SOUTH PORTLAND — After a sluggish first half, South Portland’s boys’ basketball team rediscovered its offense and defeated Falmouth 48-38 Friday evening at Beal Gymnasium.

The Red Riots were down 18-15 entering the third quarter, but a 19-6 run helped South Portland seize control and improve to 8-5. The surge was keyed by defensive intensity from Tyree Bijokta, the return of injured big man Scott Lewis and clutch shooting from Geremi Baez and Pamba Pamba.

“We just picked it up defensively and started finding our man on offense much easier, and we just locked in much more in the second half,” said Bijokta, who only scored two points but registered five steals, five rebounds and five assists.

“This sets us up very well and puts us right back in the conversation with (Thornton Academy) as a top team (in Class AA South).”

It was clear from the outset, when Falmouth (11-3) won the opening tip and ran more than a minute off the clock before getting a jump shot from Michael Simonds, that the pace would be slow and points would be at a premium.

The Yachtsmen, ranked No. 2 in Class A South, committed seven turnovers in the first quarter but ended the first eight minutes in an 8-8 deadlock, despite a steal and dunk by Baez.

South Portland went on a 7-0 run midway through the second, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Cade Carr, to open a 15-10 lead. But Falmouth got the final eight points of the half and moved ahead on a three-point play from Nik Hester.

With the Yachtsmen up by two in the third quarter after a Hester tip-in, Pamba made his first 3-pointer. Lewis, who injured his ankle early in the game, returned and helped neutralize Hester.

Five straight Baez points put South Portland on top for good. After Lewis made a fadeaway jumper in the lane, a 3-pointer from David Fiorini made it 34-24 heading to the fourth quarter.

Falmouth drew as close as 40-36 on a 3-pointer by William Graiver with 1:18 remaining, but South Portland made eight of 10 foul shots to close it out.

Baez led the Red Riots with 15 points. Pamba added 12, all in the second half, and Carr had 10.

“I told my kids the first team to score 50 would win because they’re awesome defensively and we’re really good defensively,” said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington. “We both, at times, struggled scoring tonight.”

Falmouth got 15 points and 12 rebounds from Hester, but turned the ball over 23 times as its five-game winning streak was snapped.

“It was ugly,” said Yachtsmen Coach Dave Halligan. “We tied the first quarter, won the second quarter and tied the fourth quarter, but in the third quarter we had some subs in and made mistakes and gave them six open looks.

“The key for us is to keep getting better.”

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