Tanner Hyland of South Portland finds room to shoot between Justin Zukowski, left, and Cosimo Donato of Portland during their Western Class A semifinal.
By Tom Chard
PORTLAND — South Portland guard Calvin Carr has sacrificed parts of his game for the good of the team. Like scoring?
"I knew I could score but that's not my role," said Carr.
He's a playmaker and defender. But with the game on the line Wednesday night, Carr became a scorer -- a timely scorer.
Carr hit back-to-back layups to help the top-ranked Red Riots repulse a Portland rally.
The No. 4 Bulldogs went cold at the end, and South Portland advanced to Saturday night's Western Class A final with a 49-41 victory at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
South Portland (17-3), in the final for the first time since 2000, will play No. 3 Bonny Eagle (17-3) at 9 p.m. Saturday.
After Portland gained its final lead at 41-40, Tanner Hyland of the Riots scored on a runner.
On the next trip down the floor, Nate Smart was called for an offensive foul in the lane that appeared to deflate Portland.
Carr further deflated the Bulldogs with his scores, on a drive with 1:29 left and when he was left alone on an out-of-bounds play with 57 seconds remaining.
The baskets gave South Portland a five-point lead.
"I saw a gap in the defense. My instincts took over," said Carr.
He sliced through the defense and put the ball up with his right hand on the left side to avoid Portland center Matt Talbot, who was a rebounding and shot-blocking fiend in the fourth quarter.
The second basket came when Conner MacVane spotted Carr alone underneath.
"We ran a different out-of-bounds play," said Carr, and the Bulldogs were flat-footed.
Portland then missed its last four shots and Smart fouled out with 33 seconds left.
"Calvin Carr played a tremendous game at both ends of the court," said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. "He's not typically known as a scorer but he made some big baskets.
"We want to be aggressive on offense. We moved Tanner (Hyland) off the point. Calvin got us into our offense. It was his best game of the season."
The Riots kept composure in a hectic final six minutes.
"If you're going to weather a storm, you want to do it with a senior-ladened team," said Conley. "We have seven seniors who have been through it before. Portland went ahead by a point. We didn't fold."
South Portland outscored the Bulldogs 17-7 in the second quarter to lead 22-14 at the half.
Lethargic in the first half, Portland (15-5) started the second half with renewed energy.
"That energy got us back into the game," said Coach Joe Russo.
"I have no idea what happened in the first half. Call it nerves, call it young kids, we didn't even get out of our sneakers. At least in the second half we created things with our up-tempo style. When South Portland was reeling, Hyland made the big shots. We had a one-point lead and he hit that runner. He made a big 3-pointer earlier. That's what good players do."
On Carr's drive, Russo said: "We just watched it. No one stepped in and took a charge."
The Bulldogs started their comeback to start the fourth quarter. Nick Volger's 3-pointer made it a four-point game.
After a basket by Ben Burkey of South Portland, Volger scored, then Talbot went high for a rebound after a Riots miss. Jayvon Pitts-Young scored to make it a two-point game. Moments later, Talbot, a 6-foot-5 junior, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:34 left to give the Bulldogs their first lead since early in the second quarter.
It was short-lived. Hyland hit his 3-pointer from NBA range, making it 40-38.
The game stayed tight with the Bulldogs gaining another one-point lead with 2:26 left. But it was their last.
"Nick Volger played with a lot of energy," said Russo. "He got us back into the game. We kind of rushed our shots at the end. It's only disappointing because we played so bad and still had a chance to win."
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Conner MacVane of South Portland collides with Jayvon Pitts-Young of Portland on a baseline drive. South Portland won, 49-41.