BOX SCORE

Portland 55 Bangor 44

B- 4 12 13 15- 44
P- 13 16 11 15- 55

B- Andrews 5-3-16, Streams 3-5-12, Cowperthwaite 3-1-7, Quinn 1-1-3, Williams 1-0-3, A. Fleming 1-0-2, Isaacs 0-1-1

P- Motema 5-5-17, D. Kabantu 5-0-11, A. Kabantu 4-1-9, Eubanks 3-2-8, Yugu 2-1-5, Kelley 1-0-3, Randall 1-0-2

3-pointers:
B (5) Andrews 3, Streams, Williams 1
P (4) Motema 2, D. Kabantu, Kelley 1

Turnovers:
B- 25
P- 12

FTs
B: 11-28
P: 9-16

PORTLAND—Portland’s girls’ basketball team lived up to billing in Friday night’s regular season opener.

The Bulldogs got off to a fast start against visiting Bangor at the Portland Exposition Building, forcing turnovers, getting easy baskets and taking an early lead and never looking back.

Portland scored the game’s first six points and held a 13-4 advantage after one quarter, as it forced the Rams to give the ball away 10 times.

Bangor settled down in the second period, but couldn’t cut into the deficit and thanks to solid efforts from juniors Amanda Kabantu, Davina Kabantu and Gemima Motema, Portland took a 29-16 lead to halftime.

The Rams got as close as six points in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs didn’t waver and despite foul trouble, the hosts managed to maintain a 40-29 advantage before closing it out in the fourth period and winning, 55-44.

Motema led the way with 17 points, Davina Kabantu added 11 points, Amanda Kabantu had nine and senior Kiera Eubanks contributed eight as Portland got off on the right foot.

“It’s a start,” said Bulldogs’ coach Gerry Corcoran. “It’s a good win for us. We played very well in the first half. We played great defense.”

Good luck stopping us

Portland reached the semifinals a year ago before losing to Oxford Hills, the eventual state champion. The Bulldogs return plenty of talent this winter and are highly touted.

Bangor, meanwhile, also lost in the semifinals last season, getting upset by Deering, and the Rams have the look of a team capable of doing some damage.

Last winter, Portland held off visiting Bangor in overtime, 54-52.

Friday, the Bulldogs had the better of play most of the way.

Portland got out to a fast start, as on Bangor’s first offensive possession, Amanda Kabantu stole the ball, then set up Davina Kabantu for a layup just 25 seconds in. With 7:03 to go in the first quarter, an Amanda Kabantu jumper made it 4-0 Bulldogs, but they wouldn’t score another field goal for over five minutes.

After Amanda Kabantu and sophomore Elizabeth Yugu each added free throws for Portland, the Rams got on the board with 2:57 left in the frame, on a 3-pointer from junior Ally Williams, but Motema stole the ball and set up Davina Kabantu for a layup, then Motema stole the ensuing inbounds pass and fed Amanda Kabantu, who missed her initial shot, before putting home her miss.

Bangor coach Jay Kemble called timeout, but it didn’t help, as Davina Kabantu drove for a layup and after freshman Abbie Quinn made a free throw for the Rams, Motema answered with one to give the Bulldogs a 13-4 advantage after one quarter.

Portland’s defensive tenacity and the Rams’ inability to make shots allowed Portland to open up a lead.

Both teams opened it up offensively in the second period, as Bangor hung tough before the Bulldogs opened up a double-digit halftime advantage.

After Motema made a layup after a steal to start the second quarter, senior Rowan Andrews buried a 3 and junior Abby Fleming made a layup to pull the Rams within six, but Motema buried a 3. After Andrews countered with a corner 3-ball, Amanda Kabantu hit a jump shot and Motema made a layup after a steal to make it 22-12.

Andrews and junior Emily Isaacs each made a free throw for the visitors, then freshman Emi Streams drove for a layup to make it a six-point game again, but Eubanks scored on a putback, Motema sank a pair of free throws, then made two more and with 45.2 seconds to go, a Eubanks foul shot gave Portland a 29-16 advantage at the break.

Motema’s 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals and Amanda Kabantu’s seven points, nine boards and three steals led the way.

Bangor tried to make a run in the third period, but the Bulldogs didn’t let it happen.

The Rams started the second half with a jump shot from junior Maggie Cowperthwaite and a 3-pointer from Streams, but junior Mia Kelley answered with a 3-ball for Portland and after a steal, Amanda Kabantu made a layup for a 34-21 advantage.

After Andrews made a free throw, junior Libby Fleming set up Andrews for a layup and Andrews fed Quinn for a layup to pull Bangor within eight, but Davina Kabantu countered with a clutch 3. After Andrews made a 3 for the Rams, Motema took a pass from Davina Kabantu and made a 3 with 1.8 seconds showing to give Portland a 40-29 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

There, the Bulldogs, despite being short-handed due to foul difficulties, did enough to hold on and prevail.

An up-and-under bank shot from Streams pulled Bangor within single digits, but Eubanks countered with an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw). Cowperthwaite converted a three-point play for Bangor, but a layup after a steal by Yugu made it 45-34 with 5:47 remaining.

After Cowperthwaite made a layup for the Rams, Eubanks answered with a jumper.

Andrews made a leaner for the visitors, but with a chance to draw her team closer, Andrews missed two free throws and Davina Kabantu set up Yugu for a layup and a 49-38 advantage with 3:40 on the clock.

After Streams made a free throw, then hit another, Motema made a layup after a steal for her final points before leaving with an apparent leg injury (after the game, Corcoran said it wasn’t serious, merely a cramp).

Two Streams foul shots drew the Rams within single digits for the final time with 1:23 to play.

After Davina Kabantu made a layup, Streams made a free throw, but the coup de grace came courtesy a pretty pass from sophomore Naurissa Tuza to sophomore Lainey Randall, who made a layup with 37.3 seconds remaining.

One final free throw from Andrews accounted for the final score and Portland prevailed, 55-44.

“I feel we like we played hard like we talk about,” Davina Kabantu said. “We did a great job in the first half spatially. We slacked off in the second half, but the lead we got in the first half was crucial. We played really good defense. The whole team was excited to play a first game.”

“We have so much talent,” Corcoran said. “I have girls who are so talented, but we’re still trying to figure each other out.”

Motema led all scorers with 17 points and also finished with nine rebounds and five steals.

Davina Kabantu added 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Amanda Kabantu had nine points, 11 boards, five steals and four assists before fouling out.

Eubanks finished with eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out.

Yugu had five points before fouling out, while Kelley added three points and Randall two.

The Bulldogs forced 25 turnovers while only committing a dozen, and they made 9-of-16 free throws.

“I’m asking the girls to play at a pace that nobody plays at and we can’t be that team until we take better care of the basketball,” Corcoran said.

Bangor got 16 points from Andrews, a dozen from Streams (as well as seven rebounds and five assists), seven points (and six boards) from Cowperthwaite, three apiece from Quinn (five rebounds) and Williams, two from Abby Fleming and one from Isaacs.

The Rams shot themselves in the foot from the foul stripe, missing 17 of 28 free throws.

On to Windham

Portland will host Windham Tuesday, then has a showdown at Oxford Hills Friday.

“We’re excited because we’re healthy this year,” Davina Kabantu said. “We’re ready for the expectations. We need to communicate better. We can’t put our heads down. We just have to play as a team.”

“We have a lot to work on,” Corcoran said. “It’s our first game and we still have to get into shape. We want to clean it up and get better.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.