SCARBOROUGH—Coming off its first loss of the 2011-12 season, a sloppy loss at that, the Deering boys’ basketball team faced a stern test Monday afternoon in a holiday matinee at up-and-coming Scarborough.
The Red Storm had already knocked off Cheverus and nearly won at Portland earlier in the season, but despite a valiant effort, couldn’t hand the Rams a second successive defeat.
Deering took much better care of the basketball, featured great flow on offense, both inside and out, and broke open a close game with a 15-2 run to end the third period en route to a 55-44 triumph.
Thanks to a game-high 22 points from senior Jon Amabile and 15 more from junior Labson Abwoch, the Rams improved to 10-1 and dropped Scarborough to 6-5.
“This made a nice statement,” said Deering coach Dan LeGage. “We were coming off a loss where we didn’t play well. I was waiting to see how the kids would react.”
Deering, which lost to Bonny Eagle in last year’s semifinals, has lived up to preseason billing as a top team in Western A this winter, leading the league in both offense and defense at the midway point.
The first nine games resulted in Rams’ victories over host Thornton Academy (62-41), visiting Marshwood (67-64) and Massabesic (82-31), host Noble (78-36), visiting Sanford (63-31), host Bonny Eagle (57-55, in overtime), visiting Kennebunk (73-25), host South Portland (40-29) and visiting Biddeford (61-48).
Friday, Deering raced to a 20-7 win at Cheverus, but was done in by 28 turnovers in a 49-40 loss to the Stags.
Scarborough, which missed the playoffs in 2010-11 with an 8-10 mark, has had its moments this season.
After opening with a 51-46 win at Gorham, the Red Storm was bested at home by Westbrook (44-38) and Marshwood (60-51). After winning at Windham (60-51), Scaborough closed the pre-holiday portion of its schedule with a hard-fought, but ultimately confidence-building 63-60 overtime loss at Portland. After beating Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Greely to take the Portland High Holiday tournament, the Red Storm returned to league play with a 52-24 home win over Biddeford. After falling at South Portland, 60-39, Scarborough held off visiting Thornton Academy, 49-44, stunned Cheverus for the first time ever (59-44), then downed host Noble Friday, 61-43.
Since the Red Storm joined the Southern Maine Activities Association in 2003-04, it hadn’t enjoyed much luck against Deering, losing the schools’ first seven meetings by an average of 26 points, but last winter, at home, Scarborough defeated the Rams, 42-28.
Monday, Deering returned to form.
The Red Storm drew first blood on a turnaround jumper from senior Ben Wessel, but Amabile sank a 3 and after a steal and foul, Amabile made two free throws for a 5-2 advantage. Scarborough answered when Wessel scored on a left-handed leaner, but Rams senior Cal London (starting in the place of sophomore Chhorda Chorn, who was sidelined with illness) scored on a putback and Amabile made a layup after another steal to make it 9-4.
Scarborough rallied and got two foul shots from senior Kolbey Adams and a 3-ball from Wessel to tie the score, but Abwoch made two free throws, then completed a nice high-low sequence, taking a pass from Amabile and making a layup. A 3 from senior David Conceison in the waning seconds pulled the Red Storm within 13-12 after one period.
While Deering had its offense going early, the best news for the Rams was that it took 6 minutes and 21 seconds to commit its first turnover.
Deering threatened to open it up early in the second quarter when Amabile scored on a putback, junior Thiwat Thiwat did the same and Amabile and Abwoch converted another high-low look, this time with Abwoch slamming the ball home for a 19-12 lead.
After junior Brendan Hall hit a jumper and classmate Dillon Russo scored on a putback to pull Scarborough back to 19-16, Amabile hit a jumper. Russo answered with a 3-ball and with 4:18 remaining in the half, Conceison did the same to put the Red Storm on top, 22-21.
The Rams retook the lead at the other end on a tough-angle bank shot in traffic from Abwoch. Amabile made a contested bank shot before Wessel scored on a floater to cut Deering’s advantage to 25-24 at halftime.
While the visitors had only committed four turnovers and had played very well, Scarborough wouldn’t go away.
The Rams finally got some breathing room in the third quarter.
Thirty-six seconds into the second half, Wessel made a fadeaway jumper to put the hosts on top and Hall added two free throws for a 28-25 lead, but that would be the Red Storm’s high water mark.
After Thiwat scored on a leaner, senior Pat Green made his presence felt with a 3 that put Deering back on top, 30-28. After Wessel tied the score with a fadeaway jumper, Green sank another 3 and the Rams were ahead for good.
Before the third period ended, Abwoch scored on a putback, Abwoch converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Amabile fed Abwoch for a layup and a 40-30 lead.
“We knew (Scarborough would) come out hot off their Cheverus win, which was huge,” LeGage said. “They were flying high. We knew they’d come out firing. In the second half, I think we woke up and snapped out of it.”
Scarborough hoped to rally and got within eight when Conceison scored on a reverse layup a minute into the final stanza, but Amabile scored on a floater, buried a step back 3-pointer and Green made two free throws for a 47-32 advantage with 5:08 remaining.
Conceison ended the 22-4 run with a free throw, Russo sank a 3, then made a layup after a steal to cut the deficit to 47-38 with 2:52 to still to play.
With 1:42 left, Deering pushed the lead back to 12 when London made a layup, was fouled and sank the free throw. After Red Storm senior Conor McCann made a free throw and junior Kevin Manning made a driving layup, London scored on a driving layup, Amabile made two free throws and Abwoch scored on a putback to end all doubt. In the waning seconds, McCann made a 3 and London accounted for the 55-44 score with a free throw.
“We figured if we didn’t turn it over tonight, we’d have the lead,” Amabile said. “When we don’t focus, we make mistakes. It was mental focus. We didn’t rush anything. We started to get it inside more. They couldn’t stop the inside game and when they doubled down, the outside was open. We played hard the whole way.”
“We were playing a little harder, especially in the post,” Abwoch said. “Once we posted up harder in the second half, it opened it up and we could play our in and out game. I give credit to my teammates for looking for me when I was open.”
“Scarborough’s a good team,” LeGage added. “They’re dangerous. They have good players. They’re difficult to match up with since they can shoot. They’re aggressive and they’re fast. They’re all mid-sized, but they’re fast and they can shoot. This is not an easy place to play. Last year, they beat us.
“I thought we had an advantage inside and tried to exploit that. Things got easier for Amabile and Green as soon as we established the interior and they got going. What this does for us, since they have a win over Cheverus, it kind of erases our loss a little bit (in regards to the Heal Points standings). A little bit of that damage.”
Amabile, who entered the game as the Southern Maine Activities Association’s second leader scorer, improved on his 19.2 scoring average with a game high 22 points. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and registered two steals.
“Jon obviously is Jon,” LeGage said. “They keyed so much on him that we got easy buckets.”
Abwoch, leading the league with 11 rebounds per game, had 15 points, seven boards, six blocked shots, an assist and a steal. His interior partner played a big role in his success.
“I thought Thiwat was more active and the more active he is, the more we can utilize Labson,” LeGage said. “When Thiwat’s active, they have to pay attention to him because he’s a load and he rebounds. That makes it difficult to double team Labson. (Labson) has some big-time skills. He has to work on getting stronger and playing stronger.”
Green finished with eight points, London was solid off the bench with six (to go with eight boards and a steal) and Thiwat had four (along with six rebounds, two steals and a block).
“Pat Green is steady as they come,” LeGage said. “Thiwat played big. Chhorda was sick, so we started Cal and he was great today.”
Best of all, Deering (which made 11 of 15 free throws) turned the ball over a mere nine times, 19 fewer than Friday night.
“We kept in mind we couldn’t get close to 28 turnovers today,” Abwoch said. “We had less than half of that today and that helped us.”
“We did a much better job taking care of the ball,” LeGage added. “We had a spirited practice Saturday and we’ll have one tomorrow too.”
For Scarborough, Wessel led the way with 13 points, four boards and a block. Russo had 10 points (two steals and two rebounds), Conceison nine (and six boards), Hall (four rebounds) and McCann four apiece and Adams (a game-high nine rebounds) and Manning two points each.
The Red Storm gave the ball away 12 times and made 6 of 8 from the charity stripe.
“We stopped scoring,” lamented Scarborough coach Joe Johnson. “We just didn’t shoot it well. You’ll have games like that. You have to do other things when shots aren’t falling for you. I think Amabile has a bright future ahead of him with basketball. We knew he was their man and couldn’t stop him.
“We played a fast pace with seven guys. We beat TA and Cheverus, but it came back to bite us today. We have to do more than shoot the long ball offensively. Deering is the best team and we were right there with them. I’d love to see them again in the playoffs.”
Scarborough(sixth in the Western A Heals) is idle until Friday, when it goes to Biddeford. Next Tuesday, the Red Storm visits Kennebunk.
Scarborough is in the thick of the playoff hunt and expects to keep improving.
“We’ll get better,” Johnson said. “We need to tune some things up. It’s a roller coaster ride. Our theme is to be consistent. I feel comfortable with these guys. I know they’ll respond. We’re doing the right things.”
Deering (first in the standings) is also off until Friday when it hosts Westbrook. Next Tuesday, the Rams are at Windham. Deering also still has two games remaining versus Portland and one each against Cheverus and South Portland.
Deering might be the team to beat in Western A, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We’re a good team,” said Amabile. “We’ll go hard in practice and stay focused and play smart. Everybody likes each other. We have great chemistry.”
“I feel like we’re taking big steps and are going in the right direction,” Abwoch said. “We’re trying harder in practice and that helps a lot. We need to lock down and be as focused as we’ve ever been. The loss brought us together this weekend. If we remember how that feels, I think we’ll be OK.”
“It’s all about positioning for the playoffs,” LeGage said. “We still play all the top teams. We’ll have to crank down and continue to work on taking care of the ball. When we take care of the ball and get quality possessions, we have so many guys who can put the ball in the hole.”
Deering senior Jon Amabile finds himself in no man’s land as Scarborough senior Ben Wessel (30) and junior Dillon Russo close in. Amabile led all scorers with 22 points.
Scarborough junior Brendan Hall attempts to drive on Deering junior Dominic Lauture.
Deering senior Jon Amabile drives past Scarborough junior Dillon Russo for two points.
Deering coach Dan LeGage barks out instructions to junior Dominic Lauture as he guards Scarborough junior Dillon Russo. Monday’s win was extra sweet for LeGage as he earned family bragging rights over his older brother, Mike, who is the Scarborough High athletic director.
Deering junior Labson Abwoch slams home a basket during Monday’s 55-44 win at Scarborough. Abwoch finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
More photos below.
D- 13 12 15 15- 55
S- 12 12 6 14- 44
D- Amabile 8-4-22, Abwoch 6-3-15, Green 2-2-8, London 2-2-6, Thiwat 2-0-4
S- Wessel 6-0-13, Russo 4-0-10, Conceison 3-1-9, Hall 1-2-4, McCann 1-1-4, Adams 0-2-2, Manning 1-0-2
D (4) Amabile, Green 2
S (6) Conceison, Russo 2, McCann, Wessel 1
D (29) London 8, Abwoch 7, Thiwat 6, Amabile 5, Green 2, Chorn 1
S (29) Adams 9, Conceison 6, Hall, Wessel 4, Manning, McCann, Russo 2
D (7) Amabile, Thiwat 2, Abwoch, Ater, London 1
S (2) Russo 2
D (7) Abwoch 6, Thiwat 1
S (1) Wessel 1