AUGUSTA — It was supposed to be a battle. Instead, Portland High’s boys’ basketball team grabbed control of the Class AA championship game early, and rival South Portland never found an answer.
The Bulldogs (19-2) won their second straight state title and third in four years with a 60-38 victory Saturday night at the less-than-half full Augusta Civic Center.
“Coming back for a back-to-back season, you never know what to expect, but we were here the whole way thinking we could repeat,” junior forward Griffin Foley said. “And repeating is incredible. It feels amazing.”
Terion Moss, the Bulldogs’ 5-foot-9 junior point guard, scored 22 points with deadly efficiency. Moss was 6 of 8 from the field, 8 of 8 from the free-throw line and added nine rebounds and three assists.
South Portland (17-4) was led in scoring by Cam Deiley, who entered the game in the fourth quarter with the Red Riots trailing by 27 points and made three 3-pointers for nine points. South Portland shot 23 percent.
The game never generated the intensity or excitement of Portland’s 52-50 double-overtime win a year earlier in front of a full and energized crowd at Cross Insurance Arena.
While Portland went into the 2016 final as the heavy favorite, this year’s matchup was seen as a toss-up after both teams earned the top seeds in their regions and split their two matchups during the regular season, each winning on the other’s home court.
But the first half was all Portland, as the Red Riots made just 4 of 34 shots, failing to capitalize on their 11 offensive rebounds.
Portland made three 3-pointers in the first quarter, one each from Griffin Foley, Pedro Fonseca and Moss, which were essentially the difference in creating a 13-2 lead.
“This one was different because we came out with a lot of intensity and we came out and played defense and rebounded,” Moss said. “Last year, it was a nail-biter.”
Moss himself was also a big difference. In last year’s game he struggled, playing “like a sophomore,” as Portland Coach Joe Russo said at the time.
Saturday night, he was a poised floor general.
“He led us as a captain and that’s all we can ask for,” said guard Manny Yugu.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs got their transition game going, with Foley twice converting on fastball feeds from Moss, including a 40-foot, one-handed bounce pass through traffic.
Moss had 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the first half.
“All week during practices, we all practiced 100 percent, and Coach said that we had to come out with a lot of intensity and do our jobs and play our roles, and that’s what we did,” Moss said.
“In the first part of the game, I knew we were kind of on a roll and we would be pretty good.”
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 25-5 with 1:29 left in the second quarter on two Moss free throws.
South Portland scored five points in the final 65 seconds via offensive rebounds – a three-point play for Moses Oreste and a putback for Ruay Bol – to cut the lead to 26-10.
“I guess we just kind of came out and took the energy away from them,” Foley said.
The Bulldogs continued to extend their lead in the third quarter, with Charlie Lyall scoring two early buckets and Moss draining a 3.
The lead maxed at 51-23 on two Lyall free throws (eight points, 11 rebounds) early in the fourth quarter.
Portland also got solid contributions from Fonseca (nine points), Foley (nine points) and Yugu (five points, five rebounds, three assists).
“We came straight out of the gate with energy, and that’s what we had to do. We just came out and outscored them by a lot and stayed ahead of them,” Yugu said.
“Everybody played their role and that’s all we can ask for.”
Russo got his 401st victory and fifth state title at Portland. This championship gave him his first back-to-back title.
“Tonight was really about the ways these guys played defense and rebounded. They really did an outstanding job,” Russo said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or: