ESSEX - The Portageville Bulldogs' surge since Christmas continued on Tuesday night with a 70-44 road win over struggling Richland.
The Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 8 in the state in Class 2A, have now won five straight. Richland has now lost five in a row.
The Bulldogs (13-2) dominated from the outset, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and never trailing in the game. The Rebels (5-8) got as close as 8-4 in the first quarter but couldn't get any closer.
"We're not doing the little things right now that make you a good ball team," said Richland head coach Jim Lincoln. "We've got a long season ahead of us. We've got 12 more games left and until we decide that we're going to come out and play hard it's going to be like this a lot more nights this year."
The Bulldogs controlled the boards and played stifling defense on the Rebels, particularly all-state guard Sherome Cole.
"Our kids came out and played hard," said Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell. "(Jordan) French did a good job on Cole for the most part of the ballgame. We realized that they pretty much rely on him and I was proud of the way our kids responded and got on the boards."
Cole finished with a team-high 15 points, but nine of those came after the game was well in hand.
"We've seen a box- and-one now for three or four games and what we've got to do is react to it and make adjustments and hit our open shots," said Lincoln. "We're getting open looks, but we've got some shooters that are not hitting their shots."
The Bulldogs had a distinct size advantage at every position. "Size at this point in the season doesn't matter if we block out," said Lincoln. "Not only in the first quarter did they hit their shots, but when they didn't their shots they got the rebounds and that kind of hurt us."
The Bulldogs' J.T. Williams scored 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter as Portageville built a 20-8 lead.
The Bulldogs continued to pour it on in the second quarter, leading 36-16 by halftime.
"We wanted to just give them one shot and rebound well," said Bidewell. "They didn't shoot the ball real well and we were able to get some putbacks on the inside."
Portageville put the game away in the third quarter, going on a 22-7 run to lead 58-23 before Bidewell checked in his substitutes with 1:39 left in the quarter.
That marked the Bulldogs' largest lead of the game.
Eric Booker led Portageville with 17 points. Dantwan Chillers added nine while Aaron Bidewell had eight.
Josh McMullin followed up Cole with eight points.
"I haven't lost confidence in this group," said Lincoln. "The only thing this can do is make us better. I would rather play these guys than some of the other schools in the area that aren't going to make us better. I would say by the end of the season when it comes district time that we're going to be a team that nobody wants to play."
Portageville hosts Malden on Friday at 6 p.m., while Richland travels to Zalma at 6 p.m.