The story this season in Class A boys basketball has been the undefeated Portland Bull Dogs and their devastating zone trap. Portland’s games, even against the best opponents, have been little more than glorified layup lines as opponents are, at times, incapable of getting near the basket much less getting off a shot. Coach Russo has the most cohesive unit I’ve ever seen from one of his teams but the individual talent is there: Steve Alex is perhaps the best finisher in the state; the un-imposing Travis Godbout dead-eye outside shooting from has given Matt Talbott and Jayvon Pitts-Young opportunities down low; and the line-backer/Mr. Football toughness of point guard Justin “JZ” Zukowski has Portland playing mistake-free ball.
However, Portland’s path to the state finals is by no means guaranteed. Portland is a small team with but one big man in the 6’6″ Matt Talbott, who in spite of his impressive rebounding and (weak side help) shot blocking totals is really more of a wing player (as evidenced by a smooth stroke from beyond the arc). Portland next best inside presence is probably Jayvon who is listed generously as 6’1″.
In short, the team that can get Matt Talbot into foul trouble and who can break the press and who can shut down the outside shooting will have a better than fighting chance against the Bulldogs.
That team may be perennial power Bonny Eagle led by the singular talent that is Dustin Cole. Although just 5’9″ Cole dominates with quickness, court sense, an ankle-breaking crossover, and an outstanding overall game that makes him a triple-double threat any time he walks out on the floor. And, he has the handle to break Portland’s press. Although Cole is a rare player who can score from jumpers off the dribble, he may not have to. Unlike years past, Cole has plenty of help, particularly in back court mate Ben Malloy who will keep defenses honest with laser-like range from three-point land. Eagle’s one loss came in a close match against Portland at St. Joseph’s College. They will be looking to settle the score.
And let us not forget the Yachtsmen of Falmouth. I have not seen this team play but suffice it to say they are big, they are rich, and they defeated Portland in the Holiday Tournament.
The weekend’s games begin on Friday night at 7p with #4 Deering against #12 Marshwood followed #1 Portland vs #8 Noble. I cannot see Portland having any trouble getting out of this bracket (they walloped Deering in their two meetings). I’ll probably miss these games so if Portland loses, well, boy will I feel stupid.
Saturday has the more interesting games starting at 11a with Class B (small school) action. I haven’t seen a Class B game but there are a few intriguing teams here particularly Greely who handed Falmouth their one defeat (the Yachtsmen as you recall beat Portland in the Holiday Tournement) so that makes Greely, well, pretty damn good.
#3-Spruce Mountain (16-2) vs. #6-Poland (10-8), 11 a.m.
#2-Morse (14-4) vs. #7-Lake Region (10-9), 12:30 p.m.
#4-Yarmouth (14-4) vs. #5-Cape Elizabeth (11-7), 3 p.m.
#1-Greely (17-1) vs. #8-York (10-9), 4:30 p.m.
The evenings class A match ups are a chance to see Falmouth and Bonny Eagle in their first Expo appearances this season. Bonny Eagle should be able to get past a pretty tough Sanford team. In the late game the continued emergence of freshman(!) sharp shooter Austin Boudreau and the Croatian Kung Fu of 6’5″ Zordan Holman makes the last game of the night an intriguing possibility for an upset.
#3-Bonny Eagle (17-1) vs. #6-Sanford (13-6), 7 p.m.
#2-Falmouth (17-1) vs. #7-Cheverus (10-9), 9 p.m.