PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune Sanford senior Tye Laviolette puts up a shot over South Portland’s Jack Fiorini during Thursday night’s Class AA quarterfinal game at the Portland Expo.

PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune Sanford senior Tye Laviolette puts up a shot over South Portland’s Jack Fiorini during Thursday night’s Class AA quarterfinal game at the Portland Expo.

PORTLAND — Thursday night’s Class AA South quarterfinal clash between No. 4 South Portland and No. 5 Sanford was a classic, David-versus-Goliathtype of mismatch – not in terms of talent, but in size.

South Portland has six players on the roster standing at 6-foot-4 or taller, while the Spartans rely on their sharp-shooting guards to be successful.

In the end, the height of South Portland was too much for Sanford as the Red Riots rolled to a 62-44 win over the Spartans at the Portland Expo.

“We knew it was going to be their size versus our guards,” said Sanford coach Paul Nolette, who saw the Red Riots’ height advantage come into play right away. “The first two or three possessions, they got an offensive rebound that turned into baskets.”

South Portland jumped out to a 15-8 lead after the opening quarter, but the Red Riots would really take control in the second.

Jack Fiorini, a 6-foot-6 forward, put up nine points in the second quarter to lead South Portland on a 23-9 run, which pushed the lead to 38-17 at the break.

“I felt they really put us on our heels,” said Nolette, whose team shot just 35 percent from the field in the first half. “We missed a couple of the easy shots early, which is unusual for us, so we really didn’t play with a lot of confidence. I think it really took the air out of our sails and gave us a little self doubt.”

While Sanford struggled from the field, the Red Riots shot an impressive 63.6 percent from the floor in the opening two quarters.

South Portland’s size advantage was the difference on both ends of the floor, according to Nolette.

“Not only their size on the offensive end for us to defend, but defensively, when they fall into that 1-3-1 (zone), it’s hard to practice having four 6-foot-4 guys playing in the 1-3-1, taking up a lot of space,” said Nolette.

Sanford’s defense stepped up in the second half as the Spartans held South Portland to just 10 points in the third quarter.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, they were only able to put up 13 points of their own, which only cut the lead to 18 heading into the fourth.

South Portland, which only shot 37.5 percent in the second half, was able to match Sanford’s 14 points in the final period to secure the win.

Nolette was impressed with South Portland, which was led by Fiorini with 21 points and eight rebounds.

“Credit to South Portland … they are a team that could end up winning the whole doggone thing,” said Nolette, who said the Red Riots’ regular-season record was deceiving. “South Portland was 9-9 coming in, but they had a pretty tough schedule. It’s not like they lost to teams that they should have beat.”

Sanford was led by senior Tye Laviolette with 19 points and junior Ethan Belanger with 10 points.

Nolette was happy with his team’s effort – both in Thursday night’s game and all season long.

“I’m very pleased with our effort. I’m pleased with how our kids carry themselves,” said Nolette.

The Sanford coach, who will lose only Laviolette to graduation, believes his program is heading in the right direction.

“I think the future is bright,” said Nolette, who is hoping to see a growth spurt before next season. “We just have to grow a couple kids, so we can get somebody over six feet.”

South Portland will face No. 1 Thornton Academy on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @ JournalTsports.

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