When the season began back in December, Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team was regarded as good, but not great.

In the Class AA South final Friday afternoon, said Coach Mike Giordano, “We got to the point where we passed good and entered into great.”

Second-seeded Scarborough used a suffocating defense to overwhelm top-seeded South Portland, 35-25, at Cross Insurance Arena. The result was stunning, in that the Red Riots had defeated Scarborough by 19 points in their only regular-season meeting on Dec. 18, starting a 17-game winning streak.

“We beat a really good basketball team,” said Giordano. “And our defensive effort was just enormous. I told (the girls) that rebounding and defense would win the game, and it certainly did today.”

Scarborough (19-2) will play Oxford Hills in the state final at 6 p.m. next Saturday at the CIA. It will be the Red Storm’s first appearance in a state final since 2010, when they won the Class A title.

South Portland finished 19-2.

Giordano, who coached at South Portland for 17 years before moving over to Scarborough in 2013, said he has coached 452 varsity games and called this “the most special game of my career … because we won the championship, because of who we did it against, and because how our kids came together and had a tremendous season and were there for each other.”

Scarborough’s offense was led by junior guard Madison Blanche, who scored 16 points. Sophomore guard Kayla Conley had seven points, and junior forward Julia Freeman, who was awarded the Edward “Red” McMann award as the tournament’s outstanding player/sportsperson, added six points.

Scarborough’s defense was the biggest factor Friday. In the regular-season loss, Scarborough gave up a lot of offensive rebound points. “We knew we had to box out,” said Freeman. “We didn’t have our best game when we played them the first time, but we learned what we needed to do, and I think we did everything perfectly this game.”

Unofficially, the Red Riots made just 9 of 42 shots, as they were unable to get the ball inside or hit anything from the outside.

“I don’t have an answer,” said South Portland Coach Lynne Hasson. “The kids had a great year .. and it feels like we come in here and play not to lose instead of to win. We were tentative. I just wished we played better today.”

Scarborough took control early. Blanche scored on back-to-back drives, and Conley put in an offensive rebound for an 8-2 lead. Scarborough was ahead 9-6 after one quarter and extended the lead to 22-11 at the half. The Red Riots had a chance to cut into their deficit in the final seconds of the second quarter, but a Josie Couture steal led to Blanche hitting a 12-foot lefty leaner from the left baseline at the buzzer.

Blanche, a defensive specialist who covered South Portland standout Maggie Whitmore, credited her teammates with her offensive output.

“Everyone kept the floor spread,” she said. “And because of that, I had open lanes to the basket.”

The Red Storm slowly pulled away in the third quarter, and when Conley hit a long 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:47 left, Scarborough had a 30-12 lead. South Portland got no closer than 10.

“This is the moment we’ve all been dreaming about since we were little girls,” said Couture, with a net hanging around her neck. “It’s unbelievable.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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