GORHAM — It’s all about trust for the South Portland High girls’ basketball team this year, trust in each other on the court, trust in each other to make the plays.

And that’s exactly what happened Friday night in a Class AA South season opener. After falling behind early, the Red Riots took control in the second quarter and eased to a 60-44 victory over the Rams.

South Portland closed out the first half with an 18-4 run and then methodically built a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

“I think we have confidence in everyone on this team,” said South Portland senior forward Maggie Whitmore. “I think we all trust on each other and can rely on so many people to do what they do to get the win.”

Whitmore led the Riots with 23 points, 14 coming in the second half, but this was a balanced effort. Ashlee Aceto scored 13 points, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth to give the Riots a 52-30 lead, and Kaleisha Towle added 12.

Gorham had early control of this one and held a 14-10 lead after Tatyanna Biamby banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing 65 seconds into the second quarter. Then the Riots took off.

South Portland took the lead for good, at 18-16, on a Maria Degifico back-door basket off a nice pass from Towle. Whitmore followed with a 3-pointer. Then Towle scored back-t0-back baskets and it was 25-16. A 3-pointer by freshman Neveah Bello gave the Riots a 28-18 halftime lead.

South Portland coach Lynne Hasson expected the Rams to play tough. Just as she expected her team to exert control of the game.

“I knew they were good, I know they are well coached, I know they’re young but they’ve got a lot of shooters,” she said. “Once we closed out on their shooters, that was the key. If you leave them open you’re going to be in trouble. But we did a nice job getting out on them.”

Gorham coach Laughn Berthiaume, who has installed an uptempo offense this year, said his team’s offense stagnated at that point.

“Our ball movement just wasn’t what it needed to be,” he said. “It’s something we’re working on. We’re trying to play at a high pace and when we slow the ball down it gives them a chance to regroup and catch their breath.

“But the energy and effort were there tonight. I’m really excited about this team’s potential.”

South Portland’s defense was also a factor. The Rams had 23 turnovers, 16 coming in the first half.

“For us it comes down to our defense,” said Hasson. “When we have the right combination out there, we can defend everything pretty well. In Kaleisha we have enough size to match up with a big and then we get after them on the perimeter.”

South Portland led 38-22 after three and then kept pushing the tempo. When Aceto hit her consecutive 3-pointers, it was 52-30 with 5:08 remaining.

“My teammates trust me to take those shots and rely on me to get that in,” said Aceto. “And that confidence builds my confidence to take it.”

Gorham, led by Olivia Michaud’s 17 points, would come back within 53-44 on a 3-pointer by Adele Nadeau with 1:19 left. But the Riots hit six of eight foul shots the rest of the way to seal the win.


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