Throughout the regular season, South Portland girls’ basketball team would routinely fall behind early, then roar back for a victory.
Monday afternoon, the young Red Riots found it a little harder to do that in the Western Class A tournament.
Sixth-seeded Cheverus relied on the scoring of senior guard Georgia Ford and sophomore center Jess Willerson and a strong all-around inside effort to beat the third-seeded Riots 61-42 in a quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.
The Stags, who lost twice to South Portland in the regular season (including a game in which they had an 18-point lead), took the lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back. They built the lead to 18 in the third quarter, then showed great discipline in preventing any South Portland rally.
“We handled their pressure well, we had our seniors step up,’’ said Cheverus Coach Richie Ashley. “And we kept attacking. We played to win, not to not lose.’’
Cheverus (14-6) will play the Thornton Academy-Windham winner in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center. South Portland finished 15-4 in a surprising season under first-year coach Lynne Hasson.
“Hats off to Cheverus,’’ she said. “They played good defense. And we didn’t shoot well at all. We didn’t get a lot of good looks.’’
Ford led Cheverus with 21 points, 10 coming in the second quarter when the Stags began to pull away. Willerson scored 20, including the Stags’ first eight in the fourth quarter when they turned back one last South Portland comeback attempt.
“We worked as a team,’’ said Ford. “And when we work as a team, that’s what’s expected to happen.’’
South Portland, with just two seniors on its roster, was never able to get into any offensive rhythm. The Stags were much more physical inside, with Willerson, Cassidy Grover and Laura Holman, and controlled the tempo throughout.
Cheverus went on an 8-0 run in the first quarter to gain control. It was 14-8 after one, then Ford took over. She began the second quarter with a 3-pointer, then closed the first half with another 3-pointer from the top of the key that made it 28-14.
When the Riots cut it to 10 in the third quarter, Ford hit another 3 from the left corner.
“That was big,’’ said Hasson. “Every time we made a run, they answered.’’
“I’m proud of the girls,’’ said Ashley. “I hope we’re peaking at the right time. The girls believe in what we’re doing.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: