There was no letdown from the top-seeded team playing No. 8 as often is the case in the tournament quarterfinals. Not at all.
Portland, as leading scorer Steve Alex said, “stepped on the gas early” and cruised to an 81-52 win over Noble on Friday night in the Western Class A quarterfinals at the Expo.
The Bulldogs (19-0) advanced to the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against fourth-ranked Deering at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Alex, a junior, scored a career- high 22 points to pace the Bulldogs. Alex’s previous high was 16 against Bonny Eagle a month ago. Alex had that in the first half.
“I came out strong and was looking for my shot,” said Alex. “If I didn’t have it I looked for my teammates.”
Noble (10-9) hung with Portland for a quarter. The Knights were certainly not in awe of the quick and talented Bulldogs as they came out launching the 3-pointers and pushing the ball hard. Brady Dodge of Noble hit a 3-pointer to open the game. A Dodge basket later in the quarter gave Noble its last lead at 7-6.
Alex converted a three-point play to give the Bulldogs a 9-7 lead and the points just flowed after that.
Alex scored the last basket of the first quarter to make it 14-9 at the break. That ignited a 9-0 run overlapping the first and second quarters. Alex had seven of those points to make it 21-9.
It was 36-24 at halftime. Alex’s 16 first-half points were pretty evenly distributed between the first and second quarters.
Jayvon Pitts-Young took over in the third quarter as he scored the first five points and had 11 for the quarter as the Bulldogs exploded for 30 points to lead 66-35 after three.
“We wanted to come out with intensity for the second half,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo.
“I didn’t think we played that well in the first half. Noble is a dangerous team. Anytime a team has guards as talented as they do, you have to respect them. Steve Alex carried us in the first half and Jayvon carried us in the third quarter.”
Pitts-Young got two early fouls and went to the bench in the first quarter.
He returned in the second and really started to heat up at the start of the third.
Noble was confident of giving Portland a game. The Knights were furthered buoyed after watching the first half of the Deering-Marshwood game that was tied at intermission. Noble had only lost by 12 points to Portland at Noble during the regular season.
“I thought we could hang around but we didn’t react well or rebound in the third quarter,” said Noble Coach Mike Waterman.
“Portland is physical. I thought we handled their press all right but we made too many turnovers.”
Asked about his team’s wide- open style, Waterman said: “That’s the only way I know how to play.”
Besides Alex, the Bulldogs had four other players in double figures. Pitts-Young had 15 points and was followed by Matt Talbot with 14, Justin Zukowski with 13 and Amir Moss off the bench with 12 points.
Dodge, who made five 3-pointers, finished with 21 for Noble which, beat Gorham in a preliminary game on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals.
Grayson Waterman added 15 for Noble.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:
Twitter: TomChard PPH