Deering boys beat Gorham and it counts
PORTLAND—General consensus holds that there are three teams in contention for a Western Class A title.
Bonny Eagle, Falmouth and Portland.
Friday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, another squad submitted its name for consideration.
The Deering Rams.
The somewhat unheralded Rams got to take the big stage in a countable game as part of the Red Claws Christmas Tournament where they not only had little problem with the Rams from Gorham, they made a powerful statement in the process.
Unlike so many teams, Deering didn't struggle shooting the ball and behind a career game from senior Ahmed Ali, pulled away as the game progressed.
Ali had eight points in the first quarter, nine more in the second as the Rams stretched a two-point lead to 13 and added 14 in the second half for a best-to-date 30 as Deering went on to an easy 77-51 triumph.
Ali had plenty of company as several other players stepped up and the Rams suggested that their talent might be underappreciated and that they'll only get better in the weeks to come as they improved to 4-2 on the year and dropped Gorham to 3-3.
"We came in and wanted to push the pressure," said first-year Deering coach Todd Wing. "That gave us those key spurts. When you can do that, you get a little breathing room and make the other team play from behind. There have been highs and there have been lows. Tonight is a huge step in the right direction."
Late Christmas present
Deering began the Wing Era with a 67-58 loss at Bonny Eagle, then defeated visiting Thornton Academy (77-55) and host Noble (64-54) before a 47-46 loss at Cheverus. The Rams then held off visiting Westbrook, 53-47.
Up-and-coming Gorham, meanwhile, also won three of its first five games. The Rams edged visiting Marshwood in the opener, 48-45, eked out a 61-58 decision at Biddeford and after losses to visiting Portland (60-40) and host Windham (61-40), beat visiting Scarborough, 59-45, Monday.
Entering Friday's game, Deering had won all eight previous meetings with those other Rams, including 66-48 at Deering last year.
This time around, Deering put on a display of shooting acumen and teamwork.
After Gorham took a quick 3-0 lead on a 3-point shot from senior Corey Nadeau, Deering junior Liam Densmore answered with a 3 and a fast-paced, hot shooting period was underway.
A putback from sophomore Sam Kilborn put Gorham back on top, but Ali scored his first points on a putback. A basket from Kilborn was answered by a putback from senior Ahmed Ismail Ahmed, but Nadeau hit a jumper for a 9-7 Gorham lead.
A long 3 from Densmore gave Deering its first lead, but Kilborn answered with a floater.
After Ahmed hit a 3, Gorham junior Nick Thibeault answered with a long range bomb.
After the game's first turnover, over five minutes in, Ali made a free throw to tie the game, but a 3-ball from Gorham sophomore Trenton Bassingthwaite gave his team its final lead.
Late in the first, Ali made a 3, then hit a layup to put Deering ahead to stay, 19-17.
An Ali jumper in the lane and a fadeaway jumper from senior point guard Chhorda Chhorn stretched the Rams' lead to 23-17, but a putback from senior Nick Greatorex pulled Gorham within four.
After Chhorn set up Ali for a layup, Thibeault hit a 3. Ahmed countered with a runner, but Kilborn made two free throws. After Chhorn set up sophomore Benedict Williams for a layup, Kilborn made two more foul shots and Gorham trailed just 29-26 with 2:44 to go in the half.
Deering then seized control with a dazzling 10-0 run.
The surge started courtesy a layup from junior Stephen Ochan. Ali then took a pass from Densmore and hit a 3. Ali then stole the ball and made a layup and the next time up the floor, junior Jason Thach knocked down a 3 to cap an eight-point eruption in just 32 seconds and the Rams were in command at the break, 39-26.
Ali had 17 points in the first half and Deering only turned the ball over five times.
"My teammates just found me in open spots and I finished," Ali said. "It was all them. They were feeding me and my shot was falling. I like shooting here. I feel like this is my court. It's a nice court. I like the big stage. I always play well here."
Any Gorham comeback hopes were quickly squashed in the third quarter.
After Nadeau made a layup to cut the deficit to 11, Ali sank another 3. Kilborn made a layup, but Densmore hit a 3 and senior Patrick Lobor made a layup to make it 47-30.
Sophomore Cody Elliott countered with a 3 for Gorham, but Ali hit a turnaround jumper.
Bassingthwaite made a layup and Thibeault did the same, but Ali made another 3, Williams made a layup after a steal, Ahmed set up Ali for a layup and a Williams putback with 1:27 to go in the stanza pushed Deering's advantage to 60-37.
After Gorham ended the 11-0 run with a bank shot from sophomore Billy Ruby, Ali added three more points, this time the old fashioned way on a layup, foul and free throw, giving him 30 points on the night.
"(Ahmed) was unconscious," said Densmore. "He shoots like that every day in practice. This was the first game he really wanted the ball. I could tell in warmups he was feeling it. I just had to get him the ball."
A late layup from Bassingthwaite pulled Gorham within 63-41 with eight minutes to go, but Deering wasn't about to let up.
A three-point play from Lobor started the fourth period. Lobor and Kilborn then traded free throws. After Ali set up Densmore for an old-fashioned three-point play, Kilborn made a leaner for Gorham, but Chhorn hit a jumper for a 72-44 lead.
That would be it for Deering's starters.
After Bassingthwaite made a layup for Gorham, Williams made a free throw. Sophomore Cam Smith made a layup for Gorham, but senior Ahmed Sharif countered with one for Deering and Williams made another to end the Rams' scoring. In the final minute, Gorham junior Cody Rioux converted a three-point play to account for the 77-51 final score.
“We played a strong game the whole game," Ali said. "We picked up our intensity."
"Coach said to keep throwing punches and we didn't stop," said Densmore. "We kept going hard. I'd been waiting to play here all week. There were a lot of people here and a lot of teams here to watch us play."
"Wins like this bring cohesiveness," Wing added. "Guys were cheering for each other on the bench and it was a pleasure to be around. It's a long season and when you have guys you like, who work hard, it makes it a lot of fun. We like to press. We play off each other. We did a good job looking for our shooters. We were unselfish. That's what you need to be a good basketball team."
Ali had a career night, as four of his 12 field goals were from behind the 3-point stripe and he added a pair of foul shots.
For one night at least, it's fair to say Ali was the champion.
"Ali's an awesome shooter," Wing said. "He didn't' just shoot the ball well. He passed the ball, he rebounded, he ran the floor well. He's a tough matchup."
Densmore had 12 points, Ahmed and Williams nine each. Lobor six, Chhorn four, Thach three and Ochan and Sharif two apiece.
Deering had a 36-20 rebounding advantage, thanks in large part to 11 from Lobor and six from Ahmed. Densmore had four of the Rams' 12 steals. Williams had the game's lone blocked shot.
"(Benedict's) minutes have gone up," said Densmore. "Once he gets in there, he plays well."
Williams' play was symbolic of a strong effort from the bench.
"Our guys off the bench came in ready to play with energy," Wing said. "They like to play defense. They waited for their opportunity and they jumped on it. Our bench is a work in progress and tonight was a step in the right direction."
Deering only turned the ball over 10 times and sank six of its 10 foul shot opportunities.
For Gorham, Kilborn led the way with 15 points and six boards.
"Kilborn is a nice young player," said Wing. "He's strong, but I thought our matchup with Lobor inside was good and Ali, at 6-7, did a nice job on Thibeault."
Bassingthwaite added nine points, Thibeault had eight, Nadeau seven, Elliott and Rioux three apiece and Greatorex, Ruby and Smith two each.
The Rams committed 17 turnovers and made 6-of-11 free throws.
Gorham returns to action Monday at Sanford, while Deering goes to South Portland the same night. Deering begins the 2014 portion of its schedule at Marshwood Jan. 3.
"We learned from our losses and we're happy with where we are," Ali said. "We can still get a lot better."
"We have a lot of stuff to motivate us," said Densmore. "We'll keep fighting. We feel like we're as good as (Portland and Bonny Eagle), but the press doesn't talk about it."
"We're right back at it Monday," Wing added. "South Portland's a tough team. They're well coached and they'll give us a tough game."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Deering-Gorham results
@ Deering 66 Gorham 48
Deering 61 @ Gorham 54
@ Deering 62 Gorham 44
Deering 74 @ Gorham 40
@ Deering 53 Gorham 32
Deering 39 @ Gorham 36
Deering 51 @ Gorham 39
@ Deering 46 Gorham 40