BOX SCORE

Bangor 57 Portland 41

B- 14 14 13 16- 57
P- 4 11 12 14- 41

B- Martin 10-1-21, Westrich 9-0-20, Szwez 3-0-8, Clark 1-0-2, Emerson 0-2-2, Khoury 1-0-2, Noyes 1-0-2

P- Mahan 3-5-11, Greenwood 3-4-10, Smart 4-0-8, W. Danato 0-4-4, Antonio 1-0-2, Dowdell-Smith 0-2-2, Katz-Cronin 1-0-2, Bouchard 0-1-1, Thea 0-1-1

3-pointers:
B (4) Szwez, Westrich 2
P (0)

Turnovers:
B- 15
P- 12

FTs
B: 3-7
P: 17-31

PORTLAND—Nothing’s going to come easily this winter for Portland’s boys’ basketball team, but the Bulldogs aren’t going to go down without a fight.

That was certainly on display Friday evening at the Portland Exposition Building when new-look Portland hosted defending Class AA state champion Bangor in the teams’ regular season opener.

While the Bulldogs weren’t able to generate enough offense to keep up with the Rams, their tenacity and heart kept things competitive most of the way.

Bangor, behind the inside dominance of senior Sam Martin and the outside shooting of junior Andrew Szwez, opened up a 14-4 lead after one quarter and took a 28-15 advantage to halftime.

Portland tried to find the right combination to produce a comeback, but couldn’t make a serious run.

The Rams extended their lead to 41-27 after three periods, then closed the door in the fourth and prevailed, 57-41.

Martin had 21 points, senior Henry Westrich added 20 and Bangor took the first step in its title defense by handing the Bulldogs their first loss in a season opener since 2010, 57-41.

“There’s a lot of inexperience out there, but we played hard and didn’t give up,” said longtime Portland coach Joe Russo, now in his 30th season. “There was a lot of teaching and learning tonight. I told the guys they already won, they made the team. Now, it’s their turn to play. I want them to enjoy it.”

Growing pains

Bangor awakened the echoes a year ago, downing Bonny Eagle in the final to win the state’s biggest class, beating Portland along the way, 61-41, in the semifinals to end the Bulldogs’ season at 11-9.

The Rams graduated some top-notch talent, but gained some new players as well as should remain in contention.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, begin with nearly no varsity experience and few expectations.

Friday, Portland gave its all, but it wasn’t enough.

The Bulldogs turned the ball over on their first two possessions, then had a shot blocked on their third before Bangor went ahead to stay on a 3-pointer from Szwez and a layup from Martin.

With 4:19 remaining in the opening stanza, Portland got its first points of the season when promising senior Kevin Smart scored on a putback, but Martin made a layup, Szwez made a layup, then Szwez hit a 3 for a 12-2 lead.

Smart countered with a layup, but with 8.1 seconds left in the frame, a short jumper from junior Cooper Khoury put the Rams ahead, 14-4.

After a Westrich jumper to start the second period, the Bulldogs got a leaner from senior Richard Greenwood and an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) from senior Stillman Mahan cut the deficit to 16-9.

That’s as close as Portland would get, however, as Martin scored on a putback, Westrich made a layup and Szwez set up Martin for a layup and a 13-point lead.

After Mahan scored on a floater, Martin made a layup.

Smart made a bank shot for the hosts, but Martin made another layup.

In the final minute, Greenwood hit a leaner in the lane for Portland, but Westrich’s driving layup put the Rams on top, 28-15, at halftime.

In the first 16 minutes, Martin’s dozen points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots and Szwez’s eight points allowed Bangor to hold the lead.

The Bulldogs couldn’t cut into the deficit in the second half.

Westrich started the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but Smart countered with a putback and Greenwood made a free throw to make it 31-18.

Westrich opened it back up with a pair of layups before Greenwood’s leaner made it 35-20.

Westrich made another layup before senior Ethan Thea made a free throw, senior Finn Katz-Cronin drove for a layup and senior Elias Antonio finished a fastbreak layup to pull Portland within 12, 37-25.

The Rams put an end to the rally, as Westrich banked home a shot and sophomore Max Clark made a layup before two foul shots from Bulldogs’ sophomore Wani Donato made the score 41-27 heading for the fourth quarter

There, Bangor ended all doubt.

After Mahan cut the deficit to 12 with a layup after a steal, senior Parker Noyes banked home a runner, Martin made a layup, Martin banked home a shot and with 4:18 to play, Martin converted a three-point play for a 50-29 advantage.

Then, the foul shooting parade began.

Mahan stemmed the run with two free throws and Greenwood added another.

After a left-handed hook shot from Martin for his final points, senior Matthew Dowdell-Smith hit two free throws for Portland before Westrich sank a 3 for his final points and a 55-34 lead with 1:46 to go.

Mahan made two free throws and junior Jake Bouchard added one, but sophomore Colton Emerson made two foul shots for Bangor’s final points.

In the final minute, Donato made two free throws and Greenwood did the same to account for the 57-41 final score.

“I thought we did a good job,” Russo said. “We came in tonight with the thought that maybe we could win. We didn’t have an answer for (Martin). He has good footwork and is good in the paint. We went zone and slowed him down, but we got in a hole, then we had to go man (to man). Bangor was very consistent. They didn’t hurt themselves.”

Portland put two players in double figures, as Mahan had 11 points and Greenwood finished with 10. Smart added eight points (six rebounds and three blocks), Donato had four, Antonio, Dowdell-Smith and Katz-Cronin two apiece and Bouchard and Thea one each.

The Bulldogs only turned the ball over 12 times. They made 17-of-31 free throws.

Bangor got 21 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks from Martin, 20 points from Westrich, eight points (and seven assists) from Szwez and two points each from Clark, Emerson, Khoury and Noyes.

The Rams overcame 15 turnovers and 3-of-7 foul shooting.

Try again

Bangor is back in action Tuesday at Lewiston.

Portland, meanwhile, will seek its first victory Tuesday at Windham.

“We know it won’t get any easier, but we won’t put our heads down,” Russo said. “We have a game under our belts and we’re going to have fun. I think we can do some things with these guys.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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