Portland High seniors Gemima Motema and Amanda Kabantu were recognized earlier this season as Miss Maine Basketball semifinalists as two of the top 10 girls’ players in the state.

Tuesday afternoon, on their Senior Day, Motema and Kabantu reminded everyone why.

Motema, who has since been chosen one of three finalists for Miss Maine Basketball, scored 18 of her 20 points in the first half and Kabantu added 15 as Portland rolled to a 66-34 victory to improve to 7-2.

“(Amanda and Gemima) are easily the two best players in this league in my 33 years of coaching girls’ basketball,” said Deering Coach Mike Murphy. “It’s not even close. The speed and athleticism of both of them is phenomenal.”

Kabantu set the tone with a 3-pointer eight seconds in, then she set up Eliza Stein for her first of five 3-pointers. Motema then went coast-to-coast for a layup and less than a minute in, the Bulldogs had an 8-0 lead.

By the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to strong play off the bench from Portland’s Emma Shaw and Lena Wakati, the lead was 20-7.
Motema then scored 16 points in the second quarter, and the Bulldogs went up by as many as 32 before holding a 43-16 advantage at the half.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” said Portland Coach Abby Hasson. “This gym is a different venue than we’re used to, but it’s been great for our shooters.”

The Rams, thanks in part to six points from Maya Gayle, hung tough in the third quarter, but Portland still added two points to its lead. The Bulldogs finished it off in the fourth quarter, as Stein sank two more 3s.

“Every team comes right at us and expects the best from us,” said Kabantu. ”Everyone comes and pressures us and it’s up to us to set the tone.”

Motema also had 10 rebounds, two steals and a pair of assists.

Kabantu also had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. She added four steals and three assists.

“Watching Amanda and Gemima play, I just shake my head,” Hasson said. “They’re unbelievable. As great as they are as players, they’re even better kids. They’re selfless and love to get everyone involved. Our younger kids obviously learn from them. I’ve watched them push it into another gear that I just don’t possess. That’s beautiful. It’s like art. They have this innate ability to get to the rim and know what the defender is going to do. They’re special.”

Gayle had 12 points for Deering (1-7).

“I’m looking at this as a good experience for our girls to play at that type of speed, against players of that level,” Murphy said. “We played hard. That was our goal coming in. It was a good effort. Our kids didn’t back down.”

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