Portland, at the other end the Red Riots got as many shots as they needed.
Guard Lydia Henderson and center Holly Black scored second-chance baskets for a 54-50 lead. Hasson stretched it to a seven-point margin with 3 of 4 free throws as Gorham’s Abby Hamilton picked up her fifth foul,
South Portland shut down Hamilton and freshman Emily Esposito down the stretch. Both finished with 15 points but no baskets after the third quarter once South Portland began double-teaming Esposito.
“We’re not always the best shooting team so we know that defense is what’s going to win games for us,” Maloney said.
Berthiaume said he felt the bigger problem was his team’s inability to keep South Portland off the boards.
“Defensively we lost track of them at times and then there were a lot of second opportunities. They killed us on the backboard,” Berthiaume said.
“When you do that, allow multiple shots around the rim, usually it’s a basket or a foul or a basket and a foul.”
South Portland did have the edge at the line, making 14 of 22 free throws (8 of 9 in overtime) and Gorham was 3 of 12 on free throws.
Woodbury finished with 10 points for Gorham, the only Ram to make a basket in the fourth quarter and overtime. Kristen Curley added 11 for Gorham as the beneficiary of crisp passes in the first half when the Rams’ offense was clicking.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at firstname.lastname@example.org