Prior to the start of Wednesday’s contest, first-year Portland girls’ basketball coach Abby Hasson, left, talks with her mother, South Portland coach Lynne Hasson, as their cousin, Kelsey Flaherty, a Red Riots assistant, looks on. Abby Hasson would have the last laugh as the Bulldogs prevailed, 57-29. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

BOX SCORE

Portland 57 South Portland 29

SP- 6 4 10 9- 29
P- 16 14 14 13- 57

SP- Degifico 4-0-8, Boothby-Akilo 2-2-6, Duffy 1-2-4, Boles 1-1-3, Deaborn 1-0-3, Lee 1-0-2, Owen 1-0-2, Bryant 0-1-1

P- Motema 8-0-17, Stein 4-0-12, Kabantu 3-0-8, Yugu 2-2-8, Tona 2-0-4, Daniels 1-0-3, Tuza 1-1-3, Irakoze 0-2-2

3-pointers:
SP (1) Dearborn 1
P (10) Stein 4, Kabantu, Yugu 2, Daniels, Motema 1

Turnovers:
SP- 19
P- 12

Free throws
SP: 6-11
P: 5-8

PORTLAND—Following Wednesday evening’s contest, Portland girls’ basketball coach Abby Hasson said to her counterpart, South Portland’s Lynne Hasson, “See you at home, Mom.”

It’s likely those words had never before been uttered from one Maine high school basketball coach to another, but Wednesday’s contest at the tiny gymnasium at ancient Portland High School was one unlike we’ve ever seen.

And one that no one will ever forget.

Especially the Hasson family.

In what was believed to be the first time in state annals that a mother coached against her daughter, it was the younger Hasson who, for one night anyway, left the gymnasium victorious and claiming bragging rights.

Thanks to her phenomenal squad that dazzled and delivered its new coach an unforgettable victory.

South Portland scored the opening basket, but never led again, as the Bulldogs, behind the heroics of their college-bound senior standouts Amanda Kabantu and Gemima Motema, grabbed a 13-3 advantage after one quarter.

The second period wasn’t any kinder to the visitors, as Portland got the job done in transition and from behind the 3-point arc, stretching its lead to 30-10 at the break.

The Red Riots weren’t able to rally in the second half and the Bulldogs held a 44-20 advantage after three quarters and went on to a 57-29 triumph.

Portland got 17 points from Motema, 12 from sophomore sharpshooter Eliza Stein and eight apiece from Kabantu and junior Elizabeth Yugu as it improved to 2-1 and dropped South Portland to 2-1 in the process.

“It was pretty special,” Abby Hasson said. “Being a competitor, it’s all about winning. These kids, when they’re on, they’re on.”

Family drama

The Hassons have been a big part of Maine basketball for decades, long before Abby Hasson was born.

Her father and Lynne’s husband, Chris, coached the Scarborough boys at the start of the century. Lynne (McGouldrick) Hasson was a longtime assistant at South Portland, her alma mater, before becoming head coach in 2013. Abby Hasson’s brothers, Connor and Riley, both played for the Red Riots and the most decorated Hasson of them all, Maddie Hasson, just graduated from Bowdoin College, where she had a transcendent career, which saw her named the Division III Player of the Year last winter.

It was only natural that Abby Hasson (South Portland Class of 2011), who played for her mother when Lynne Hasson assisted Mike Giordano (before playing at the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine-Farmington), would follow her into the coaching ranks and interestingly enough, she wound up at one of South Portland’s ancient rivals, a Portland squad which nearly joined the Red Riots in last year’s Class AA state final.

While South Portland captured the Class AA South crown, the Bulldogs lost to eventual state champion Oxford Hills in the Class AA North Final (the Vikings went on to beat the Red Riots in the state game, 49-38).

Following last season, Portland didn’t retain coach Gerry Corcoran and that opened the door for Abby Hasson to inherit a Bulldogs program that features a pair of college-bound stars, Kabantu (who will play at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts) and Motema (who will play at Northeastern University in Boston).

Too much talent

It took awhile for the COVID-19-abbreviated 2020-21 season to finally commence, but both teams have been competitive in the early going.

South Portland won its first two games, each against Deering, 42-39 at home and 38-32 in Portland.

Portland won at Cheverus in its opener, giving Abby Hasson her first victory, 60-53, then let a 19-point lead slip away in the teams’ rematch as the Stags rallied for a 45-41 victory.

The Bulldogs looked at that setback as a learning experience.

“The girls believed they needed to go 10-0, or the season was a loss,” Abby Hasson said. “We needed to get out of that mindset. We were able to move on.”

Last year, Portland won at South Portland, 50-42, but the Red Riots had won 26 of 33 meetings dating back to the start of the 2001-02 campaign.

Wednesday, the Bulldogs led almost the whole way and beat the Red Riots in successive seasons for the first time since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns, doing so on their “home court” for the first time in a decade.

Speaking of Portland’s home court, playing on campus instead of at the Portland Exposition Building (which is being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site), proved to be an advantage for the Bulldogs.

“Playing in this gym was special,” Abby Hasson said. “The girls have never really played here. For us, being an athletic, quick team, we were happy to play on a shorter floor.”

South Portland opened the scoring on a jump shot from senior captain Maria Degifico, but after Kabantu scored on a putback, Motema set up senior Mireille Tona for a layup and with 5:06 to go in the opening period, Portland was ahead to stay, 4-2.

Motema added to the lead with a layup after a nice stop-and-start move and after promising freshman Ruth Boles made a foul shot for the Red Riots, Kabantu sank a 3-pointer, Motema made a layup after a steal and another jawdropping athletic move, and after another Motema steal, she made a layup to make it 13-3.

Senior Cora Boothby-Akilo stemmed the tide with a free throw and junior Hylah Owen banked home a shot to cut the deficit to seven, but Stein answered with her first 3 and after one quarter, Portland had a 10-point advantage, 16-6.

Stein then began the second period with a 3 and Motema followed with another to push the lead to 16.

After Boles made two free throws to snap a 5-minute, 12-second drought and a 9-0 Bulldogs’ run, junior Naulissa Tuza made a free throw, then banked home a shot and after another Motema layup after a steal and a Boothby-Akilo putback, a 3-pointer from Yugu put Portland firmly in control at halftime, 30-10.

Motema’s 11 points and four steals sparked the Bulldogs in the first half and their defense forced 11 South Portland turnovers to compound the Red Riots’ difficulties.

Portland junior Naulissa Tuza attacks the basket.

As she did to start the game, Degifico started the second half with a jump shot, but Motema answered with another stop-and-start layup.

After a short jumper from Boothby-Akilo, Yugu sank two foul shots and Motema again left everyone bearing witness in awe with a spin move and bank shot for a 36-14 lead.

“It just happens,” Motema said, of her highlight reel plays. “I don’t think about it. I just try to make something special. It’s natural athleticism and I watch NBA moves. They inspire me.”

“Gemima makes phenomenal plays and I can’t say enough good about her,” Abby Hasson said. “She’s a kind kid. You’ll be hard pressed to get four words out of her. She’s just a special talent. Northeastern’s lucky to get her next year.”

After freshman Megan Dearborn answered with the only 3-pointer of the night for South Portland and senior Anneka Bryant added a foul shot, Kabantu sank a 3, sophomore Paola Irakoze made two free throws and Stein hit another 3 before a jump shot from sophomore Talia Lee pulled the Red Riots back within 44-20 heading to the fourth quarter.

The final stanza began with Boothby-Akilo making a free throw, but Motema countered with a leaner.

After a pullup jumper from Degifico, Tona made a layup and Stein made her final 3 for a 51-23 advantage.

“It’s awesome to be able to play,” Stein said. “It makes me so happy. I just get the ball at the 3 (point line) and the first thing I think is just to shoot it. I’ll make some and I’ll miss some, but I’ll keep taking them.”

“Eliza has a quick trigger,” Abby Hasson said. “She’s a soccer player. That’s her sport. She’s here because she likes to play basketball. She makes us better. She’s not afraid. She has confidence to knock it down whenever she’s open.”

Decifigo made a layup for South Portland, but Yugu and senior Gabby Daniels made back-to-back 3s for Portland’s final points.

In the final minute, sophomore Samantha Duffy sank two free throws and made a layup after a steal and from there, the Bulldogs ran out the clock and at 7:18 p.m., celebrated their historic 57-29 victory.

“I wanted to do it for Coach, in her first game against her Mom,” Motema said. “She brings energy and motivation to the program.”

“It was a really big game for Coach and I’m really happy for her that she got to win this game,” Stein said.

Abby Hasson was emotional after the win.

“It’s a little bittersweet, just because I care about those kids at South Portland so much and my Mom and my cousin (Kelsey Flaherty) are on their coaching staff,” Hasson said. “We’ve been in the gym for three weeks and we’ve come leaps and bounds. I couldn’t ask for anything more. We want to play fast and go, go, go. The girls came out ready to go today and when we play with that energy, we’re hard to deal with.”

Motema paced Portland’s victorious effort with 17 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds. Kabantu was, as usual, a stat sheet stuffer as well, scoring eight points and adding five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

“Amanda and Gemima are the best teammates,” said Stein, who finished with 12 points. “They’re so good. They make the best passes. Just watching them play is amazing. I don’t know how they do it.”

Yugu had eight points, Tona four, Daniels and Tuza three apiece and Irakoze two.

The Bulldogs made 10 3-pointers to the Red Riots one, only turned the ball over 12 times and made 5-of-8 free throws.

South Portland’s top scorer with Degifico with eight points. She also had six rebounds.

Boothby-Akilo had six points and eight boards, Duffy wound up with four points, Boles and Dearborn had three apiece, Lee and Owen each contributed two and Bryant added one.

The Red Riots held a 40-27 rebounding advantage, but only made 6-of-11 free throws and committed 19 turnovers.

“This wasn’t much fun for me,” Lynne Hasson said. “We talk about when we get between the lines, giving 100 percent and I don’t think we did that tonight. With that said, I have a lot of younger kids who showed some good things.”

Perspective

Long after this game is forgotten, the seismic impact of a mother coaching against a daughter in a Maine high school girls’ basketball game will be felt, as hopefully more and more female coaches gain a foothold in the profession.

“I wish we’d come out on the winning end of it, but we made history,” Lynne Hasson said. “There haven’t been a lot of father-son duos (to coach against each other) and to see a mother-daughter duo is important for the kids. I know Abby loves the game. She’s really good at building relationships with the kids. We come from a family that loves basketball and is passionate about it. For Abby to get a varsity job at her age, I’m really happy for her. She’s coaching a really good team. They’re tremendous. I’m happy for what it says for female coaches. We’ve worked hard to promote female coaches. Abby had (Bowdoin coach) Adrienne Shibles, (Colby coach) Julie Vellieux and (University of Maine coach) Amy Vachon behind her telling her to go for it.”

“Obviously, we have the same philosophies in regards as wanting to have as many female coaches as possible,” Abby Hasson said. “We both have all-female staffs. For me, wanting to coach started with my Mom. I saw her coaching from when I was little. We’re really starting to get momentum for women coaches, especially with me, as a young woman, getting a head job at a big program.”

Encore

Friday, the same teams meet, this time at Beal Gymnasium in South Portland.

“Let’s hope we can make some adjustments for Friday,” said Lynne Hasson.

“Now, we have to do it all over again at South Portland,” Abby Hasson said. “I know that gym well and I know it’s tough to play there.”

Next week, the Hassons, as well as the Bulldogs and Red Riots, will go their separate ways.

South Portland will play a pair of games against Scarborough.

“We reloaded for many years and now we’re building for the future,” Lynne Hasson said. “We have some good young kids. It’s about maintaining confidence, developing skills and developing some of the younger kids. They have great upside.”

Portland, meanwhile, will play Falmouth twice.

“We’re trying to make the most of what we can control and win the rest of our games,” said Motema. “We want to make it a special year.”

“I think things are going great and I think we can win the rest of our games,” Stein said. “That’s our goal. We have the capability to win out and I think we’re going to do it.”

“It’s funny because obviously in a normal year, things would have been much, much different,” Abby Hasson added. “There would have been a lot of pressure me and the girls to perform and get to the state championship game. We’ve had opportunities to bond as a team that we wouldn’t have had normally. It helps build the program and gives me time to really get to know these kids. I’d have loved for these kids to get a state championship, but it’s going to be a special season for different reasons.”

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

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