South Portland lost two big weapons from last year’s state championship squad but ended up in the same place as the Red Riots defeated Portland 52-42 to repeat as Class AA boys basketball champions at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Monday.
The Red Riots (19-3) defeated Oxford Hills in the Class AA state finals a year ago, but had since lost Owen Maloney to graduation and J.P. Estrella to transfer.
South Portland struck early, opening the game on a 6-0 run to hold an 11-4 edge at the end of the first quarter.
But AA North champion Portland (16-6) wouldn’t go down quietly, outscoring South Portland 9-6 in the second quarter to enter halftime with just a four-point deficit.
Portland’s Jeissey Khamis made a 3-pointer less than 30 seconds into the third quarter, and two free throws by Brady Toher gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
South Portland’s Jayden Kim responded with a 3-pointer to restore the Red Riots’ lead 20-18, and two more Toher free throws tied the game again. Khamis added two more points before Kim drilled another 3-pointer, making the score 23-22.
Remijo Wani, who transferred to Portland this year from Deering, sank two consecutive baskets for Portland to give the Bulldogs a 26-23 lead, its largest of the game.
South Portland’s Ben Smith sank a 3-pointer and the Red Riots never relinquished the lead again.
Smith led all scorers with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. Kim added 13 points, four rebounds and two steals for South Portland and Jaelen Jackson had 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Khamis paced Portland with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Wani had 11 points and 10 rebounds.