Round one goes to Deering; Rams dominate Bulldogs, 65-42
PORTLAND—Deering’s one-two punch of junior guard Jon Amabile and sophomore center Labson Abwoch was enough to send Portland reeling in Friday night’s crosstown boys’ basketball rivalry matchup.
Amabile and Abwoch combined for 46 points as the Rams opened up a 20-point halftime lead and were never threatened thereafter, defeating the visiting Bulldogs, 65-42.
Deering improved to 9-4 while Portland dropped to 6-6.
Amabile (who also had three steals and three rebounds) scored eight of his 20 points in the first quarter, spearheading the Rams’ transition game by forcing turnovers at the top of the zone defense and pushing the ball hard to the rim. But he picked up his second foul with 1:29 left in the first, and was forced to the bench. Portland hung close, trailing just 12-11 after one.
Junior guard Pat Green got the Rams rolling in the second quarter, knocking down a 3-pointer to start, assisting on Abwoch bucket, and then adding a two of his own to make it 19-11 less than two minutes in.
Midway through the second, a 3 from Portland junior Mike Herrick reduced the Bulldogs’ deficit to 21-16, but Abwoch quickly answered with a three-point play on a putback, starting a 14-0 run from which Portland could not recover.
Amabile reentered and scored on a fast break, then added two free throws. Abwoch scored again following an offensive rebound. Amabile banked in a shot on a drive. Abwoch added another putback. A free throw by senior Eddie Flaherty made it 35-16. Portland finally broke the run with a free throw from senior Dylan Goodman, but Abwoch’s follow-up hoop in transition made it 37-17 at halftime.
“In the second quarter, our inexperience showed and the players got away from our game plan,” said Portland coach Joe Russo. “That was the difference in the game. We’re young. We’re inexperienced. We’re not an offensive team. So our best defense sometimes is a deliberate offense. It was 12-11, which was good. We thought we could put some pressure on them and try some things. Then we took some bad shots and forced some bad passes.”
Abwoch had 11 of his game-high 26 points in the second quarter, nine of them coming off offensive rebounds. He had 12 boards for the game and also blocked five shots.
“If you miss a layup, you know he’s going to get it, so no worries about that,” Amabile said of his 6-foot-6 teammate.
“He’s a talented kid,” said Deering coach Dan LeGage. “He’s been working really hard at playing physical and playing strong. He was getting hit, but he was still finishing tonight. He was 8-for-8 from the free throw line. I thought tonight he performed like I know he’s capable of. He had 26 (points), 12 (rebounds) and five (blocks) tonight.”
Portland got no closer than 15 in the second half. Deering extended its lead to 53-30 at the end of the third quarter.
“We just played hard defense and kept running the floor,” Abwoch said. “Our zone was working good. It helped us out a lot.”
It was a pivotal win for the Rams, who have now won four of five and entered the game sixth in the Western Maine Class A Heal Point Standings. They have three games scheduled for next week against potential playoff teams: at Windham on Tuesday, at South Portland on Thursday, and at home versus Marshwood on Saturday.
“Tonight was huge,” LeGage said. “(Portland) had a win over (South Portland) and we didn’t beat (South Portland) the first time. That bumped them up. Our whole emphasis has been on playing four quarters with high energy, high enthusiasm and a lot of communication. I thought tonight the guys did a nice job with their rotations. They were pointing and talking and boxing out.”
The youthful Bulldogs entered the night ranked ninth, one spot out of the tournament picture. They’re back in action Saturday at 7 p.m., visiting the undefeated defending state champs from Cheverus.
Russo said he was pleased with the way his reserves — which included three freshmen — closed out the game and plans to reward them for their efforts.
“The kids that finished the game will start the game tomorrow night,” Russo said. “They fought hard.”
Herrick paced Portland with 10 points. After he torched South Portland for 32 points in the Bulldogs’ 80-71 triple-overtime win, LeGage focused on shutting him down.
“Herrick is a very good player,” LeGage said. “In terms of shooting, we knew he was their perimeter guy. I thought we did a good job matching up on him. He got off and scored eight points in the first half, but we made an adjustment at halftime to stop him and he only had two in the second half. After watching him have 32 against South Portland, we obviously were pretty concerned.”
Green finished with eight points for Deering. Senior Riko Augustino chipped in five, junior Nick DiBiase had three, senior John Hughes had two, and Flaherty scored one. Senior Jamie Ross did not score, but was a force on the boards.
For Portland, junior Pete Donato had eight points, senior Matt McInnis scored five, sophomore Nate Smart and freshman Jayvon Pitts-Young each had four, Goodman and freshmen Matt Talbot and Justin Zukowski all scored three, and sophomore Nick Volger had two.
Round two between the Rams and Bulldogs is slated for Feb. 10 at the Portland Expo. It is the regular-season finale for both teams.