BOX SCORE

Portland 64 Cheverus 39

P- 16 18 17 13- 64
C- 4 15 8 12- 39

P- Motema 7-3-18, A. Kabantu 6-1-14, Eubanks 5-1-11, Yugu 3-1-9, D. Kabantu 4-0-8, Tuza 1-0-2, Wakati 1-0-2

C- Lizotte 6-1-13, Bontatibus 3-0-6, Storey 3-0-6, Hammond 2-1-5, Kelly 0-5-5, J. Kratzer 1-0-2, Lozoraitis 1-0-2

3-pointers:
P (4) Yugu 2, A. Kabantu, Motema 1
C (0)

Turnovers:
P- 17
C- 26

FTs
P: 6-9
C: 7-18

PORTLAND—From the opening tip Monday evening at Keegan Gymnasium, Portland’s girls’ basketball team put on a show.

The Bulldogs took it to the resurgent Cheverus Stags at both ends of the floor, turning them over eight times in the first quarter and behind dazzling performances from multiple talented athletes, opened up a commanding 16-4 lead after just eight minutes.

Cheverus got no closer than 10 points in the second period and by the half, Portland had a 34-19 advantage, as senior Kiera Eubanks and juniors Amanda Kabantu, Davina Kabantu and Gemima Motema combined to score 28 points.

Portland ended all doubt in the third quarter, scoring 13 of the first 17 points and by period’s end, the score was 51-27.

The Bulldogs never gave the Stags life from there and went on to an emphatic 64-39 victory.

Motema, who was sidelined much of last year with a leg injury, posted an unorthodox double-double of 18 points and 10 steals, Amanda Kabantu added 14 points and Eubanks also finished in double figures with 11 points as Portland improved to 5-1 on the season and dropped Cheverus to 4-2 in the process.

“We’ve made a commitment to playing defense for 90 feet,” said Bulldogs’ coach Gerry Corcoran. “I was very confident in our girls tonight.”

Part One

With Cheverus and Portland scheduled to meet twice in a week, the status of Oxford Hills’ biggest challenger is up for grabs.

The Stags started the season strong under new coach Billy Goodman with wins over host Lewiston (50-38), visiting Scarborough, the defending Class AA South champion (48-44), and host Edward Little (54-31). After falling at home to Oxford Hills, 50-38, Cheverus won, 47-39, Friday at Massabesic.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, beat visiting Bangor (55-44) in the opener, then beat visiting Windham (63-47). After a 60-32 loss at Oxford Hills, Portland downed visiting Scarborough (45-35) and Friday, romped at Edward Little, 70-22.

Last year, the teams split two close games, with Cheverus taking a 47-44 home decision and Portland winning at the Expo, 42-30.

Monday, it was all Bulldogs, all the time.

The Stags never got in an offensive rhythm as Portland turned them over multiple times to start the game, then the Bulldogs took the lead for good on a Motema jumper 68 seconds in.

After Davina Kabantu scored on a runner off the glass, Motema buried a 3-pointer for a quick 7-0 advantage.

With 4:23 remaining in the first quarter, off an inbounds pass, senior Lauren Jordan fed junior Jillian Lizotte for a layup to get Cheverus on the board.

Portland answered, as Eubanks scored her first point at the charity stripe, sophomore Lina Wakati drove for a layup and off an inbounds set, Amanda Kabantu set up her sister, Davina Kabantu, for a layup to make the score 12-2.

The Stags got a long jumper from junior Madison Storey, but Eubanks countered with a jumper and sophomore Elizabeth Yugu willed in a leaner at the horn for a 16-4 advantage.

The second period was more of the same.

Sophomore Julia Kratzer gave the hosts momentary hope by starting the frame with a jump shot to cut the deficit to 10, but Cheverus would get no closer.

After Motema made a layup after a steal, Eubanks made a baseline jumper and Yugu drained a 3-ball to make it 23-6.

Lizotte drove for a layup, then scored on a spinner to cut the deficit to 13, but on the fastbreak, Davina Kabantu set up Motema for a layup and a 25-10 lead.

After sophomore Emily Bontatibus banked home a shot for the Stags, Eubanks hit a jumper, then Amanda Kabantu got on the score sheet by scoring on a putback while being fouled, then adding the free throw for a 30-12 advantage.

Lizotte countered with a runner, but Amanda Kabantu made a 3-pointer for Portland’s biggest lead of the first half.

After Lizotte made a free throw, Storey scored on a putback, then Lizotte drove for a layup, but a last-second free throw from Yugu made it 34-19 Bulldogs’ at the half.

Motema had nine points, while Eubanks added seven and Amanda Kabantu and Yugu each had six in the first 16 minutes, while Lizotte had more than half of Cheverus’ production, tallying 11 points.

The Bulldogs then picked right up where they left off when the third quarter commenced.

A fadeaway jumper by Davina Kabantu opened the second half.

Lizotte answered with a left-handed spinner off the glass and Bontatibus banked home a shot to cut the deficit to 36-23, but the next 11 points went to Portland.

Amanda Kabantu got the run started with a layup. Davina Kabantu then banked home a shot, Amanda Kabantu scored on a putback, sophomore Naulissa Tuza drained a long jumper and Motema converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup after a steal, foul and free throw) to make it 47-23 and end all doubt.

A Storey putback ended the run, but Eubanks countered with a putback of her own. Senior Alex Hammond made a layup for the Stags, but two Motema free throws pushed the Bulldogs’ advantage to 51-27 heading for the final stanza.

Where Portland wrapped it up.

Hammond opened the fourth quarter with a free throw, but Motema answered with a layup after a steal.

Hammond made a jumper, sophomore Maeve Kelly drained two free throws, then with 5 minutes remaining, Kelly hit two more foul shots to make it 53-34.

The Bulldogs answered with a Yugu 3 and after Bontatibus scored on a putback and Kelly made a free throw, Motema scored on a putback, Motema’s 10th steal led to a layup by Amanda Kabantu and Amanda Kabantu scored on a putback for a 25-point advantage.

In the final minute, freshman Katie Lozoraitis hit a runner for Cheverus before a leaner from Eubanks brought the curtain down on Portland’s 64-39 victory.

“I think we’ve come together since the Oxford Hills game and amped up our defense and offensively too, making our shots and being patient with each other,” Eubanks said. “We’ve played well together.”

“We’re trying to pick up where we were at EL,” said Corcoran. “We got outplayed at Oxford Hills, out-rebounded, out-defended, but the girls have responded beautifully.”

Motema turned heads with her 18 points, 10 steals, six rebound, three assists, two steals performance.

“I’m very excited to be healthy,” Motema said. “I’ve been ready since the beginning of the season. I want to come out strong every game I play.”

“It’s amazing to watch (Gemima),” Eubanks said. “Just being on the court with her is so special. She’s super-talented and she gives everyone else opportunities.”

“It’s awesome to have (Gemima) healthy,” Corcoran added. “She’s just learning how to play basketball and understand conceptually. She’s such a God-given athlete and she’s put in the time.”

Amanda Kabantu stuffed the stat sheet too, scoring 14 points and adding nine rebounds and three steals.

Eubanks tallied 11 points and also had eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

“I’ve struggled a couple games, but I’ve been working on my shot,” said Eubanks. “It’s really a mental game. Once the ball goes in, I feel great.”

“Kiera went two games without scoring,” Corcoran said. “We’ve made a commitment to get her involved. She’s worked extremely hard on her shot.”

Yugu finished with nine points, while Davina Kabantu had eight (as well as nine boards and four assists) and Tuza and Wakati added two apiece.

Portland forced 26 turnovers, only committed 17, had a 43-33 rebounding advantage and hit 6-of-9 free throws.

Cheverus got a strong effort from Lizotte, who scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots.

“Jillian has been working really hard,” Goodman said. “I think she played with more confidence tonight. We’ve worked on handling pressure and she did a good job.”

Bontatibus (six rebounds) and Storey both had six points, Hammond and Kelly added five apiece and Kratzer and Lozoraitis each had two.

The Stags made just 7-of-18 foul shots and never could solve the Bulldogs.

“I knew we had to make shots and they didn’t go in early and (Portland) made everything,” Goodman said. “They hustled and got every offensive rebound and outworked us. They’re a good team. They did everything easy and we struggled to score. If we hit some early shots it could have been different, but we struggled.”

Part II

The teams meet again Monday at the Expo, then a lot of regular season remains for both squads.

“We have to get healthy and we have to find a way to compete with (Portland) in a week,” Goodman said. “We’ll watch film and try to find a different way to play them. I’m very happy we’re 4-2, but we have a lot of things to work on.”

“I want to play (Portland) again,” Motema said. “I hope we have another game like this on our home court.”

“We need to keep working hard,” Eubanks said. “We want that Gold Ball. I don’t know if anyone wants it more than we do. We’ll work hard and practice all the time.”

“The bottom line is we just have to get better,” added Corcoran. “We still make a lot of mistakes. We’re still only shooting 40 percent. Our best players miss a lot of shots. We’re playing suffocating defense, but we’re too often getting cheap fouls.

“But we have the potential to be special. They’re tremendous young ladies and they work hard. That’s the best part.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.