AUGUSTA — Portland High’s boys’ basketball team may have been rusty after a 13-day layoff, but the Bulldogs’ defense looked primed and ready to go.

Portland shut down Oxford Hills in the first half and went on to a 56-36 victory Tuesday night in a Class AA North semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Bulldogs took a 12-6 first-quarter lead and outscored the Vikings 10-0 in the second quarter to take control.

Terion Moss scored 14 points and Manny Yugu added 10 for Portland. Cole Verrier scored 11 points for Oxford Hills.

Top-seeded Portland (17-2), the defending state champion, advanced to the regional final at 8:45 p.m. Friday against No. 2 Edward Little (18-1).

No. 5 Oxford Hills is done at 13-7.

Portland met the Red Eddies once in the regular season, losing 76-70 at Edward Little on Dec. 22.

Against Oxford Hills, it took a while for the Bulldogs to break out offensively.

“No matter how many years I do it, the first game you play in the tournament is always nerve-wracking,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo, now in his 27th season. “We didn’t play great. Some of that was nerves … and 13 days off.

“But I can’t remember when we had a pretty first game. You struggle with your rhythm.”

Russo also credited the Vikings’ game plan.

“Oxford Hills did some things to change the tempo – slowing things down at the beginning, then pressing at half court – that made it worse for us. They kept us off balance.”

Oxford Hills played solid defense in the first half, packing in its zone while challenging shooters. But the Vikings could not score.

Oxford Hills got the game’s first basket – a Verrier 3-pointer – but made only one more basket in the first half, shooting nine percent (2 for 21).

“That was the worst basketball quarter I’ve coached in 35 years,” Oxford Hills Coach Scott Graffam said of the second quarter. “I don’t think I’ve ever been shut out in a quarter. … That was pretty much the game.

“(Portland) defends like crazy because they’re so quick and strong. Good defensive teams are going to make you take shots you’re not comfortable with. That’s what they did.”

While Charles Lyall defended the paint, Pedro Fonseca, Griffin Foley and Clay Hardy-Lindsey worked inside and out, contesting shots. Moss was everywhere, making steals and fast breaks. On offense, Moss helped the Bulldogs keep their turnovers down and prevent the Vikings from coming back.

“Portland is a good team. They have all the pieces,” Graffam said. “They have a kid (Moss) who can absolutely handle the ball like a magician.”

Moss completed a bizarre series of plays to end the first half.

With 2.2 seconds left, Oxford Hills turned the ball over, but Portland heaved it down the court and out of bounds. The Vikings then tried a long inbounds pass, but it hit the scoreboard, giving Portland the ball at midcourt. The Bulldogs inbounded, and Moss hit a long 3-pointer.

On defense, Moss said the Bulldogs worked on “fighting off screens and talking.”

Oxford Hills began hitting shots in the fourth quarter but got no closer than 40-29.

“We played pretty good, but we could have done better,” Moss said. “Hopefully next game, we’ll come out with a lot of intensity.”

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