PORTLAND – Cheverus completed its second unbeaten regular season in three years Friday night and will head to the Western Class A boys’ basketball tournament as the clear favorite.

The Stags used size, depth and defense to beat South Portland 50-35 at Keegan Gym.

The Red Riots (12-6) played the Stags (18-0) close to a standstill in the first and fourth quarters, but the defending state champions won the middle quarters 31-15 to end any drama.

A year ago in the season finale at South Portland, the Riots denied Cheverus an unbeaten regular season.

In that game the Stags didn’t have Indiana Faithfull, who was ruled ineligible by the Maine Principals’ Association, and the Riots welcomed the return of their star player, Keegan Hyland, from an injury.

A court order reinstated Faithfull for the tournament and the Stags went on to win the state championship.

This game was 10-10 after the first quarter, then 12-12 and 14-14 early in the second. With 3:11 left, Cheverus began an 8-3 run to close the half.

The closest South Portland got again was seven points.

The Stags savored their achievement but were already looking ahead.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Griffin Brady, who scored eight points, including a basket off a no-look pass from Joe Savino in the third quarter.

“Eighteen-and-0 is the objective of every team but we’re the only one to pull it off. But we have to put it behind us because every team in the tournament is 0-0.”

The Stags got a little sluggish in the fourth quarter, scoring only nine points.

“Mentally we started to get drained,” said Brady. “We weren’t getting the calls, which is fine, but when Louie (DiStasio) fouled out we were drained and it showed in our play.

“We have to improve running our offense for the tournament. We’re running the offense some of the time, but we need to do it all of the time.”

Cheverus Coach Bob Brown said his team could get away with mistakes during the season but not in a tournament. The Stags will open against Marshwood.

“We’re not doing the little things as well as I want for us to win a championship. If we don’t pick it up, we could be ripe.”

Brown is confident that with a week’s practice, his players will correct things. “They have a lot of pride,” he said.

DiStasio and 6-foot-9 sophomore Matt Cimino led the Stags with 13 points apiece.

Brown said Cimino has come a long way this season.

“He’s really gotten a lot better,” said Brown. “When the season began, he couldn’t go up and down the floor for four minutes. He’s a lot stronger and he’s fearless out there.”

The Riots made only 6 of 13 from the line. Matt Russell, the Riots’ 6-7 center, was still feeling the effects of the illness that sidelined him Tuesday night against Portland.

“Matt is still recovering and could only play in spurts,” said Coach Phil Conley. “Naturally that affects us because he’s our tallest player and Cheverus is big. I liked the way we battled and that’s what you look for as a coach. We have to get ready for our quarterfinal-round game (against Portland).”

Vukasin Vignjevic led the Riots with 12 points.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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