Deering holds off TA, gets another crack at Cheverus
That sentiment had to be running through the minds of the members of the Deering girls' basketball team, the No. 2 seed in Western Class A, after a dreadful start to Monday afternoon's quarterfinal round game against No. 7 Thornton Academy at the Portland Exposition Building.
A year after being upset in the quarterfinals by Windham, the Rams managed to post just two points in the game's first seven minutes, but this time around, Deering wasn't about to go quietly.
The Rams caught up by the end of the first quarter and went ahead to stay on a pair of free throws from senior Marissa MacMillan early in the second period, part of a 13-0 run which featured an 8-minute, 7-second Thornton Academy drought. Deering went up six, 19-13 at halftime, but Golden Trojans junior standout Olivia Shaw made a pair of 3s in the third quarter to pull the Golden Trojans within a single point, 24-23, heading for the final stanza.
There, Deering dug deep into its reservoir of heart and experience and found a way to prevail. MacMillan, who sat out much of the third quarter with foul troubles, scored on a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for some breathing room. Senior Chelsea Saucier hit a baseline jumper and Deering’s defense didn’t allow a single field goal in the fourth period as the Rams held on to advance, 33-25.
Deering got 12 points from Saucier, 10 from MacMillan, forced 20 turnovers and improved to 17-2, ending Thornton Academy's season at 12-8 and advancing to a semifinal round city showdown with No. 3 Cheverus (17-2) Friday at 7:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
"We were very determined," said Saucier, the Rams' undeniable defensive stalwart and heart and soul. 'Our goal is always to get to the Civic Center. We're showing everyone what we can do."
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Deering was upset by Windham in last year's quarterfinals. It entered that game spiraling. The Rams had been decimated by illness, then were devastated by the sudden passing of Saucier's father in the days leading up to the contest.
This winter, Deering 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 first 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), at Gorham (53-37) and at home over South Portland, 33-21. Deering only scored two points in the first quarter and 10 in the first half in that one, however, and in the finale, at home versus Cheverus, the Rams' woes continued as they lost to the Stags, 48-38. Deering still wound up the No. 2 seed with a 16-2 mark.
As for Thornton Academy, a quarterfinalist a year ago, it lost two of its first three before putting together five wins in six outings. After losses to McAuley and Sanford, the Golden Trojans won four straight, but they went 1-2 down the stretch to finish 11-7 and earn the No. 7 seed. Wednesday, Thornton Academy dispatched 10th-ranked Marshwood in a down-to-the-wire prelim, 34-33.
The Rams and Golden Trojans had met twice prior in the tournament with Deering winning both, 73-63 in the 1989 quarterfinals and 44-30 three years ago in the quarterfinal round.
Monday, Thornton Academy had a chance to follow the lead of the school's boys' team and eliminate the Rams from the tournament, but the Golden Trojans couldn't take advantage of Deering's early struggles.
A 3-ball from senior Tori Lands gave Thornton Academy an early 3-0 lead. The Rams' first points didn't come until 2:45 remained in the first quarter when senior Keneisha DiRamio scored on a driving layup. When Shaw knocked down a 3 32 seconds later, Deering coach Mike Murphy took his second timeout of the first quarter to attempt to find an answer.
"Kids were discombobulated," Murphy said. "You could see it in their faces. We had some inexperience. DiRamio and (senior Alexis) Stephenson were called upon to play bigger roles. Keneisha didn't even play last year. We saw in the first quarter that they were getting their feet wet."
Finally, in the final minute of the quarter, Saucier hit a baseline jumper and MacMillan scored on a putback to get the Rams going and tie the score, 6-6.
Deering continued to surge at the start of the second period as MacMillan made one free throw, DiRamio set up Saucier for a layup and Saucier made a layup after a steal for an 11-6 advantage, which induced Thornton Academy coach Eric Marston to call timeout.
It didn't help as MacMillan made a layup and Stephenson hit a leaner for a 15-6 lead.
With 2:06 to go before halftime, the Golden Trojans finally ended the Rams' 13-0 run and an 8 minute, 7 second drought as Shaw scored on a driving layup.
Shaw added another layup, but Saucier hit two free throws and junior Christiana Viney took a pass from sophomore Courtney Brett and knocked down a baseline jumper. to make it 19-10 In the waning seconds, Thornton Academy got a free throw from junior Lauren Leskowsky and after getting the offensive board, Shaw scored on a reverse layup to pull the Golden Trojans within six, 19-13, at halftime.
Early in the third period, Deering was hampered by MacMillan being whistled for her third foul. That opened up the floor and Shaw took advantage.
After a leaner from Thornton Academy senior Emily Richard cut their lead to four, the Rams got a 3-ball from Stephenson and a driving layup from DiRamio (after a Brett steal) to make it 24-15 with 3:59 remaining in the quarter.
Deering wouldn't score again and the Golden Trojans almost erased their entire deficit as Lands made a jumper, Shaw hit a 3 after a steal and in the final minute, Shaw made one more 3-pointer to make it a 24-23 game with eight minutes still to play.
"We gave Shaw too many open looks in the third quarter," Murphy said. "We didn't want to let her get the ball. We wanted to deny her the ball."
MacMillan returned to the game for the fourth and immediately made an impact.
Just 14 seconds in, she grabbed an offensive rebound, put it back while being fouled and added the free throw to stretch the lead back to four points.
"It was very frustrating," said MacMillan, of her foul troubles. "I hate sitting on the bench. I want to be on the floor, playing with my team. I wanted to get back out there. I felt like it was a big lift. I had my head in it. I was in the right place at the right time."
"Marissa made a couple big baskets off offensive rebounds," Murphy said. "That's what she's supposed to do. She came up big."
Saucier added a baseline jumper, but with 4:20 left, freshman Ashley Howe hit two free throws for Thornton Academy and it was 29-25.
The Golden Trojans were done scoring, however, and a putback from MacMillan and a pair of Saucier free throws proved to be enough to slam the door and the Rams survived, 33-25.
“Our goal this game was defense and not letting them get good looks," Saucier said. "That's what we did. The offense came along. Defense is very big for us. We held them to 25 points. I'd say that's good. We got in their heads.”
“We knew had to keep our defense going and be calm with the ball on offense," MacMillan said. "I had to guard (Shaw) and stay back. I couldn't come up on her.”
“Obviously, I'm pleased with our defensive output," Murphy said. "Offensively, we have to do better than that. We didn't want Shaw or (sophomore Kaitlyn) McCrum to beat us. We wanted the other three kids to beat us. Once we could score and get into our press, it bothered Thornton big-time.”
Saucier led Deering with 12 points.
"Chelsea had a nice game," said Murphy. "Calming kids down, attacking, playing like a senior."
MacMillan had 10. Stephenson added five, DiRamio had four and Viney finished with two.
The Rams had a 23-15 advantage on the glass, as MacMillan and Saucier both had eight rebounds. DiRamio had a game-high three of Deering's nine steals. The Rams had 13 turnovers and hit just 6-of-13 free throws, but still came out on top.
For Thornton Academy, Shaw turned heads with a game-high 15 points (including three 3-pointers), eight rebounds and two steals. Lands had five points, Howe and Richard two apiece and Leskowsky one. McCrum didn't score.
The Golden Trojans finished 3-of-5 from the free throw line.
After splitting with Cheverus in the regular season, Deering will face the Stags for the first time in the postseason Wednesday at the Civic Center, where Cheverus will be appearing for the first time.
The Rams had never lost to the Stags prior to Feb. 6 and feel that Cheverus didn't beat them that night, rather their poor defensive effort proved to be the difference.
Deering expects to play much better Friday.
"We didn't play defense at all in the game we lost," Saucier said. "We have to come out and play defense and the scoring will come."
"I think we have to play our game," MacMillan said. "We can't let them get in our heads. We have to play our defense."
"Cheverus is a good squad," Murphy added. "They're scrappy and they can shoot it. I expect a dogfight. Defensively, we were a mess last time. We went four or five trips without guarding all five players. We were completely out to lunch defensively. We have to adjust that for sure."