More often than not, it seems, a No. 1 seed struggles against the No. 8 team in the regional basketball quarterfinals.

That was Portland in the first half Friday night.

“You have everything to lose and nothing to gain,” Portland Coach Joe Russo said of the top-ranked team’s dilemma.

The Bulldogs showed their mettle, however, responding with a big third quarter to take control and beat No. 8 Windham 57-50 in a Western Class A quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.

Portland advanced to the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. next Friday against No. 5 Deering. The tournament shifts to the Cross Insurance Arena for the semifinals and finals.

The Bulldogs (17-2) outscored Windham 24-12 in the third quarter to build a 17-point lead. With reserves on the floor, Windham hit some 3-pointers at the end to make the final score relatively close.

Windham (11-9) hung around for awhile, until early in the third quarter. It was 23-21 before the Bulldogs broke it open with a 13-4 spurt. Then, an 11-3 run put the game out of reach.

Amir Moss scored nine of his 16 points in the third, while Stephen Alex and Joe Esposito had six and five points, respectively. Portland got its fast break going, something it has relied on all season.

“We did a great job running the floor,” said Russo. “That was probably our best running game of the season Once we got our offense going, everything started to click.”

One thing the Bulldogs did well was maintain their patience on offense when the game was still close. They also played strong defense. Moss, with help from his teammates, shut down Kevin Weisser, one of the SMAA’s leading scorers and 3-point shooters. Weisser was off with his shot early and never got into a rhythm. He finished with five points.

In the regular season, Weisser scored six points against the Bulldogs.

“Portland is the only team to have done a good job on Kevin,” said Windham Coach Kevin Millington.

“It seemed like every time we got two baskets in a row, Portland would get four. We couldn’t get a good enough run to give them a scare. We tried hard. The kids gave it their all. This group had never played in the quarterfinals.”
Windham’s nervousness showed in the opening minutes as it committed four straight turnovers and fell behind 8-2.

“We’re playing the No. 1 team, they’re on their home court, and my players have never been here before. I guess that would cause some nervousness,” said Millington.

But the Eagles recovered and got a spark from Troy Davis, who scored seven points in the second quarter.

Once Portland started running and using its quickness, though, the game changed dramatically.

“We picked up our defensive intensity,” said Moss. “We brought a lot of energy into the second half and we supported one another. We started running the floor.”

Russo liked what he saw from Moss.

“Amir was a workhorse out there,” said Russo.

Alex also finished with 16 points, and Cedric Smith grabbed 13 rebounds.

Davis led the Eagles with 14 points, while Greg Gledhill had 13 for Windham, which beat No. 9 Thornton Academy in a preliminary round game on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals.