The long dreadlocks are gone but the warm smile and basketball smarts remain.

Levi Randolph, a stalwart in the second of Maine’s three consecutive Atlantic Division title teams, returned Thursday night to the Portland Expo and led the Canton Charge to a 113-101 G League victory over the Red Claws.

“It felt good to be back here,” Randolph said. “A lot of great memories.”

A crowd announced as 1,196 saw the Red Claws fall behind by 17 in the second quarter and whittle that deficit to three early in the fourth quarter. Randolph then drained three medium-range jumpers from various spots to spark a run that restored Canton’s lead to double digits.

The Red Claws (1-2) came no closer than five the rest of the way as Canton (1-1) secured its first victory.

“The crowd was not the same,” said Randolph, who came off the bench to score a team-high 19 points on 80 percent shooting from the field. “Every game we had when I was here, it was packed up. It was loud. That’s the biggest difference. I didn’t see the same energy in the gym that we used to have.”

Weeknights in November always have been a challenging draw for the Claws and Thursday was no exception. Those in attendance saw the home team fall into a 7-0 hole before righting the ship and taking a 27-22 lead late in the first quarter after Walt Lemon Jr. sank a pair of 3-pointers and Nick King completed a three-point play.

Maine’s lead did not last. Randolph was instrumental in a 26-6 run spanning the late first and early second quarter to put Canton ahead for good. The Charge seemed to drive nearly at will against the Claws, with all 11 field goals in their decisive run scored from inside the paint.

“We’ve got to communicate a lot better,” said King, who led all scorers with 30 points to go with 10 rebounds. “We play small a lot so we’ve got to figure out ways to clean up that stuff. Just communication and body positioning.”

A Randolph 3-pointer gave Canton its largest lead at 53-36. The Red Claws cut the deficit to a dozen at halftime and entered the fourth quarter trailing only 80-75. A pretty drive-and-stop move by Lemon made it 80-77 but the Claws came no closer, thanks to Randolph.

Since playing in every game for the 2015-16 Red Claws, Randolph has earned much bigger paychecks in Italy and France before accepting a training-camp invitation from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Canton’s parent club.

“Levi’s a pro, high IQ,” Canton Coach Nate Reinking said. “Maine, they can score buckets very quickly, especially late in the game, and Levi kind of stemmed the tide with some really nice buckets for us to keep them at bay.”

Randolph was one of the five Canton players with at least 12 points. JaCorey Williams had 18, John Holland 17 and Kobi Simmons 16.

For Maine, Lemon finished with 23 points and 11 assists, and P.J. Dozier chipped in with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

“Whether it’s the start of a quarter or coming out of a timeout, we’ve got to come out with more intensity so we don’t give up those runs,” Lemon said of Maine’s stumble from the gates, particularly in the first half. “We’ve got to do a better job of coming out ready.”

After traveling to Fort Wayne for a Saturday night game, the Claws return to the Expo next Thursday night to face Raptors 905.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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