By Adam Brit on December 20th 2017
WINDHAM—Except for a lackluster start on Wednesday evening, Dec. 13, Windham played visiting Portland hard, and reasonably close. Nick Curtis, with 16 total, led them in chewing through the better part of an early deficit. Still, the Bulldogs, Terion Moss in front with 27, ultimately secured a decisive W, 61-44.
“The first seven minutes – we didn’t have school yesterday, didn’t have a practice; guys were a little jittery with the best team in the State, the defending champs, coming into town,” said Eagles head coach Chad Pulkkinen,
The very opening moments of the game actually boded well for Windham: Portland standout (one of several the team boasts) Pedro Fonseca incurred two fouls in the first 38 seconds of play. One of those infractions sent Eagle Cory Hutchison to the line, where he knocked down the game’s initial point.
Moreover, Windham began their night doing what they needed to do defensively – especially rebounding.
Things shortly went south for the home team, though: First, towering blocker and inside-points-man Dierhow Bol picked up two fouls to match Fonsenca’s, and like Fonseca, headed to the bench. Then Moss heated up, adding a pair of free-throws and knocking down a three. Teammate Trey Ballew hashed a two and Moss another three and the Bulldogs were looking rabid.
With 1:15 remaining in the first, Curtis finally snapped the Eagles’ dry spell, sinking a three. Windham was still down, sure, 13-4, but if they could just maintain their composure, pick up a little steam, play one-possession-at-a-time, perhaps they could at least give the champs a real battle.
Eagle Nate Watson next converted an offensive rebound off a Mike Gilman shot, tearing another small chunk off Portland’s lead. A scoreboard that had read a dispiriting 13-1 only minutes earlier now read a we-can-do-this 13-6.
Portland pulled ahead 17-9, then 22-12 to start the second. Fonseca, Moss and Simon Chadbourne all contributed (Chadbourne with a three) for the Bulldogs, while Gilman and Hunter Coffin did what little they could to keep Windham on pace.
The Eagles battled to within six as the quarter elapsed, thanks to a Coffin pair from the line, as well as a Curtis two following a Mitch Budroe defensive rebound. Still, Portland closed the half looking strong, Emmanuel Yugu turning a steal on a Windham inbounds attempt into a last-second two to bump his boys out front 30-19 at the break.
“It’s hard to stay in front of those guys,” Pulkkinen said of the Bulldogs. “They’re going to score a lot of points; obviously they scored 101 their first game…They’ve been in every tough situation you can imagine; they’ve won three out of the last four championships. They’re poised. You can’t make mistakes against them – you’ve got to play a solid game for 32 minutes. I thought we played a solid game for two and a half, three quarters. But when you have a let down, they’re going to take advantage of that.”
Upon returning to the court, the Eagles dug deeper than they yet had. Curtis sparked a brief burst, draining a three to start things off, then grabbed a d-reb and fed to Cory Hutchison for another three to slash the Bulldogs’ advantage to 30-25.
Moss responded with a three, igniting a Portland push to 38-29; the Bulldogs maintained the momentum all the way to 43-34 and into the fourth – when they began to pull away for good. Yugu hit a two to kick off the stretch, and Moss a pair of threes, putting Portland up 51-36. They added 10 more, vs. Windham’s five, before the final buzzer.
Pulkkinen remarked on the challenge of defending against Moss. “I thought our guys did a great job; what we didn’t do a good job of was getting our hand up on his three-point shot. He’s improved that; his shooting has really improved. So allowing him too much to get comfortable – I think he hit maybe his first five or six in a row. He’s a great player. You’ve got to pick your poison with him: Either you take away his drive, or you crowd him – and crowding him doesn’t really work well either, because they have great players around him.”
“Dierhow came over and gave some good help on [Moss],” Pulkkinen said. “That’s what Dierhow needs to do – but Dierhow got in foul trouble.”
Portland clearly deserved the victory; to Windham’s credit, though, they showed they have the stuff to hang with the top ‘Dogs. Should the teams meet again, the Eagles will simply need—if they hope to make that game a better game, and no doubt they do—to be more consistent.
Curtis finished with 18 (including a trio of threes) for Windham. Gilman tallied nine, Coffin six, Hutchison four, Budroe three, and Watson and Bol two apiece.
Moss led all scorers with 27 (including five threes). Teammate Griffin Foley added nine, while Ballew and Chadbourne had six each. Fonseca, Yugu and Ben Fisher had four each, and Griffin Buckley added one, a lone free.
Windham slid to 1-1 on the loss; they followed up with a 73-63 besting of Bangor (on Friday the 15th) and a 65-36 W vs. Noble (on Tuesday the 19th). They host Edward Little on Friday the 22nd.
The win bumped the Bulldogs to 2-0; at this juncture, they’re 4-0, having since picked up wins over Oxford Hills and Massabesic. They host Bangor on Friday night.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.