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Deering freshman Delaney Haines defends Oxford Hills’ Alyssa Hanley during the Vikings’ 45-35 win in Tuesday’s Class AA North semifinal.
Andree Kehn / Sun Journal photos.
More photos below.
AUGUSTA—Once again, playing at the Augusta Civic Center meant the Deering girls’ basketball team got off to a slow start.
Once again, the Rams roared back.
But this time, they couldn’t quite complete the comeback and as a result, a memorable season has come to a close.
Tuesday evening, six nights after rallying for a stirring quarterfinal round victory over Cheverus on the same floor, fourth-ranked Deering met No. 1 seed Oxford Hills in a Class AA North semifinal and after tying the game early, 5-5, the Rams played from behind the rest of the way.
The Vikings hit three 3-pointers in the first period and built a 15-8 lead. Oxford Hills had a comfortable advantage for most of the second quarter too but a 3-pointer from Rams junior Tasia Titherington pulled Deering within seven, 23-16, at the break.
The Vikings almost paid for not putting the Rams away, as Deering pulled within two on a Titherington free throw and the margin was still just two points, 29-27, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, the Rams again crept within two, 37-35, on two Titherington foul shots with 2:34 to go, and Deering got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead, but the Rams turned it over and down the stretch, Oxford Hills made its free throws and went on to a 45-35 victory.
Titherington had 15 points, but the Vikings did just enough to improve to 16-3, end Deering’s season at 12-8 and advance to meet No. 2 Edward Little (15-4) in the Class AA North Final Friday at 7 p.m.
“We were always chasing them, but we made it a game,” Rams coach Mike Murphy said. “They knocked down their free throws at the end. They’re a good team.”
Deering wasn’t exactly on fire heading into the tournament, going just 4-5 in the second half of the season, and the Rams dug a 15-point deficit in last Wednesday’s AA North quarterfinal against Cheverus, but they saved their best for last, had a huge fourth quarter and advanced, 50-43.
Oxford Hills was 15-3 this season, losing only at Edward Little and Cheverus and at home to Bangor. The Vikings closed the year on a 10-game surge and grabbed the top seed in the region and with it, a bye into the semifinals.
The Rams lost the regular season meeting, 44-37, in Oxford Jan. 18. Senior standout Tiana Sugars and sophomore Maighread Laliberte both had 14 points, while Titherington led Deering with a game-high 17 points.
Heading into play Tuesday, the Rams had won both prior playoff meetings, with a 55-43 victory in the 2008 Class A Final the most recent.
While Deering already had a game in Augusta under its belt, Oxford Hills hadn’t played a meaningful game in 12 days.
It didn’t matter, as the Vikings were solid most of the way.
For the second straight game, the Rams started slowly and the Vikings took a quick 5-0 lead behind a 3 from junior Erin Eastman and a pair of free throws from junior Erin Morton.
Deering broke the ice with 6:30 to go in the first quarter, when freshman Delaney Haines scored on a runner and with 4:10 left, Titherington knocked down a 3 to tie the score.
Sugars’ first points came on an up-and-under layup and after junior Amanda Brett made a free throw, Morton sank another 3.
Junior sparkplug Abi Ramirez scored her first points on a jumper, but Oxford Hills kept the long range bombing going, as senior Alyssa Hanley buried a 3. Sugars then scored on a turnaround jumper for a 15-8 lead after one quarter.
In the second period, Ramirez hit a free throw, but after Sugars rejected a Ramirez layup, senior Jayden Colby hit a 3 to put the Vikings up, 18-9.
After Deering freshman Victoria Garand hit a baseline jumper, Titherington drove for a layup to cut the deficit to five, but Eastman buried another 3 and Laliberte set up freshman Jadah Adams for a layup.
It looked like Oxford Hills would have the momentum going to the locker room, but as time expired, Titherington knocked down a 3 to pull the Rams within seven, 23-16.
Titherington led all scorers in the first half with eight points and Deering held Sugars to four, but the Vikings, behind six points from Eastman and five from Morton, held the lead.
In the third period, Sugars became more of an offensive force, the Rams hung tough.
Sugars started the second half with a layup, but Brett scored her first field goal on a putback and Haines made two free throws.
Ramirez was then called for her third foul, but stayed in the game.
After Sugars pushed the lead to seven with a bank shot, Ramirez set up Brett for a layup, then Ramirez appeared to bank home a 3-pointer, only to have it ruled a two-point shot. Titherington added a foul shot to cut the deficit to two, but Ramirez picked up her fourth foul with 3:12 left in the frame.
“The fouls hurt because Abi could get in the seams of their defense and create havoc,” Murphy said.
Two free throws by Adams made it a two-possession contest.
With 3.5 seconds remaining, Titherington was fouled while shooting a 3 and hit two of three free throws to cut Oxford Hills’ lead to 29-27 heading for the final quarter.
Where the Vikings eventually put it away.
Eleven seconds in, Hanley made both ends of a one-and-one, but with 7:23 left, Brett took a pass from freshman Mandy Mastropasqua and made a layup to again cut the deficit to two.
With 7:13 remaining, Sugars set up Adams for a bank shot.
Ramirez returned with 5:45 to play and 30 seconds later, set up Brett for a layup.
Deering then had a chance to tie, but Ramirez missed and at the other end, Morton drove for a layup and a 35-31 lead with 4:30 to go.
After Morton added a free throw, Titherington hit two, but Colby answered with one to give the Vikings a 37-33 advantage with 3:02 remaining.
With 2:34 to play, Titherington cut the deficit to two with two free throws and after Morton missed two foul shots, the Rams had a chance to tie it or go ahead, but they lost the ball out of bounds and Colby made them play by driving for a contested bank shot to make it 39-35 with 1:47 to go.
After Titherington was called for a charge, her fourth foul, Sugars hit two free throws.
After Brett’s leaner went in and out, Hanley made two more free throws.
Titherington missed a 3 and with 20.9 seconds left, two more Sugars foul shots brought the curtain down on Oxford Hills’ 45-35 win.
“I’m overall very pleased with our effort,” Murphy said. “I’m proud of the kids for coming back. It came down to being able to take care of the ball. Our unforced errors. We needed to be stronger with the ball. In the first game we played them, they didn’t make a shot outside the paint. Tonight, they couldn’t miss. We wanted to push the tempo. They like to get back in their zone. We wanted Sugars to expend energy.”
Sugars had 12 points and 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Morton added eight points (and three assists), Hanley seven and Adams, Colby and Eastman six apiece.
The Vikings only turned the ball over 10 times and made 14 of 24 free throws.
Oxford Hills met Edward Little split during the regular season, as the Red Eddies won at home, 41-32, Dec. 8 and the Vikings won in Oxford, 42-28, Feb. 2.
Deering was led by Titherington, who had a game-high 15 points. She also had six rebounds and three steals.
Brett had nine points and five rebounds, Ramirez five points, Haines four and Garand two. Senior Cassidy Coyne bowed out with six rebounds, a block and a steal off the bench.
The Rams only turned the ball over seven times, but lived to rue their 11 of 17 foul shooting.
Last year, Deering was ousted in the quarterfinals. This season, the Rams got to the semis and while the season ended in disappointment, they did have their moments.
“I thought the kids overachieved this year,” Murphy said. “I’m very pleased with their effort this season.”
The Rams graduate Coyne, Delaney Donovan and Micary Verville, but return the likes of Brett, Garand, Haines, Ramirez, Titherington and Mastropasqua, who had a solid freshman season.
They hope to go even deeper in 2016-17.
“We can still get physically stronger,” Murphy said. “It’ll take time commitment and getting into the weight room. Most of our core will be back. We’ll see what we can do.”
Deering’s Delaney Donovan, left, Amanda Brett and Delaney Haines surround Oxford Hills’ Jayden Colby.
Deering’s Victoria Garand defends Jayden Colby under the basket.