Maine Girls’ Academy freshman Serena Mower drives on Deering sophomore Delaney Haines during the teams’ contest Friday night. The Lions rallied for a 43-40 victory.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
D- 9 13 12 6- 40
MGA- 12 2 11 18- 43
D- Garrand 5-3-13, Haines 3-0-8, Titherington 2-2-7, Mathison 2-0-6, Giroux 1-0-2, Mastropasqua 1-0-2, Ramirez 1-0-2
MGA- Legassey 4-0-12, Olson 3-0-7, Beaulieu 2-2-6, Reid 3-0-6, Joyce 2-1-5, Mower 1-1-3, Mazur 1-0-2, Weisser 1-0-2
D (5) Haines, Mathison 2, Titherington 1
MGA (5) Legassey 4, Olson 1
PORTLAND—In a season devoid of expectations, the Maine Girls’ Academy basketball team is managing to steal headlines nonetheless.
Friday evening, the Lions awakened the echoes with one of their most improbable victories ever, as they continued their midseason surge.
Hosting rival Deering in the first “Battle of Stevens Avenue” since McAuley became MGA, the Lions, sparked by the return from injury of junior Emily Weisser, got off to a strong start, taking a 12-9 lead after one quarter, but in the continuation of a season-long trend, MGA struggled to put the ball in the basket and the Rams, thanks in large part to sophomore Delaney Haines’ heroics, dominated the second period en route to a 22-14 halftime lead.
Deering went up by 16 points in the third quarter and when Weisser was reinjured, the Lions appeared doomed, but in an effort that will long be remembered and one that could pay dividends next month, they rose off the deck and some how, some way, saved their best for last.
MGA showed life late in the frame, scoring the final seven points, capped by a 3-pointer from junior Madison Legassey, to pull within nine, 34-25.
The Rams still led, 38-32, midway through the fourth quarter, but the Lions kept coming, drew even on a free throw from senior Maddy Beaulieu, then went ahead inside the final minute, as sophomore Catherine Reid made a layup after a steal.
Deering forged a 40-40 tie on two free throws from senior Tasia Titherington with 30.2 seconds left, but MGA wasn’t about to go to overtime or fall short and with 14.5 seconds showing, Legassey calmly hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Lions on top.
The Rams couldn’t answer and MGA held on for a 43-40 triumph, which was without question, its biggest of the year to date.
Legassey had 12 points to pace a balanced attack which saw eight different Lions score, MGA closed on an 11-2 run and improved to 6-8 on the year, dropping Deering to 8-6 in the process.
“It’s a great win,” said Lions coach Billy Goodman. “I don’t know how my girls did it. It’s amazing what they’re doing. Every victory for us is like winning a state championship. We’ll enjoy this.”
The Stevens Avenue Showdown has a slightly different feel this winter as McAuley, a legendary name in high school basketball circles, is now Maine Girls’ Academy.
The Lions are still the Lions, however, and Deering came into the game with plenty of incentive.
The Rams entered the year as one of the favorites in Class AA, but haven’t won as frequently as they expected. Deering opened with a 52-32 victory at Portland, then fell at home to South Portland (57-46) and closed the old year with wins at Edward Little (54-40), at home over Sanford (43-17), at home over Lewiston (58-42) and at Bangor (48-38). The Rams started 2017 with a 56-53 overtime loss at Cheverus and after winning at Massabesic (62-41) and Windham (46-30), fell at Thornton Academy (44-40). Deering got back on track with a 51-31 home victory over Noble, then lost at home to defending Class AA champion Gorham (50-23) and fell at home to Oxford Hills, 37-35.
MGA struggled early, but has improved steadily. The Lions opened with a 58-29 loss at South Portland. After a 49-27 home win over Massabesic, losses to visiting Bonny Eagle (58-45), at Thornton Academy (53-29) and at home to Scarborough (45-32) followed. MGA got back in the win column, 50-38, over visiting Noble, then lost at home at Cheverus (56-32). After a key overtime home win over Marshwood (46-41), the Lions lost at home to South Portland (47-34). A 58-54 victory at Windham was followed by a 70-42 loss at Gorham. After downing host Portland, 47-41, MGA lost a gutwrencher at Massabesic, 47-45, Wednesday.
Friday, the Rams hoped for their first win over the Lions since Feb. 11, 2011 (38-35 at McAuley), but instead, the Lions, healthy for the first time all winter, made it 10 in a row in the series.
The hosts broke the ice on a 3-pointer, fittingly, from Legassey, but Deering responded behind a 3 from sophomore Ashleigh Mathison and a layup from sophomore Victoria Garrand.
The next six points went to MGA, as Weisser made a triumphant entrance by twice hitting the floor before hitting a jumper, Beaulieu made a jump shot and f set up sophomore Jill Joyce for a layup and a 9-5 lead.
The Rams answered, as senior Abi Ramirez drove for a layup and Garrand made another layup, but in the final minute, Joyce hit a short jumper and a free throw from Beaulieu spelled a 12-9 lead.
Deering then dominated the second quarter to open up a lead.
Early in the period, Haines hit a 3 to tie the game and after Garrand made a free throw to put the visitors back on top, Haines buried another 3 from the corner for a 16-12 lead.
Titherington extended the lead with a driving layup before Beaulieu made a layup (from Weisser) with 1:29 to go before halftime to end a 6 minute, 36 second drought and Deering’s 9-0 run.
The Rams bounced right back, however, getting a jumper from senior Sydney Giroux and a coast to coast layup from Haines to take a 22-14 lead to halftime.
Haines led all first half scorers with eight points and Deering forced a dozen turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Rams appeared to all but put the game out of reach, but the Lions simply refused give up.
Deering sophomore Mandy Mastropasqua opened the second half scoring with a rainbow jumper. After Joyce got a point back at the line, Titherington made a 3 and Mastropasqua set up Garrand for a layup and a 29-15 lead with 6:05 to go in the frame.
With 5:02 left, play stopped, as Weisser, who again dove to the floor looking to collect a loose ball, stayed down in pain and had to be helped off after apparently re-injuring her right knee.
“We knew had to play for Emily,” Legassey said. “Off the court, she’s been a great leader for us and she encourages us to do our best. We knew we had to win.”
“Emily is such a special part of our team and seeing her go down, we were shook, but we wanted to win it for her,” Beaulieu said.
“I’m heartbroken for Emily,” added Goodman, who was emotional discussing her uncertain status the remainder of the season in the postgame.
The Rams then pushed the lead to 16 on a layup by Garrand, but Legassey countered with a timely 3.
After Mathison made a 3 to make it 34-18, Olson made a jumper, Olson scored on a putback and late in the quarter, Legassey’s 3 pulled the Lions within single digits, 34-25.
In the fourth, MGA kept coming and was eventually rewarded.
Garrand got things started with a pair of free throws, but Mower hit a leaner, Olson drained a 3 and sophomore Zoe Mazur’s jumper cut the deficit to 36-32 with 5:42 to go.
After Legassey missed a 3 which would have made it a one-possession game, Garrand spun and made a layup with 4:54 left for a 38-32 lead, but the Lions weren’t fazed.
Nineteen seconds later, Mower was fouled and hit one free throw. After Ramirez was whistled for her fourth foul, Mazur kept the ball alive, then fed Reid for a leaner with 4:12 remaining to make it a one-possession game, 38-35.
With 3:44 left, Reid stole the ball and raced in for a layup and just like that, it was a one-point contest.
Twenty-nine seconds later, the comeback was complete, as Beaulieu made one of two foul shots to tie it.
MGA had a chance to take the lead after a Deering turnover, but Olson missed a 3.
Reid then got the ball back, forcing a tie up, but at the other end, Legassey was off target with a 3.
Reid again came up huge on the defensive end, stealing the ball and racing in and making a layup with 36.8 seconds remaining, giving the Lions their first lead since the early second quarter, 40-38.
But the Rams weren’t about to roll over and with 30.2 seconds to go, Titherington was fouled and calmly sank both attempts to tie the score, 40-40.
Out of a timeout, MGA regained the lead, as Reid got the ball in the corner to Legassey, who with 14.5 seconds showing, buried the biggest 3-pointer of her young life for a 43-40 lead.
“I was open and I shot it,” Legassey said. “I was like, ‘I shouldn’t shoot a 3,’ but then it went in and I was like, ‘Alright!’ It felt good.”
“She got the ball and she got it to go in,” Beaulieu said. “We can always count on Madison.”
“Madison was open and made it,” Goodman added. “I give Madison a lot of credit. I was tough on her at halftime. She showed a lot of mental toughness. Instead of moping, she fixed things. She kept playing. I love that.”
Deering still had one last chance to tie and as time wound down, Titherington had a look at a 3, but it was just off target. Reid got the rebound, but travelled and with 0.7 showing, the Rams again conceivably had a chance to send the game to overtime, but the inbounds pass was knocked away and time expired as the Lions celebrated their biggest win to date this winter.
“It’s so amazing,” Beaulieu said. “We’re so pumped up. I can’t even describe this feeling. We made some shots that were key and that made it possible for us to come back. We played our hardest and when we tied it up, we felt like we had it. Our defense is what we focus on. Our offense has been shaky, but we pulled through.”
“Sometimes we get frazzled, but when we play together as a team and keep our heads up, it’s a lot easier,” Legassey said. “We felt the energy of the bench and the crowd and we just went for it.”
“This is what my team is about,” Goodman added. “This is our sixth victory. Five were from down eight or 10 points, or more. The girls don’t get down. They don’t care about the score. They keep fighting. I give them all the credit. Deering’s a great team. They’ll win a lot of games.”
Legassey made four shots, all from behind the 3-point arc, good for 12 points. Olson finished with seven points (to go with five rebounds and two assists), Reid and Beaulieu (who collected 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end) had six apiece.
“I feel like I have to get (rebounds),” Beaulieu said. “It’s just my mindset.”
“I can’t take Maddy off the floor,” Goodman said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a girl who works as hard as she does. She’s amazing. I tell all the girls to watch her.”
Joyce added five points, Mower had three and Mazur (who had a game-high six steals) and Weisser each finished with two.
The Lions had a 33-22 rebounding advantage, yet only made 4 of 13 free throws and turned the ball over 20 times, but found a way to prevail.
Deering was paced by Garrand’s 13 points. Haines had eight (to go with seven boards), Titherington (three steals) seven, Mathison six and Giroux, Mastropasqua and Ramirez (four steals) two each.
The Rams made 5 of 6 free throws, but turned the ball over 24 times.
“Give credit to (MGA), they played hard,” said Deering coach Mike Murphy. “They kept attacking defensively. They hustled and we didn’t take care of the ball. We threw the ball all over the lot and the lead evaporated. We couldn’t get the ball over halfcourt and when we did, we backed off. The spacing just wasn’t there on the offensive side.”
Deering (now fourth in the Class AA North Heal Points standings) is home against Bonny Eagle Tuesday, plays at South Portland and Scarborough, then closes at home versus Portland.
“We’ll find out how we bounce back,” Murphy said. “A couple weeks ago, we felt good and right now, it’s one day at a time.”
MGA (fourth in Class AA South) hopes to finish strong. The Lions are at Scarborough Tuesday and go to Sanford Friday of next week. After hosting Portland, MGA closes at Cheverus.
“We’ll keep building on this,” Beaulieu said. “We’ll keep working hard.”
“We’re all basically JV players who got thrown on to a varsity team,” Legassey said. “Once we learned to play with our heads up, it’s come easily for us. No one thinks we can beat anyone, but we’re proving people wrong. We need to work on playing smart the whole game.”
“We try to work on our weaknesses every day,” Goodman added. “We’ve developed strengths we didn’t have. I’ve coached two sports for 15 years and this team has picked me up. They have amazing attitudes. They brought the joy of coaching back. I love this team.”
Deering sophomore Ashleigh Mathison shoots a 3-pointer as MGA senior Maddy Beaulieu defends.
MGA sophomore Zoe Mazur drives as Deering sophomore Mandy Mastropasqua defends.
Deering sophomore Delaney Haines drives on MGA junior Madison Legassey.
Deering senior Abi Ramirez goes up for a shot as MGA freshman Hope Olson defends.
MGA sophomore Catherine Reid defends Deering senior Abi Ramirez.
MGA junior Emily Weisser and Deering senior Abi Ramirez battle for the ball.
McAuley 52 Deering 43
McAuley 49 @ Deering 48
@ McAuley 49 Deering 40
@ McAuley 46 Deering 33
McAuley 62 @ Deering 39
Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 52 Deering 30
@ McAuley 43 Deering 35
McAuley 30 @ Deering 25 (OT)
McAuley 47 Deering 43 (OT)
Deering 38 @ McAuley 35
Western A Final
McAuley 41 Deering 40 (OT)
@ Deering 42 McAuley 33
Deering 44 @ McAuley 41 (OT)
Western A semifinals
Deering 45 McAuley 35
Deering 47 @ McAuley 23
Western A quarterfinals
Deering 42 McAuley 27
@ Deering 45 McAuley 32
@ McAuley 50 Deering 48
McAuley 39 @ Deering 38
Western A semifinals
McAuley 46 Deering 35
McAuley 50 @ Deering 42
@ McAuley 44 Deering 37
McAuley 56 @ Deering 36
@ McAuley 56 Deering 48
@ McAuley 60 Deering 55
@ Deering 71 McAuley 62 (2 OT)
Western A Final
Deering 56 McAuley 46