Portland High took it to Hampden Academy from the start Saturday night, then didn’t let up in a tremendous display of talent, quickness and determination to win the Class A boys’ basketball state title with a resounding 54-40 victory over Hampden Academy before a paid attendance of 4,576 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Bulldogs (22-0) ran off 17 straight points in the first quarter to open a 22-5 lead. The run was punctuated with three straight 3-pointers, two by Justin Zukowski and the other by center Matt Talbot, who played a career game and controlled the inside against the overall taller Broncos.
“We were so ready to play tonight,” said Talbot. “We stayed focus and got the job done. We had our best game of the season at the right time. Hampden is a great team and they had a tremendous run.”
Hampden had its winning streak snapped at 43 games spanning two seasons. The Broncos were defending the state championship they won last season with a 45-41 victory against South Portland at the Augusta Civic Center.
Before the game, Hampden Coach Russ Bartlett said Portland “was the best team we’ve faced in two years.” He was right. But he likely didn’t think the Bulldogs had the kind of offense they threw at the Broncos.
Hampden is 0-3 in state championship games at the Civic Center, also losing two games to Deering.
Portland captured its first state title since 2004 and its seventh overall.
The Bulldogs’ press overwhelmed the Broncos from the start, which was evident during the 17-0 run.
Hampden had never encountered a team as athletic and skilled as the Bulldogs.
Talbot finished with 16 points, Jayvon Pitts-Young added 12 and Zukowski scored 11 while doing a superb job running the offense.
Zach Gilpin was outstanding for Hampden, finishing with 20 points.
Portland never trailed. The Bulldogs led 22-5 after one quarter, 30-18 at the half and 45-31 after three quarters.
Talbot opened the game with a long 3-pointer. Jayvon Pitts-Young hit a 2-pointer. The Broncos then came back with a basket from Nick Gilpin and a 3-pointer by Zach Gilpin.
It was evident from the start that Portland was determined. The Bulldogs’ press started to cause one turnover after another. Portland had taken control and wasn’t about to let up.
“We came out and just flat-out played,” said Pitts-Young.
Pitts-Young had eight points in the third quarter. Steve Alex was also outstanding for Portland, helping his teammates get off to the fast start. Alex scored all seven of his points in the first half.
“I didn’t know we could press Hampden because I hadn’t seen them play,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo. “But that’s the way we’ve played all year and I wasn’t about to change anything.
“We wanted to get the ball in Talbot’s hands early. I told the other four guys to give him the ball.”
Talbot scored eight points in the first quarter and 12 in the second half.
“We wanted to play this game right after the Bonny Eagle game for the regional title. But we couldn’t. We had a good week of practice,” Russo said.
The Bulldogs completed their first undefeated season since the 1998-99 club, which also went 22-0.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: