The last thing a higher seed wants to do in the tournament is to give a lower-seeded team hope of an upset.

So Portland’s second-seed girls’ basketball team came out Tuesday evening and immediately squeezed the life out of seventh-ranked Edward Little in a Class AA North quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.

Thanks to a smothering defensive effort, the Bulldogs raced to a 12-3 lead less than five minutes into the game in their 58-25 win.

“The (first quarter) set the tone for the entire game,” said Amanda Kabantu, who scored a career-high 32 points. “We were really determined to not underestimate anybody. We knew if we lost, we’d be out and we don’t want to be out.”

Portland (16-3) will face either No. 3 Bangor or No. 6 Lewiston in the semifinals next Thursday at Cross Insurance Arena.

Portland’s defense forced six turnovers on the first seven possessions for Edward Little, which lost Hannah Chaput to a leg injury 22 seconds into the game.

“We knew we’d have a tall order tonight, but when you have a game plan ready and lose a big component of that, it put a lot of people into some spots we were hoping to ease them into as opposed to being thrown into,” said Edward Little Coach Chris Cifelli.

Gemima Motema put the Bulldogs ahead to stay with a layup, and Portland held a 19-6 lead after the first quarter by forcing 11 turnovers. Kabantu had nine points in the quarter.

Motema then took over in the second quarter, stealing the ball and making layups twice in a 9-second span before adding a long 3-point shot.

“Amanda and Gemima were terrific,” said Portland Coach Gerry Corcoran. “I just tell (Amanda) to let the game come to her, use screens and make your shots. That’s the first time she’s listened and did it.”

By halftime, Portland was in command 33-15 as Kabantu had 14 points and Motema 11; the Bulldogs forced Edward Little into 15 turnovers.

Kabantu scored seven points and Elizabeth Yugu hit a 3-pointer to allow Portland to take a 46-20 led after three quarters.

Kabantu then put on a show in the final quarter, twice getting a pair of offensive rebounds before finishing, then burying a 3 for her final points.

“I was just feeling good tonight,” Kabantu said. “I’ve worked a lot on my shot and Coach told me to slow down. It’s finding the happy medium, not slowing down, but not going too hard.”

In addition to Kabantu’s production (she also had 12 rebounds), Motema had 11 points and the Bulldogs forced 26 turnovers.

Edward Little (5-14) was paced by eight points from Chantel Ouellette and six from Caroline Hammond, but never seriously challenged.

“I’m pleased the kids bought in even when our record wasn’t what we wanted,” Cifelli said. “We had a lot of ninth and 10th graders out there, so I’m proud how they learned on the job.

“Wherever the seniors (Hammond, Ouellette, Chaput and Emily Piper) go, they’ll be the first kids to win a title for EL (in 2018).”

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