WINDHAM—Eagle Hayden Bilodeau’s pair of frees with under 10 seconds to play put his boys out front of visiting Portland 54-52 on Tuesday night. Really, those two points looked like they locked up the W for Windham.

Bulldog Kevin Smart had other ideas, though: Smart, handed the ball for his boys’ last play, drained a beautiful three to steal a 55-54 triumph.

“It was definitely a tale of two halves,” Windham head coach Chad Pulkkinen said. “The second half we can take a lot from, and that first half we can learn a lot from – coming out and taking control of the game early, not letting them stay around and get confident.”

The uphill half played out like season-openers often play out – i.e., it wasn’t pretty. Windham hashed the first points, converting a Cam Brown steal into a Kaleb Cidre baseline two. Eric Weisser then assisted Chris Naylor on another two for 4-0. Portland got on the board midway through the stretch with an Ethan Thea free, but after that the scoring dried up until the tail end of the Q1, when Smart added two more frees for the Bulldogs.

4-3 after one. Yikes.

Portland pushed ahead 5-4 on two further frees – Sam Gerber sank ‘em – to begin Q2; shortly, Thea added the Bulldogs’ first actual field goal. 7-4.

“The first half, we were trying to preach getting good looks,” Pulkkinen said. “We were rushing a lot. Guys were nervous, so they’re making quick decisions that weren’t the right decision. And we fouled a lot in that first half, and that’s something we talked about too. We’ve got to play with our feet. We can’t give Portland points at the foul line. They were shooting double-bonus that whole second quarter.”

Cidre and Dylan Gorman next nailed back-to-back Windham twos and retook the advantage for their boys at 8-7. The teams chased each other’s tails like that through the rest of the second: Cidre, Brown, Bilodeau and Nuar Bol each added points for the Eagles, with Cidre assisting Bilodeau on a slick spin-move/layup combo for 16-16.

Both sides stepped up their play in the latter half. Portland jumped out front in the third 22-16 on a Jake Bouchard three and a Smart two, but the Eagles surged in response. Ivan Kaffell added a two and a three, Sean Cunniffe a two and Naylor a three – that’s 10 straight Windham points and 26-22.

“The second half we started trusting each other and working as a group and getting some good looks and being a little bit more aggressive than we were in the first,” Pulkkkinen said. “But, you know, it was a back-and-forth game. We were up, we came down, we came back.”

Portland seized control 32-31 on a Richard Greenwood two, but Cidre answered with a three. Brown assisted (long, up-court) on a Weisser two, then added a two himself: 38-33. The third lapsed into the fourth. Will Mannette kept the Eagles ahead with a pair of threes, before the Bulldogs sprang into a 10-point run, most of them by Greenwood. 49-44. Pulkkinen called timeout.

A minute and a half remained. Gorman drove the length of the floor and dished to Will Mannette; Mannette hit another three, bringing his boys within two, 49-47. Portlander Stillman Mahan added the first of two frees, but missed the second. Windham came away with the live ball, only to cough it up again at the other end of the court.

Under a minute to go. Bulldog Wani Donato possessed at midcourt, but Cidre harassed him enough to knock the ball loose – loose, and straight into the legs of Smart. The ball deflected OB and the Eagles regained control.

Cidre capitalized on the turnover, hitting a two, then purposefully fouled Mahan in the hopes of getting possession back. Mahan sank his frees, 52-49, but Kaffell answered with a two. Portland then fouled both Naylor and Cidre. Cidre stepped to the line; he added one, but missed the other, and Donato came away with control. Windham swarmed him, and the ball squirted free. Bilodeau grabbed it; Donato fouled him.

9.7 seconds to play. Bilodeau drained his frees, 54-52, and Portland called timeout. When the action resumed, Bouchard possessed, but the Bulldogs couldn’t generate the look they needed. The team took timeout again.

2.3 seconds left now. An Eagles victory looked all but assured – until Smart got his hands on the ball, whirled, and fired from beyond the arc. The shot swished, the buzzer buzzed, Portland rushed the floor. Improbably, they’d won.

“They hit a tough shot,” Pulkkinen said. “Chris did a great job contesting that shot, [Smart] just made a tough shot right when he needed to. It’s an early lesson, but I think we can learn a lot from it, especially the way we played that first half, and as a group get better tomorrow.”

Windham opens the season at 0-1. The Eagles travel to Bangor on Friday the 13th.

Kaleb Cidre fires off a ball for Windham. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Chris Naylor lofts up a ball. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Chris Naylor tries for two. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Dylan Gorman takes a foul en route to the net. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Nick Garrison clashes with a Portland opponent. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Cam Brown ascends toward the net. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Eric Weisser charges up-court. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Cam Browns surveys his pass options along the baseline. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Hayden Bilodeau tries for two. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Anthony Gugliuzza battles a pair of Bulldogs. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Sean Cunniffe clashes with a Portlander. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

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