Deering overcomes brutal start, extends streak with win over SP
PORTLAND—The Deering girls' basketball team redefined winning ugly Monday night, but the Rams will take the victory just the same.
After scoring just two points in the first quarter and a mere 10 in the first half against visiting South Portland, Deering finally put it together in the second half.
Thanks to a strong team defensive effort and a spark from senior Keneisha DiRamio, the Rams closed the third period on a 9-1 run to take control. Down the stretch, Deering continued to force turnovers (the Red Riots ended up with 27) and made free throws and went on to a 33-21 victory, its eighth in a row.
The Rams were paced by 11 points from senior Marissa MacMillan, eight from classmate Chelsea Saucier and seven from DiRamio to improve to 16-1, dropping South Portland to 12-5 in the process.
"We'll take it, but it was gross," said Deering coach Mike Murphy. "I have no idea what happened. Give South Portland credit. They played hard. We were just in a fog. The game just lacked offensive skills. It was bad decision making and it just snowballed from there. We had some good looks, but it doesn't mean we had to set the game back 55 years because the ball didn't go in. We missed layups. We had to play through it."
Both teams have been among the top teams in Western Class A all season.
South Portland turned heads early by winning its first six games: 48-27 at Windham, 53-38 over visiting Biddeford, 61-42 at Westbrook, 57-37 over visiting Thornton Academy, 47-27 at Kennebunk and 65-28 at Massabesic. The Red Riots fell from the unbeaten ranks New Year's Eve with a 45-37 home loss to Deering, then opened 2013 with a 42-30 home loss to Scarborough. South Portland bounced back with a clutch 68-63 overtime win at Sanford, tying the game in the final seconds of regulation after letting a lead slip away. After a 55-41 win at Portland, the Red Riots triumphed at Marshwood (54-32) and at home against Gorham (49-47) and Bonny Eagle (46-29), but that win was mighty costly as senior standout Danica Gleason was lost for the season with a knee injury. South Portland lost home games to Cheverus (43-33) and two-time defending Class A champion McAuley (75-48) before getting back on track Friday with a 76-33 home romp over Noble.
As for Deering, it defeated host Thornton Academy (38-35), visiting Marshwood (34-21), visiting Massabesic (54-35), host Noble (66-31), visiting Sanford (32-19), host Bonny Eagle (68-39), host South Portland (45-37) and visiting Kennebunk (50-21), before suffering its lone loss, 43-35, at McAuley The Rams then started another streak with a 47-14 home win over Biddeford and continued it at Cheverus (60-56), at Scarborough (48-41), at home over Westbrook (55-35), at Windham (38-24), at home over Portland (55-37) and at Gorham (53-37).
Prior to Monday, dating back to the start of the 2001-02, season, the Rams had won 13 of 18 meetings with the Red Riots, including nine of 10 since 2006-07 and the past eight, including the game five weeks ago, when DiRamio had 14 points, sophomore Courtney Brett added 10 and Saucier was a defensive standout.
Monday, Deering could nothing right offensively for 16 minutes, but its defense allowed it to regroup and pull out another win in a game which saw a total of just 17 combined field goals and 38 combined turnovers.
Things began normally as South Portland got a layup from freshman Meaghan Doyle just 17 seconds in, but neither team would score again for over four minutes, despite ample good looks at the basket.
Finally, with 3:10 to play in the opening stanza, the hosts got on the board as Saucier took a pass from DiRamio and made a layup, but the Rams wouldn't score again in the quarter.
A long baseline jumper from freshman Maddie Hasson and a leaner from senior Hope Owen gave the Red Riots a 6-2 lead after one period.
The second quarter was more of the same for Deering and after sophomore Holly Black scored on a putback for South Portland with 5:50 left in the half, an exasperated and baffled Murphy called timeout.
Then, the Rams showed a little life.
MacMillan made a free throw, then hit two more. DiRamio made a layup after a steal, MacMillan made one more foul shot and with 42.3 seconds left, a runner from Saucier gave Deering its first lead, but with time winding down, Hasson made a 3 and the Red Riots had an 11-10 halftime advantage.
The Rams would eventually hit their stride, but the third period started slowly as well.
After Black made a jumper, Saucier answered with two foul shots, but junior Brianne Maloney scored on a putback to give South Portland a 15-12 lead with 4:56 left in the quarter.
That proved to be the Red Riots' highwater mark.
With 3:29 to go, DiRamio knocked down a 3 to tie the score. Thirty-four seconds later, DiRamio banked home a shot and Deering was ahead to stay, 17-15.
"We just tried to pick up the intensity and we came out a lot harder than we did in the first half," said DiRamio. "We didn't come out and play our game at all in the first half. It was ugly. It was more mental. We just weren't there. We can't do that. The starting five knew we had to pick it up and play our game."
Maloney got a point back at the foul line, but the Rams closed the quarter with two Saucier free throws and a jumper after a steal by Brett for a 21-16 advantage.
Deering then poured it on in the fourth and put it away.
First, DiRamio found senior Alexis Stephenson for a backdoor layup. After Doyle countered with a bank shot, Brett hit a jumper. Hasson made a free throw, but MacMillan made a bank shot while being fouled and hit the free throw to cap a 16-4 run and give the Rams a 28-19 lead with 5:55 to play.
After Hasson made a free throw, MacMillan hit two, then made two more. Brett added another to end Deering's scoring. A Hasson foul shot finished it off and the Rams prevailed, 33-21.
"The first half, we got good looks, but the shots just weren't falling," DiRamio said. "The second half, we started going to the rim more, got foul shots and shots started falling. We pride ourselves on defense. The defense definitely saved us in this game. Our defense is tough. It showed tonight."
"The intensity was a lot better in the second half," Murphy said. "We caused numerous turnovers. That created better looks of 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, 4-on-3s."
MacMillan led all scorers with 11 points, including nine from the free throw line. Saucier had eight points, DiRamio seven, Brett five and Stephenson two.
"Keneisha's a good athlete," said Murphy. "She's battling a cold. The Brett kid gave us a spark. She made some buckets when the game was still in doubt."
MacMillan and Stephenson led the way on the glass with six rebounds apiece. Saucier had five. Deering had 16 steals, as DiRamio and Saucier both had four and Stephenson finished with three. MacMillan blocked four shots.
The Rams made 14-of-17 free throws and only turned the ball over 11 times.
For South Portland, Hasson had eight points, Black and Doyle each had four, Maloney three and Owen two. The Red Riots won the rebound battle, 35-29, thanks in large part to nine from Doyle and five each from Black, Maloney and junior Mackenzie Bowring. Maloney had three steals and Black blocked two shots.
South Portland made 4-of-10 free throws and was ultimately done in by its 27 turnovers.
"I thought we certainly played well enough defensively to win tonight," said Red Riots coach Mike Giordano. "We missed an opportunity. To (Deering's) credit, they played great defense in the halfcourt and we just couldn't get anything going on the offensive end. We didn't show composure to get good looks. They got good looks and made them. We were ahead at the half, 11-10, which is hard to believe. I'm sure it was hard to watch. It was difficult to coach. We hung in there defensively. We turned the ball over and they made their run. We'll see what we can learn from it. It's hard playing without Danica. We've played without her three games, but we scored 76 points without her the other night. Obviously, it's against a weaker team, but we still put 76 up."
South Portland is fifth in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, where it will likely stay. The Red Riots close at McAuley Friday. South Portland appears destined for a quarterfinal round game with Scarborough Feb. 18.
"We're 5, I think," Giordano said. "I don't think Thornton can catch us. We're looking at playing Scarborough. I felt we were ready for the tournament two days ago, but I'm not so sure tonight. We'll get back to work."
Deering (second to McAuley) closes at home against Cheverus Wednesday. A victory could allow the Rams to leapfrog the Lions and finish first in the Heals.
"We have to come out a lot stronger against Cheverus," DiRamio said. "If we played them tonight, it wouldn't have gone our way. We need to be a team and have our heads in it and play. It's going to be a fun game. I'm looking forward to it. I think we have a run in us. We need to practice harder. I'm excited for the tournament."
"Great things can come out of this," said Murphy. "We can't walk into a game not being mentally prepared. Whether it's a Monday or not. It's a great eye-opener. Cheverus is a quality club. We have to be ready to play. It doesn't matter who it is. You only have so many games in high school. To me, the most disheartening thing is not getting that effort. We'll just worry about ourselves. Whatever happens happens with the Heals."