YARMOUTH — The South Portland girls’ basketball team was eager for a victory, and it didn’t matter to the Red Riots that their opponent Saturday afternoon was a Class C squad – albeit a talented Class C team.

The Red Riots, who won the Class AA South title a year ago, were pushed throughout by previously undefeated North Yarmouth Academy, but a six-point surge in the fourth quarter from Hylah Owen helped the Red Riots finally pull away for a 53-41 victory.

“We needed a win desperately,” said Red Riots Coach Lynne Hasson, after her team snapped a five-game skid and improved to 3-5. “It’s been a different year for us. We’re definitely rebuilding.”

South Portland’s size was too much for NYA (7-1) to handle early. The Red Riots also seemingly couldn’t miss from behind the 3-point arc in the first quarter as they opened leads of 8-1 and 19-11. Late in the first, however, NYA’s standout sophomore point guard, Angel Huntsman, stepped back and made a 3, then hit a little runner in the lane to pull the Panthers within three.

NYA momentarily drew even at 21-21 on a 3-pointer by Madilyn Onorato with 4:05 to go before halftime, but Onorato suffered an ankle injury when she landed and didn’t return.

The Panthers didn’t score again before halftime, and six free throws plus a layup from Cora Boothby-Akilo gave the Red Riots a 29-21 advantage.

When Megan Dearborn opened the second half with a jumper, South Portland appeared poised to run away. But the Panthers answered with a 10-0 run, capped by an Erin Reid layup. An Owen leaner in the lane put the Red Riots back on top, and they clung to a 35-33 advantage as the fourth quarter began.

After Sammy Duffy hit a 3-pointer for some breathing room, Owen drove for a layup, made a short jumper and followed with another layup for a 46-36 lead with 5:31 to go.

“I was just trying to do whatever I could to help the team, whether it was defense or offense,” said Owen, who wound up with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“Hylah led us with her intensity,” Hasson said. “There were times we did a horrible job boxing out, but she saved us with the way she played.”

After a 3-pointer by Huntsman, Boothby-Akilo scored seven late points to help South Portland close it out.

Boothby-Akilo finished with a nine points and 25 rebounds. Ava Bryant and Dearborn also scored nine points for the Red Riots.

NYA was paced by 16 points from Huntsman and 10 from Reid, but the Panthers shot just 5 of 14 from the free-throw line.

“The game benefited both of us,” said Panthers Coach Tom Robinson. “We needed to get pushed and they needed a win. I give them respect for coming over here when a lot of other schools wouldn’t. It was a hard game. I thought they shot really well, and obviously their size hurt us.”


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