SOUTH PORTLAND—It’s truly hard to believe that South Portland’s girls’ basketball team was once 1-3 this season.

That’s because the Red Riots have suddenly become unbeatable and are gaining more and more confidence by the day.

Friday evening at Beal Gymnasium, South Portland hosted two-time reigning Class AA South champion Gorham in a battle of two teams riding long winning streaks.

And it would be the Red Riots who kept the good times rolling.

The Rams took an early 8-2 lead but South Portland settled in and after pulling even, 8-8, after one quarter, the Red Riots closed the first half on a 6-0 run, capped by a putback from sophomore Destiny Peter just before the horn for a 17-15 lead.

As South Portland held Gorham to a single 3-point basket in the third period, a couple baskets from freshman sensation Annie Whitmore helped open up a 29-18 advantage.


Not surprisingly, the Rams roared back and when junior Julia Reed scored with just over two minutes to play, the Red Riots clung to a four-point lead, but thanks to two clutch free throws from Whitmore and one more from sophomore Nyeerah Padgett, they were able to prevail, 38-31.

Whitmore led the way with 12 points, Padgett added 11 and junior Emma Travis had 10, as South Portland won its 13th straight game, improved to 14-3 and in the process, ended Gorham’s win streak at 11 while dropping the Rams to 13-3.

“I wouldn’t have predicted this to be honest,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “Losing took a toll and winning builds confidence. When we started winning, I knew we were good enough to compete, but we needed to win to get a mental edge and now we believe we can beat anyone.”

Something had to give

Gorham and South Portland entered play Friday boasting two of the longest win streaks in the state, surges which put them atop the Class AA South Heal Points standings.

The Rams were surprised in their opener, losing at home to South Portland, 33-31. Gorham then defeated Greely (56-30) and Falmouth (55-29), but was knocked off by Edward Little (38-36) and suddenly was at a crossroads.


It’s safe to say the Rams answered in the affirmative, as they defeated Sanford (48-41), preseason favorite Thornton Academy (38-34), Massabesic (68-27), Scarborough (43-32), Noble (61-11), Bonny Eagle (59-14), Scarborough for a second time (53-35), Massabesic (68-26), Thornton Academy for a second time (57-50), Sanford for the second time (59-47) and Bonny Eagle for a second time (57-35).

South Portland, meanwhile, started 1-3, as after winning at Gorham (33-31), it lost at home to Cheverus (48-28), at home to Scarborough (45-40) and at Falmouth (54-43).

Like the Rams, the Red Riots then hit their stride and defeated visiting Massabesic (49-27), host Portland (48-37), visiting Edward Little (52-36), host Massabesic (61-38), host Bonny Eagle (64-17), visiting Thornton Academy (55-53), host Noble (67-27), host Scarborough (54-44), visiting Bonny Eagle (44-24), visiting Sanford (44-39), host Thornton Academy (50-41) and visiting Noble (45-14).

“Being 1-3 was definitely a low point, but we knew we had to turn it around and we’ve been doing that ever since,” Travis said.

In the teams’ first meeting, way back on Dec. 8, Travis paced South Portland with 10 points, while sophomore Zoe Dellinger led the Rams with 10.

Friday, in front of a raucous crowd, Gorham looked to return the favor, but it would be the Red Riots who again made the big plays when it mattered most.


South Portland sophomore Nyeerah Padgett and Gorham senior Summer Gannon take part in the opening tip of the Red Riots’ 38-31 victory Friday. Hoffer photos.

South Portland struck first when Travis scored on a leaner 47 seconds in, but the hosts went cold and the Rams took advantage.

First, Reed hit a 3, then senior Ellie Gay buried a long 3-pointer and Gay added a pullup jumper with 4:32 on the first quarter clock for an 8-2 advantage.

After Hasson took a timeout, the Red Riots responded, as Whitmore went coast-to-coast for a layup to snap a 4 minute, 59 second scoring drought.

Whitmore then converted another layup before a long jumper from Travis in the final minute tied the score, 8-8, after one period.

Travis then drove for a layup to start the second quarter before senior Summer Gammon’s layup pulled Gorham even at 10-10 with 6:15 left in the half.

Neither team would be able to score for nearly four minutes before a free throw from junior Caleigh Corcoran put South Portland back in front.


The Rams then got a 3 from Gay and a Gay jumper to lead, 15-11, with 1:54 on the clock, but that would be their highwater mark, as the Red Riots closed the half strong.

First, Travis set up Padgett for her first points, a layup, then Padgett put home her own miss.

Then, as the clock wound down, Peter got an offensive rebound and laid it in for a 17-15 South Portland lead.

Gay had 10 points for Gorham, but Travis’ six points helped the Red Riots hold a slim advantage.

South Portland then started the second half strong, as Padgett scored on a putback.

After three scoreless minutes, Whitmore got a runner to rattle in to cap a 10-0 run and produce a 21-15 advantage.


With 4:11 remaining in the third quarter, Reed hit a 3 to end a 5:43 drought, but that shot would produce the Rams’ only points of the frame.

A minute later, Whitmore fed Travis for a layup, then Travis passed to Padgett, who fought her way through the defense for a layup.

In the final minute, Whitmore scored on a floater, then Whitmore, in transition, set up Peter for a layup and a 29-18 advantage.

South Portland turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter, but still managed to extend its lead from two points to 11.

Gorham then made its move to start the final stanza, as Reed set up Gay for a layup, Gay sank two free throws and with 5:23 to go, senior Kalin Curtis’ two foul shots cut the deficit to 29-24.

Undaunted, the Red Riots answered, as Corcoran fed Padgett for a layup, then Whitmore scored on a putback to push the lead back to nine.


With 4:27 to play, sophomore Logan Doughty hit a 3 for the Rams, but Whitmore set up Travis for a layup 56 seconds later.

Gorham had one final push, as Gay sank two free throws with 3:20 left, then Reed scored on a leaner 35 seconds later to make the score 35-31.

After milking some time, South Portland had a chance to clinch it at the charity stripe, as Peter went to the line with 53 seconds left, but she missed both attempts.

Fortunately for the Red Riots, Corcoran got the offensive rebound and got the ball to Travis, who was fouled with 33 seconds showing.

Travis also went 0-for-2 from the stripe, but again, Corcoran came down with the offensive board and got the ball to Whitmore, who was fouled.

With 25.1 seconds left, Whitmore stepped to the line and she wouldn’t be denied, calmly and coolly draining both shots.


“I like the pressure,” Whitmore said. “I was a little nervous, but I took a deep breath and focused on the shots.”

After a Gorham turnover, Peter added one more foul shot and South Portland closed out an inspirational 38-31 victory.

South Portland junior Caleigh Corcoran, left, junior Emma Travis, freshman Mya Lawrence and sophomore Nyeerah Padgett celebrate the Red Riots’ victory.

“We started being more confident and taking shots we knew we could make,” Whitmore said. “We just stick together. We have fun with each other.”

“Runs go back and forth in basketball and we knew we just had to keep our heads and we knew we could stop them,” Travis said. “It just shows that we’re still growing and improving and we’re sticking together.”

“It was two good teams going at it,” Hasson added. “They’re great and we’re a good team. It was a fun game to watch and to play. Our defense got us going. We just played our hearts out. Everyone has their role and everyone was impressive. I like to see kids who are so determined and competitive and find a way to win.”

Annie Whitmore, the younger sister of former South Portland standouts Katie Whitmore and Maggie Whitmore, continues to play well beyond her years with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.


“I watched my sisters play all through high school and this is just a dream,” Annie Whitmore said.

“(Annie) runs our offense and keeps us glued together,” said Travis.

“I’ve waited for a couple years to see someone with that look in their eye with a refusal to lose and I saw that in Annie Whitmore tonight,” Hasson added. “The ability to not let other teams press us and having someone confident handling the pressure and running the offense, we needed someone like Annie. She can get to the rim and score and she’s a tremendous defender too.”

Padgett had a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. She also blocked two shots. Travis finished in double figures as well with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists. Peter had four points (and five rebounds) and Corcoran tallied one point and seven rebounds.

The Red Riots enjoyed a 42-22 rebounding advantage and overcame not making a single 3-pointer, hitting just 4-of-10 foul shots and 22 turnovers.

Gorham’s effort was paced by Gay, who had a game-high 16 points, as well as five steals. Reed added eight points, Doughty had three and Curtis and Gammon finished with two apiece.


The Rams sank 6-of-10 free throws and turned the ball over 15 times.

“It comes down to making shots and we weren’t making them,” lamented Gorham coach Laughn Berthiaume. “We have to find a way to win when we’re not shooting well, whether that’s finding more pressure or rebounding more, just winning the gritty, toughness plays. That’s what we have to work on. We’ve got to be more consistent offensively. We had some good shots and makeable shots around the rim. We have to finish those plays.”

Tournament tune-up

Gorham, which is still first by the tiniest margin in Class AA South at press time, has two games remaining, at home versus Noble Tuesday and at Windham Thursday.

“I like my group and I think we’ll be fine,” said Berthiaume. “We’ve got to find that grittiness again. Every coach in our league has the same idea that anyone in the top five can win it. I don’t necessarily know if 1 through 5 matters as much as who you match up with.”

South Portland, currently second, but hot on Gorham’s heels in the standings, has a big test in its final Thursday at Sanford.

“We just have to stay the course and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Travis said. “We haven’t been like this the past two seasons, so this is incredible.”

“I’m looking forward to the tournament,” Whitmore said. “I’d like to get to the state game like my sister Maggie did.”

“We have to still fix some mistakes,” Hasson added. “We can go inside, so we don’t have to depend on our perimeter shooting at the Civic Center, which isn’t a great shooting gym and I think that will help us. All we really care about is going top three. We feel good about our chances. Every team will have tough games. It will come down to who’s healthy and who plays well. ”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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