PORTLAND – Throughout the preseason, Lee Petrie continually stressed defense to his Marshwood High girls’ basketball team.

And he had no complaints after the Hawks routed Portland 55-27 in a season opener Friday night at the Portland Expo. Marshwood forced 37 turnovers, including 14 in the first quarter, to quickly take control.

“Our game plan is push and press,” said Petrie. “We take pride in our defense and it showed out there. It’s what we worked on all preseason so it’s nice to see it work on opening night.”

Aubrey Folger led the Hawks with 17 points — 12 in the third quarter — and Jorden Mitchell added 11.

Petrie played all 12 Hawks liberally.

“All the kids got into the flow,” he said. “We saw good things from every kid out there.”

“We have a lot of confidence in each other,” said Folger. “We’ve been together for a long time and we rely on each other a lot. We know we can pick each other up if needed.”

The Hawks are expected to be among the SMAA contenders, returning a veteran group that has been playing together for five years. This win, said Folger, should give them a boost, especially with upcoming home games against Deering, Scarborough and McAuley.

“This definitely built up our confidence,” she said. “It show-ed us what we need to work on, which is good. We’re just glad we got off to a good start.”

The game was tied at 2 very early, then Marshwood went on an 11-2 run, taking the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Kayla Rackley with 6:42 left in the first quarter.

Marshwood’s defense was exceptional, forcing six consecutive Portland turnovers.

“We were nervous” said Jan Veinot, Portland’s coach. “The kids were excited and feel positive about their season, but some were really nervous.”

The Bulldogs return only one starter and played sporadically. At times, Portland played tight defense.

“At times,” said Veinot. “We played very well defensively at times. We’ve got to play like that all the time.”

Portland had particular trouble against Marshwood’s full-court pressure. “We can’t let it break us,” said Veinot.

But it did, especially at the start of the third quarter. Marshwood led 29-13 at the half. Then the Hawks began the third quarter with a Folger steal at midcourt and a layup. Back-to-back turnovers against the press led to baskets by Mitchell.

A fourth turnover against the press resulted in a layup by Folger. Portland gave up eight consecutive points without getting the ball past midcourt.

The Hawks would eventually score 15 consecutive points before Nyalieb Deng (10 points) scored.

“That was huge for us,” said Petrie. “Last year we had problems coming out in the third quarter. We would make half-time adjustments, then come out and not execute what we talked about.

“This was just a good team effort. And that’s something we look for every game. That way we don’t have to rely on just one person.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH