Led by Senior point guard Justin Zukowski, the Portland Bulldogs trapped, swatted, and ran a first half deficit into a ten point victory over the Bonny Eagle Scots. Bulldogs coach Coach Joe Russo waited until the second half to unleash the Bulldogs’ devastating trapping defense. It worked as it has all season befuddling opponents into dribbling off their feet, throwing the ball, away, and forcing up bad shots. In the second half Russo 6’6″ Portland Center Matt Talbot and forward Steve Alex out to the perimeter on defense leaving 5’11″ Travis Godbout to guard the rim.
It seemed like Portland’s first half man D was a possum play to give the Scots a false consciousness, but Russo was quoted in the Forecaster as saying that the man defense on Cole was legit; shirking the adage “don’t let their best man beat you.” Whether the change from man to zone was a halftime adjustment or merely a so-called halftime adjustment it almost backfired, as Bonny Eagle standout point guard Dustin Cole did what he does, scorching Portland for 21 in the first half and getting key Bulldogs Jayvon Pitts-Young, Steve Alex, and Justin Zukowski in foul trouble early .
But Portland has a balanced team. Sophomore Amir Moss came off the bench for offensive spark hitting some big shots and getting inside with his drives. Danny Kane played big but also saw some time on the wing on D; and Matt Talbot and front court teammate Steve Alex were able operate inside and above the rim–thanks to long-range shooting off the hot hand of Senior Travis Godbout.
Portland used a series of defenders on Cole, who was held to just a five points in the second half, as Portland Captain Jayvon Pitts-Young sat much of the game with foul trouble. Nick Dubay played big for the Scots keeping them in the game for the second half.
It is hard to question Joe Russo’s strategy this year as Portland has dominated, but defending Cole one-on-one is just begging to get players in foul trouble (Steve Alex and Jayvon Pitts-Young fouled out as well after spending considerable time on Cole). What’s more; it is interesting to see Talbot on the defensive perimeter. If Talbot plays on the next level it will probably be at small forward as he a runs well; has smooth three-point stroke; and a decent handle. It seems that most of his points around the rim come from tip-ins and put backs. Jayvon (and maybe Steve Alex too) is a better post-up player; might Talbot be better suited out on the perimeter on offense, particularly against the big front line of Portland’s next opponent?
The unbeaten Portland Bulldogs meet the Hampden Academy Broncos in the State Finals this Saturday. They will have their hands full, as the Broncos are reigning state champions and undefeated in their last 43 games.