BOX SCORE

South Portland 45 Scarborough 33

SP- 13 6 18 8- 45
S- 5 10 13 5- 33

SP- Whitmore 8-0-16, Aceto 6-0-15, Degifico 3-0-6, Towle 1-2-4, Boothby-Akilo 1-0-2, Coyne 1-0-2

S- Conley 4-0-10, Fiorillo 4-1-10, Dickinson 2-0-6, Blanche 1-1-3, Djirampvoc 1-0-2, LeFebvre 1-0-2

3-pointers:
SP (3) Aceto 3
S (5) Conley, Dickinson 2, Fiorillo 1

Turnovers:
SP- 9
S- 20

FTs
SP: 2-2
S: 2-6

SCARBOROUGH—While there wasn’t much talk of revenge, Monday afternoon’s victory was sweet nonetheless for South Portland’s girls’ basketball team.

Ten months after being upset by Scarborough in the Class AA South Final, the Red Riots got another shot at the Red Storm at Alumni Gymnasium and thanks to a strong defensive presence and solid offensive balance, South Portland got some bragging rights in a pivotal early season showdown.

The Red Riots fell behind early, 5-0, then rattled off 15 straight points to seize control, as seniors Ashlee Aceto and Maggie Whitmore proved too tough to handle.

Undermanned Scarborough, led by junior Kayla Conley, then got as close as three points before South Portland took a 19-15 advantage to halftime.

The Red Storm twice drew within a single basket in the third period, but the Red Riots closed the frame on an 11-4 run, capped by a putback at the horn from junior Maria Degifico, to take a 37-28 lead to the final quarter.

There, South Portland held Scarborough to just five points and went on to a 45-33 victory.

Whitmore led all scorers with 16 points, Aceto added 15 and the Red Riots improved to 5-1 on the season, dropping the Red Storm to 3-3 in the process.

“We escaped,” said South Portland coach Lynne Hasson. “We played great defense for the most part. We did a much better job communicating and helping each other through screens. There were stretches of time where (Scarborough) tried to get someone open and they couldn’t get a look.”

Rematch

Scarborough sprung the upset over South Portland in last year’s regional final, 35-25, before losing to Oxford Hills in the Class AA state game.

This season, the Red Riots and Red Storm are again on the short list of title favorites.

South Portland started the 2019-20 campaign by downing host Gorham (60-44), host Deering (64-21) and visiting Massabesic (76-42). After a 48-47 home loss to Greely last Wednesday, the Red Riots bounced back Friday with a 55-37 win at Bonny Eagle.

Scarborough, meanwhile, was hindered by the loss of senior Julia Freeman to a season-ending knee injury on the dawn of the preseason.

While Freeman isn’t playing this year, her presence continues to be felt.

“Julia’s been great,” said Scarborough coach Mike Giordano. “She’s tremendous being a senior captain despite not being able to play and I let her have a say. Sometimes kids listen to other kids more than they listen to (me).”

The Red Storm won three of their first five outings, holding off host Massabesic (70-66), losing at Cheverus (48-44), downing host Sanford (46-26), losing at Portland (45-35) and winning at Gorham (52-35).

Last year, in the regular season, the Red Riots prevailed at home, 55-36.

Monday, South Portland took care of business again.

Scarborough got the jump in its home opener, as senior Bella Dickinson got an early 3-point shot to rattle home and sophomore Lindsay Fiorillo fed Conley for a layup for a 5-0 advantage.

The Red Storm wouldn’t score for nearly six minutes, however, and by the time they put the ball in the basket again, the Red Riots had opened up a healthy lead.

Nearly midway through the opening stanza, South Portland got on the board, as Aceto made a long jumper.

Whitmore then blocked a shot at the defensive end and made a pull-up jumper on offense to pull the Red Riots within a point.

With 3:15 left in the first, an Aceto 3-pointer gave the Red Riots the lead for good.

Whitmore added a driving layup and after Giordano called timeout, Degifico fed Whitmore for a layup and Whitmore took a pass from sophomore Julianne Coyne and made a layup for a 13-5 advantage after one quarter.

Whitmore scored eight of South Portland’s 13 points and Aceto produced the other five.

When Aceto buried a runner in the lane 34 seconds into the second period, the run was 15-0, but Scarborough would settle down and rally.

With 6:33 left before halftime, Conley banked home a 3-pointer to end the dry spell.

Dickinson then added a 3 to cut the deficit to 15-11.

After Whitmore set up senior Kaleisha Towle for a layup, Conley banked home another 3 to make it a one-possession contest.

The Red Storm had chances to draw closer, but couldn’t do so and after a Whitmore block, she again scored on the offensive end.

Fiorillo got a point back at the line, but that only pulled Scarborough within 19-15 at halftime.

In the first half, Whitmore had 10 points and three blocks, while Aceto added seven points.

Conley’s eight points kept the Red Storm within hailing distance.

In the third quarter, Scarborough pushed hard for the lead, but the Red Riots never relinquished it.

After Aceto opened the second half with a 3-pointer, Fiorillo countered with one from the corner.

“(Lindsay’s) a sophomore and she’s gaining confidence as we go,” Giordano said.

Coyne set up Degifico for a layup, but a driving layup from Fiorillo and another from sophomore Una Djuranovic pulled the Red Storm within 24-22 with 4:49 remaining in the frame.

Whitmore countered with a jumper, but senior Madison Blanche drove for her first points to again make it a two-point game.

But Scarborough could draw no closer.

After Aceto hit a clutch 3, Conley scored on a putback, but Whitmore made a runner, Coyne hit a runner in the lane and Towle made a pair of foul shots.

In the final minute, sophomore Elisabeth LeFebvre scored on a putback for the Red Storm, but at the horn, Degifico put home a miss to give South Portland a 37-28 advantage heading for the final stanza.

Where the Red Riots locked it up.

A Fiorillo layup started the fourth period, but off an inbounds pass from Degifico, Whitmore made a layup and with 5:05 remaining, Aceto found junior 6-foot-3 center Cora Boothby-Akilo, seeing her first action of the regular season, for a layup and a 41-30 lead.

“I was really happy to get Cora back,” said Hasson. “She was nervous, but ready to go. She did some nice things.”

After Fiorillo and Degifico traded jump shots, Blanche made a foul shot for Scarbrough’s final point.

A put from Aceto with a minute to play then brought the curtain down on South Portland’s 45-33 victory.

“There was some talk about what we could have done better last year, but that’s in the past,” Aceto said. “We’ve grown as a team. We have different players now. We pushed through and kept our energy up.”

Whitmore had a game-high 16 points, to with five steals and three blocks.

Aceto came up huge with 15 points and six rebounds.

“I’ve worked on my shots and my teammates rely on me,” Aceto said.

“Ashlee has a quick release and she’s money when she gets open,” Hasson said.

Degifico was a key contributor as well, scoring six points and dishing out three assists.

“Maria has been working on her shot and if those start to drop, we’ll have someone else who can score,” Hasson said. “Ashlee and Maria played great defense and played long minutes. They play hard for most of the game. We’re trying to develop our bench, so for them to play that well and that hard, credit to them. They’re in great shape.”

Towle added four points and six rebounds and Boothby-Akilo (five rebounds) and Coyne had two points apiece.

The Red Riots had a 25-24 rebounding advantage, made both of their free throw attempts and only committed nine turnovers.

It wasn’t all good for South Portland, however.

“We missed too many layups,” Hasson lamented. “We have to get better. Fullcourt pressure is our Achilles’ heel and there’s no reason we can’t execute a press breaker and make a layup. We’re happy to go side-to-side and we’re happy to just get the ball across halfcourt, but until we can get layups, no one has anything to lose by pressing us. It’s just executing.”

Scarborough was paced by 10 points apiece from Conley and Fiorillo. Dickinson added six points and five rebounds, Blanche was held to three points and six rebounds and Djuranovic and LeFebvre both contributed two points.

The Red Storm were 2-of-6 from the foul line and turned the ball over 20 times.

“Credit to South Portland, they’re good defensively and we struggled shooting,” Giordano said. “We need to find that extra shooter who can get us another 10, 12 points. South Portland’s a team you want to measure yourself against because I think they’re best team in the South. We learned we can play with them.”

Looking forward

Scarborough has one more game on the 2019 portion of its schedule, at Bonny Eagle Monday of next week.

“We’re finding our way,” said Giordano. “It’s been a tough six games and five were on the road. I think we’ll be better in another month. They’re great kids and they work hard. We have enough in our locker room to get back to where we were last year.”

South Portland, meanwhile, goes to Sanford Friday, then is idle until Jan. 2 when it plays at Thornton Academy.

“I think we’re going good,” Aceto said. “We’ll build on it and keep getting better.”

“We need to get better,” Hasson said. “We might be winning, but we’re not playing the way we should. We’ll get there.”

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

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