Deering senior Tasia Titherington has a shot blocked by Lewiston junior Victoria Harris.
Brewster Burns / Sun Journal photos.
Deering seniors Tasia Titherington, left, and Abi Ramirez take the ball from Lewiston freshman Hannah Chaput.
AUGUSTA—A season fraught with challenge and disappointment is still on track to produce a happy ending.
Deering’s girls’ basketball team, the No. 3 seed in Class AA North, had to scratch and claw for 32 minutes in its quarterfinal versus sixth-ranked Lewiston Thursday evening at the Augusta Civic Center, but with their season on the line, the Rams reverted to the clutch form everyone expected from them all along.
Deering started strong, taking a 7-0 lead, but the Blue Devils controlled the rest of the first half, pulling within 9-8 after one quarter and riding a 25-9 run to a seemingly comfortable lead, but as time expired in the first half, Rams senior Tasia Titherington hit a clutch, momentum-turning 3-pointer to cut Lewiston’s deficit to 25-19.
Deering then roared to life in the second half, taking the lead for good on a Titherington three-point play.
The Rams held a 32-29 advantage going to the fourth period, where the Blue Devils refused to go quietly.
On three occasions, Lewiston drew within a basket, the final time on junior Victoria Harris’ three-point play with 28.3 seconds left, but Titherington calmly sank two free throws and Deering managed to close out its 51-47 victory.
Titherington had 17 points, sophomore Delaney Haines added 12 and the Rams improved to 12-7, ended the Blue Devils’ year at 9-10 and advanced to face No. 2 Edward Little (14-4), the reigning regional champion, in the AA North semifinals Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
“This means a lot,” said Titherington. “We’re a team. We don’t want to go home. We want to make it to states.”
Nothing came easily for Deering this winter, as the highly-touted Rams lost senior post standout Amanda Brett to injury and after a 8-2 start to the year, dropped five games out of six, but they finished with wins over Scarborough and Portland to earn the No. 3 seed in Class AA North (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).
Lewiston was a .500 squad and earned the final playoff spot in the region.
Deering won the regular season meeting, 58-42, at home, Dec. 22. The teams had played five prior times in the postseason, with the Rams holding a 3-2 lead (see sidebar, below). The most recent playoff encounter came in the 2003 Western A semifinals (a 42-38 Blue Devils’ victory).
The teams were scheduled to meet Wednesday, but poor weather pushed it back to Thursday where Deering won a game of streaks.
The Rams raced to a 7-0 lead, as Haines made a pair of layups off passes from senior Abi Ramirez and Titherington knocked down a 3-pointer, but Lewiston settled down and rallied.
With 3:57 to go in the first quarter, a leaner from Harris rolled in to break the ice. Harris then scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play.
Ramirez drove for a layup for Deering, but Lewiston freshman Hannah Chaput first made her presence felt off the bench with a free throw and senior Moran Eliasen made it a 9-8 game after one quarter with two foul shots.
The Blue Devils continued to surge in the second period and took the lead.
After Chaput tied the game with a free throw 10 seconds in, she made another for Lewiston’s first advantage of the night.
After an Eliasen layup, Harris made a bank shot to complete a 14-2 run for a 14-9 Blue Devils’ lead.
Haines answered with a short jumper, but senior Skylar Gaudette knocked down a 3 and Harris added a free throw for an 18-11 advantage.
A 3 from Deering senior reserve Sydney Giroux stemmed the tide, but junior Gabrielle Wilson made two foul shots for Lewiston.
Ramirez drove for a layup, but Gaudette sank a 3 and Wilson made a layup to seemingly give the Blue Devils all the momentum heading into halftime.
As time expired, Ramirez fed Titherington behind the 3-point stripe and the senior sharpshooter did the rest, draining her shot to pull Deering within a manageable six, 25-19, at the break.
“At the beginning, we shot too quick,” Titherington said. “We needed to have more rotation, move the ball and get them out of their defense. I knew they’d come out and guard me. I looked at Abi and she looked at me and I knew I could do it.”
“I thought we played terrible offense in the first half,” said Rams coach Mike Murphy. “We were lost, we made bad decisions. We took quick shots. That 3 was huge. Tasia’s a shooter. To find ourselves only down six was a blessing.”
In the first half, Haines and Titherington paced the Rams with six points apiece, but Deering committed 10 turnovers. Harris had eight points for the Blue Devils.
The Rams then came out strong in the second half and regained control.
Haines started the third quarter scoring with a driving layup. Sophomore Victoria Garand was then fouled after an offensive rebound and made two free throws.
After Haines drove coast to coast for a layup after a rebound with 3:10 left to tie it, TItherington’s three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) 21 seconds later put Deering ahead to stay, 28-25.
Freshman Madeline Foster ended the Blue Devils’ 5:38 drought and the Rams’ 12-0 run with a driving layup with 2:33 left in the frame, but Deering sophomore Ashleigh Mathisen got a long jumper to rattle home and Mathisen set up Garand for a layup.
With 1:12 left, Foster’s layup pulled Lewiston within three, 32-29, heading for the fourth quarter.
Where the Rams did just enough to hold on.
Haines set up Garand for layup to start the fourth and Garand added a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to seven, but the Blue Devils got a layup from Harris and a corner 3 from Chaput, cutting the deficit to 36-34 with 6:31 to play.
After Ramirez prevented Lewiston’s bid for the tie by stealing the ball and making a layup, Titherington made two foul shots with 4:23 to go, stretching the lead to 40-34.
Gaudette was fouled while shooting a 3 and hit two free throws, but Titherington answered with a pair with 3:38 left, making it a six-point game again, 42-36.
The Blue Devils got consecutive layups from Harris to again pull within two, but again, Deering countered, as Haines fed Garand for a layup and sophomore Mandy Mastropasqua added a foul shot for a 45-40 lead with 1:30 to play.
Lewiston kept coming, getting a layup from Chaput and a pair of Harris free throws with 1:05 remaining to draw within one, but Titherington again came up huge at the line, sinking a pair of free throws for a 47-44 advantage.
The Blue Devils had a chance to tie the game with a 3, but Ramirez forced a turnover.
With 55.2 seconds left, Ramirez went to the line and like Titherington, she wouldn’t be denied, making both attempts to make it a two-possession contest.
Lewiston made one last charge, as with 28.3 seconds remaining, Harris scored on a putback while being fouled and she added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play, cutting the deficit to 49-47.
Deering remained poised, however, and with 24.4 seconds showing, Titherington was fouled (Harris picked up her fifth) and once again, she made both attempts.
“We want the ball in Tasia’s hands when teams are going to foul,” Murphy said. “She knocked them down when she had to.”
The Blue Devils couldn’t muster another score and the Rams were able to celebrate their 51-47 triumph.
“We wanted to hold the ball more in the second half,” Titherington said. “They wanted to shoot, shoot and shoot and if we had the ball, they wouldn’t like that. We also wanted to get (Harris) in foul trouble.”
“These kids bounce back,” Murphy said. “They don’t quit. It’s the beauty of coaching them. The kids have gigantic hearts. They just give you that second, third and fourth effort that you need. Abi is so tough. Tasia’s tough. The seniors have been here. Delaney is tough. She’s been sick and was in foul trouble, but she had a great second half for us. Harris is a great player. She’s tough to handle. I thought she played under control, so keeping her off the floor was a blessing for us after she got fouls. Victoria played great minutes defensively.
Titherington led Deering with 17 points. She also had three steals. Haines finished with 12 points despite foul trouble and illness. She also had three steals, three assists, two rebounds and a blocked shot. Ramirez wound up with eight points and six assists, Garand had eight points and seven rebounds, Giroux three points, Mathisen two and Mastropasqua one.
The Rams made an amazing 16 of 17 free throws and overcame 17 turnovers.
Lewiston’s effort was paced by Harris, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Also scoring for the Blue Devils were Chaput with eight points, Gaudette with eight points (six rebounds and two steals), Eliasen with six (to go with eight boards), Foster four and Wilson four (to go with two blocks and two steals).
The Blue Devils had a commanding 36-19 edge on the glass, but made just 14 of 21 free throws and turned the ball over 19 times.
The Rams will get a test from Edward Little in Tuesday’s semifinal. On Dec. 15, at full strength, Deering won, 54-40, in Auburn. The teams have no playoff history.
The Rams are playing with house money at this point and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them.
“(Edward Little) played a 1-3-1 (zone) last time and we knocked down every shot,” Titherington said. “Shooting here is difficult, but I know we can knock shots down if our heads are in the game.”
“I’m pleased,” said Murphy. “The kids have rallied playing without Brett. It’s vacation. We’re not going to Florida, so let’s play basketball. They take it to heart. Anything can happen.”
2003 Western A semifinals
Lewiston 42 Deering 38
2001 Western A third round
Deering 37 Lewiston 30
1992 Western A quarterfinals
Lewiston 42 Deering 40
1990 Western A preliminary round
Deering 61 Lewiston 49
1975 Western A quarterfinals
Deering 38 Lewiston 33