PORTLAND — Pressure defense and superior play from the guard position helped the Deering boys’ basketball team jump out to a 16-point halftime lead and cruise past the Scarborough Red Storm, 68-46, on Stevens Avenue Friday night.
Deering fell behind early before ripping off 13 straight points as part of a 17-2 run that closed out the first quarter. The Rams played a suffocating brand of team defense and shot the ball particularly well from the field to open a 37-22 halftime advantage that swelled to 51-30 after three quarters.
With a seemingly endless procession of athletic guards filing in and out of the lineup, the Rams dictated the pace of the game with opportunistic defense and unselfish play in transition to run away from the Red Storm and improve to 3-0 (Deering previously defeated Bonny Eagle, 64-51 and Sanford, 63-48).
Junior guard Nick Colucci and senior center Eddie Tirabassi each finished with 15 points to pace the Rams. Sophomore guard John Amabile, after scoring 30 in the season opener at Bonny Eagle, earned the start and added 11 points. Junior guard Dennis Ross chimed in with eight of his own for a Deering team that’s so far won handily.
Scarborough (2-1) took a 4-0 lead early, but Amabile scored the Rams’ first five points of the game for the lead, before Colucci took over and scored 10 of the Rams’ next 12 points for a 17-6 advantage after the first quarter.
Amabile hit a short jumper to begin the streak, then added a basket and one foul shot when he hauled in a long pass from Ross ahead of the pack and was fouled while converting an easy layup. Amabile’s freebie pulled the Rams ahead for good at 5-4.
The rest of the first was all Colucci.
Colucci buried a pair of 3-pointers, swished a little one-handed floater in the lane, and finished off a brilliant play by Amabile on the break with a layup to complete his own double-digit quarter.
Amabile picked off a pass in the halfcourt and wheeled around to start the break but was confronted with a Scarborough defender. Instead of running him over, he stopped on a dime and tricky-dribbled behind his back directly in front of the Deering bench and continued down the sideline. Colucci filled the far lane and Amabile dropped a soft bounce pass to him across the paint for an easy two that closed out the first quarter in style for the Rams.
The second quarter provided more of the same, with Deering’s defense forcing the Red Storm to turn the ball over on 11 occasions to help establish the type of tempo the Rams will rely on to win games this season.
Deering has a pair of top-flight big men in Tirabassi and junior Jamie Ross, but in terms of true big men the ranks get thin after that. Without the overall size and depth of some teams beneath the basket, Deering will look to a deep and skilled nucleus of guards to force the action and score easy hoops in transition.
Junior guards Riko Augustino and John Hughes, a transfer from Westbrook, come off the bench and provide the Rams with one of the most talented backcourts in the league.
“We’ve been working hard in practice,” said Colucci. “We have a lot of athletes on this team and mostly we want to push the ball and put pressure on the other team with our defense. If we get open looks from 3 we’ll take them like we did. We didn’t play that great last game and no one was very happy. But we took a step forward tonight and can’t afford to go backwards.”
The second quarter saw more of Deering’s “get out and go” philosophy in action, with Ross scoring on a steal and long pass from Colucci, giving up his own steal to Amabile for a bucket in transition, and slashing down the lane on the dribble drive for two while being fouled in the process of finishing in the paint. Ross hit the and-one. Hughes checked in and added one foul shot, then fed Nick DiBiase for a long 3-pointer and a 37-22 lead for the Rams at intermission.
“Scarborough is a good team,” said Deering coach Dan LeGage. “They came in 2-0. They got some good athletes and will win their share of games. The difference for us was we played good defense. We played as a team at both ends. That was our best effort so far. We took strides in terms of being unselfish. The kids have started to figure out that when they communicate on defense and share the ball we’re pretty good.”
Deering kept the pressure on when Tirabassi fueled a decisive 12-4 run after the break with a pair of hoops to open up a 48-26 advantage midway into the third quarter. Colucci drilled his third and final 3-pointer in the closing minutes of the quarter to help extend the Rams’ lead to 51-30 after the three.
In the fourth, Tirabassi added three foul shots, Augustino scored all of his four points, and senior Sam Coyne scored two of his four. Ross led the way with five points, draining his only 3 before ending his night with a slick pass to Colucci in the corner for a jumper and a 67-45 lead with just under two minutes left to play.
Scarborough’s Kyle Kelley stuck a pair of 3-pointers from the exact same spot on the floor in the closing moments. Kelley’s first 3 was followed by one Colucci foul shot, and his second bomb and a late bucket in the paint from Red Storm junior Peter Moore (seven points) wrapped up the scoring in the Rams’ convincing 68-46 win.
Scarborough was led by Zach Bean’s 15 points, with Connor Sullivan and Tennessee Peters chipping in with eight points apiece.
Deering is on the road leading up to the holiday break. The Rams were at Gorham Tuesday and travel to Biddeford Friday. They will face perhaps their toughest challenge of 2009 on Tuesday of next week in Saco, when they meet the defending state champion Thornton Academy Trojans.