Joe Esposito hit a floater from the left side as time expired to give Portland a 45-43 win over South Portland in a battle of unbeaten SMAA basketball teams Thursday at the Portland Expo.

Portland, the defending Class A champ, improved to 5-0 and extended its two-season unbeaten streak to 27 games. South Portland (4-1) had a seven-point lead after Matt Pelletier’s 3-pointer with under four minutes to go, but didn’t score again.

With the score 43-43, the Bulldogs got possession on a jump ball with 16 seconds remaining. One official called traveling on the Bulldogs when Cedric Smith came down with a rebound in a crowd, but the other official overruled him, calling a jump ball. Portland had the possession arrow and got the ball.

Steve Alex of Portland dribbled around in the waning seconds before his shot hit the rim and caromed to Esposito who launched the winning shot.

“We wanted Steve to have the ball,” said Esposito. “The ball happened to come my way and I knew I had to put up a shot. Coach (Joe) Russo always tells us to get into a good rebounding position. I guess I was in the right spot at the right time.”

South Portland scored 11 straight points early in the final quarter to grab the momentum. The Red Riots went from a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead with Pelletier hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the run.

But just as quickly as they got hot, the Riots went cold. Portland scored the final nine points, beginning with Smith’s basket with just over three minutes left.

Jaren Muller, who led South Portland with 14 points, got his fourth foul with 2:54 remaining. Amir Moss of Portland went to the line and hit two to make it a three-point game. Muller then was called for traveling at midcourt with 2:50 left.

Liam Densmore hit a big 3-pointer for the Bulldogs to tie it with 2:04 left. He finished with eight points, all in the second half.

The Red Riots then threw the ball away with 1:13 left. The Bulldogs ran time off the clock until getting the late jump-ball call.

South Portland Coach Phil Conley deemed it “a very unfortunate call”

“The ball should have been ours with 16 seconds left,” he said.

Despite the loss, Conley felt his team made a statement. A year ago, the Riots went 6-12 and missed the tournament.

“I think we proved that we’ve come to play ball this season. That was Jaren Muller’s best game of the season. He got in early foul trouble, but he didn’t let it affect his play. Matt Pelletier hit a couple of big 3-pointers. When he is hitting his shots, it opens things up for our bigs. I thought our guards did a good job handling the ball against their pressure,” he said.

The Riots took a 9-0 lead, but the Bulldogs scored the next six and the game stayed close the rest of the way. South Portland led 13-11 after one quarter. Portland outscored South Portland, 16-10, in the second quarter to take a four-point halftime lead. The Bulldogs scored the last six points of the first half on baskets by Amir Moss, Alex and Tanner Foley.