PORTLAND—The Deering and Windham girls’ basketball teams were tied for fourth in the Western Class A Heal Point standings entering Tuesday night’s matchup at Portland.
It was the Marissa MacMillan show for the Rams and the Eagles got another remarkable effort from sparkplug Meghan Gribbin, but it was MacMillan’s squad that came out on top, 41-32.
The 6-foot-4 force finished with 17 points (just four in the first half), 16 rebounds and added three assists and some blocks while severely altering countless other Eagles’ attempts. Gribbin also had four first half points, but came alive in the second half to finish with a game high 19 (including three 3-pointers).
Deering senior Ella Ramonas had the monumental task of guarding Gribbin and for the most part did a very impressive job. Windham’s Stephanie Frost was face-guarding and exerting all her energy on Ramonas, making it difficult for her to get in a rhythm offensively. However, if you try too hard to shut down one option, the Rams will find another for sure.
In the second half, nearly every possession for their respected teams was running through either MacMillan or Gribbin. MacMillan and company struggled from the free throw line and finished just 7-for-25 (28 percent). Had a few more fallen, the Rams could have easily pulled out to a more comfortable lead down the stretch. Windham only got to the line six times, making five.
“Ella on the ball is so long and lanky that it’s tough,” said Deering coach Mike Murphy. “Gribbin’s a very good player. Tough to hold her down, but I thought Ella did a nice job on her.”
Deering’s team defense nearly shut out Windham in the first quarter, but Gribbin snuck in a layup as the buzzer sounded to make it 9-2 after one period. Alexis Stephenson, Maura Densmore, and Chelsea Saucier contributed in the second quarter to build a 20-10 Deering halftime lead. Saucier and Ramonas were very instrumental in successful ball handling. Saucier notched a handful of assists in the game with three to MacMillan down low.
“Marissa, in that post, she’s big,” said Murphy. “But she’s big on both sides of the floor.”
That she is. Nearly every time she touched the ball down low, two Eagles were all over her. A lot of times the refs let opponents get away with some fouls on her, too, primarily because of her size. But MacMillan has a keen awareness and often looked to pass the ball after receiving it on the post to pick up easy assists.
“A lot of times they double team me,” said MacMillan. “So we have LeeAnn (Downs) and all the other players cutting and I can just pass to them.”
But more often than not, the center was looking to make a move towards the rim, whether she made it cleanly, missed it, got fouled, or missed it after a lot of contact but no whistle.
“Windham’s a very good quality (team),” Murphy said. “They don’t give up. They’re tough nosed. It’s a quality team. I’m very happy with the way my kids played.”
MacMillan scored Deering’s first four points of the third quarter inside to make it 24-12 with 5:46 to play. But Gribbin answered quickly with a 3-pointer and a jump shot to make it 24-17 with 2:55 left. Downs then drove from the top of the arc to make a smooth lefty layup. Gribbin answered again with her own layup for a 26-19 score with 1:40 to play. Saucier found MacMillan down low for an easy bucket, Gribbin buried another 3-pointer, and then Saucier dished it low for another MacMillan bunny. A MacMillan free throw capped the third quarter at 31-22 Deering. The points in the paint came very naturally for the Rams in the third.
“I thought our game plan was to play behind her, let her catch it and make post moves, and I thought our bigs did a nice job,” said Windham coach Jessie Cummings. “She just had some baskets that fell tonight.
“We could very easily face Deering in the quarterfinals, so moving forward we need to get some wins, keep playing strong, we just have to keep coming together as a team.”
The Rams were able to maintain at least a seven-point lead throughout the fourth quarter despite shooting six-for-16 from the foul line. MacMillan scored on a no hesitation post move and then shortly after made two free throws to make it 38-27 with 2:38 left in the game. Windham’s Diandra Berthiaume scored inside, Saucier made a free throw, and then Bebe Butts made a deep desperation 3-pointer to make it 39-32 with 38 seconds to play. Ramonas and Saucier broke the vicious press and Saucier made two free throws with 19 seconds remaining to close the 41-32 final.
“We practice that a lot (press breaker),” said Ramonas. “A lot of teams have pressed us so we’re getting used to it, and we know where each other will be most of the time and we’ve been doing it very well.”
Windham’s shots weren’t falling as they have in the past. But of course, with an elite defender like Ramonas all over the court and the towering MacMillan controlling the paint, most opponents will find their field goal percentages decrease.
“We set a lot more screens in the second half,” said Gribbin. “So that made it easier for us to get open. But our shots weren’t falling and theirs were. So I think if we face them again and our shots fall it will be a much better game.”
Ramonas credits an overall team defense to the successful night.
“People can’t really drive on (MacMillan) because they can’t get their shots up over, so we just knew we had to contain their players,” said Ramonas. “If Gribbin got by me, we had help side and when they kicked it, our players got back really well. We just talked really well and switched and did a good job.”
Stephenson and Downs had six points apiece and Saucier added five.
The Rams (now 10-4 and fourth behind McAuley, Scarborough and Marshwood in the Western A Heals), travels to Portland to take on the Bulldogs Thursday. A home game with Gorham and trips to Cheverus and South Portland wrap up the regular season.
The Eagles (9-4 and fifth in the standings) are back in action Friday at Kennebunk.