Deering's second half surge downs Scarborough in prelim
PORTLAND—Something had to give Wednesday evening when a team missing its best player took on a squad with almost no previous playoff experience in a Western Class A preliminary round contest.
Host Deering, the No. 8 seed in Western Class A, played the first period very much resembling a team which had just one player who had previously played on such a big stage, and trailed visiting No. 9 Scarborough, which was minus injured junior standout Ashley Briggs, 6-3, after eight minutes.
While the Briggs=less Red Storm battled valiantly, eventually the Rams managed to take control.
Deering, thanks to another strong effort from freshman sensation Tasia Titherington, broke a 19-19 tie at halftime, went up by as many as eight points in the third quarter and gradually pulled away to prevail, 49-36.
Titherington had a game-high 17 points, the Rams got contributions from several others and improved to 9-10, ended Scarborough's season at 7-12 and advanced to Monday's quarterfinals where they will face top-ranked, three time defending state champion McAuley (17-1) at 8:30 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building.
"It feels good," Titherington said. "I'm proud. We're very happy to win this round. We were nervous at the beginning, but we're a good team. I knew we could win."
Rams on the rise
Deering made nice strides this year to finish a 8-10, which allowed them to host Wednesday.
Scarborough, meanwhile, has been a playoff regular in recent season, but a 2-9 skid to end the season sent the Red Storm on the road for the first round.
Making matters worse for Scarborough, Briggs, an all-conference shoo-in, who was eighth in the league in scoring and tied for second in assists, was finally sidelined by shin splints last week and despite hopes of returning for the playoffs, wasn't able to answer the bell.
"(Ashley) played against Thornton Academy last Tuesday and struggled to get through the game," said Red Storm first-year coach Mike Giordano. "I wanted to hold her out Friday, hoping a week off would help. We tried to bring her back Monday, but it just was not good, so we shut her down."
In the regular season meeting, Deering beat visiting Scarborough, 49-44, Jan. 24. The teams had met just once before in the playoffs, when the Red Storm rallied late to end the Rams' two-year title run, 37-34, in the 2010 Western A Final en route to the program's first and to date only crown.
Wednesday, Deering overcame its initial jitters to advance.
it took 3 minutes, 26 seconds for either squad to score. Finally, a floater from sophomore Mary Farnkoff allowed Scarborough to break the ice.
The hosts finally got on the board with 4:02 left, almost the midway point of the opening stanza, when Titherington made a free throw.
A bank shot from junior Katie Howard gave the Rams their first lead, but senior Mackenzie O'Brien answered with a 3 and O'Brien made a foul shot to give the Red Storm a 6-3 advantage after one quarter.
"We saw some serous tightness on all of the kids, it didn't matter what class," said Deering coach Mike Murphy. "The only disappointing part was how ready they were to play (last) Friday in a tournament atmosphere, then they came out tonight and let a team hang around that was missing their best player and they were starting to think they could win."
A runner in the lane from junior Bailey Adams stretched the lead to five early in the second period, but junior Mary Tadsse answered with a putback for Deering. After Scarborough freshman Brooke Malone made a free throw, Rams junior Courtney Brett sank a pair, but Malone took a pass from sophomore Jamie Sargent, made a layup while being fouled, added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and the Red Storm had a 12-7 advantage.
Deering then began to hit its stride and went on a 12-2 run.
The surge started on a putback from senior Christiana Viney. Senior LeeAnn Downs, the lone returning starter from last year's regional semifinalists, then made a great athletic play while going out of bounds, saving the ball to Viney for a short jumper. A pair of Titherington free throws gave the Rams the lead, 13-12.
After Scarborough went back on top on two foul shots from Malone, Titherington inbounded to Downs for a bank shot, Titherington put home her own miss and with 2:05 remaining before halftime, Tadsse scored on a leaner for a 19-14 lead.
Just when Deering appeared ready to seize control, however, back roared the Red Storm behind a 3 from O'Brien and a layup from freshman Jordyn Cowan to tie the score, 19-19, at the break.
In the first 16 minutes, the Rams only turned the ball over three times, but couldn't shake Scarborough, which got seven points from O'Brien and six from Malone.
The Red Storm had Deering on the ropes, but the Rams settled down in the second half and finally managed to take control.
After Viney made a free throw to start the third period, Sargent hit a jumper to put the visitors on top. Cowan added a free throw, but Titherington banked home a leaner to tie the score.
With 6:22 to go in the third, Cowan made a free throw to make it 23-22 Scarborough, but that would prove to be the Red Storm's highwater mark.
Eleven seconds later, Courtney Brett set up Tadsse for a layup and Deering had the lead for good.
Titherington made two free throws and with 2:36 left in the frame, Downs set up Titherington in the corner for a 3 and the Rams were up by six, 29-23.
"I didn't give up on my shot," Titherington said. "I had faith in my shot. I knew it would fall eventually."
"Tasia can take the ball to the hole with the best of them," Murphy said. "She can score. You have to reward your defense. Having so many empty trips, the heads start to hang, so it was nice to see her put the ball in the basket. That 3 from the corner gave us some breathing room. That was a big hoop."
Giordano called timeout, but it didn't help, as after a steal, Titherington was fouled and made two free throws. After Red Storm junior Bailey Adams made a driving layup to stem the 9-0 run, senior Molly Kilbride hit a runner for Deering. Adams made two free throws, but Rams freshman Amanda Brett countered with two of her own. A late putback from Malone pulled Scarborough back within six, 35-29, heading for the fourth period.
There, the Rams ended all doubt.
Nine seconds in, Titherington passed up her own shot and set up Tadsse for a jumper.
With 6:38 to go, Titherington set up another hoop, this time a jumper from Downs, and the lead was double digits for the first time, 39-29.
Cowan countered with a leaner, but Amanda Brett made a foul shot and with 3:02 to go, Titherington effectively delivered the coup de grace, taking a pass from Tadsse, making a layup while being fouled and adding the free throw for a three-point play which stretched the advantage to a dozen points, 43-31.
Adams made a free throw, but Amanda Brett hit a bank shot and with 1:55 to go, Tadsse set up Downs for a layup to make it 47-32.
Malone made a free throw, then scored on a putback, but with 56.6 seconds showing, Tadsse set up Amanda Brett for a layup and Deering's final points. A late free throw from Scarborough sophomore Rachel Linehan accounted for the 49-36 final score.
"In the fourth quarter we came through," said Titherington. "We worked the ball around and didn't give up. We played good D and we took good shots. We knew we could pressure them because their ballhandler was out."
"We had to depend on our seniors to get us in the game," said Amanda Brett. "We needed their help and they did it. It was our first playoff game, so we were nervous. We passed the ball more in the second half. We didn't take quick shots. We got easy looks."
"We got some easy buckets in the second half," Murphy added. "Four of our seniors were playing JVs last year. They were on the varsity bench. For them to get nine wins, I think that's quite an accomplishment."
Titherington, who was coming off a 25-point explosion against Portland last Friday, once again led all scorers with 17 points. She also had seven rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
"(Tasia's) very important," said Amanda Brett. "She's our ballhandler. She's very humble. She controls the ball."
Tadsse had eight points and three assists. Amanda Brett added seven points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block.
"I just had to remember to box out and make sure we knew where (Malone was)," Brett said.
"I think Amanda played the role of a space-eater and did her job on the defensive boards," Murphy said.
Downs added six points (to go with six boards and three assists), Viney had five points and seven rebounds and Courtney Brett, Howard and Kilbride contributed two points apiece.
Deering managed to survive in large part due to giving the ball away just eight times, making 14 of 18 free throws and holding a 35-33 rebounding advantage.
Following the win, Murphy could only tip his hat to Scarborough for its effort.
"I knew (Briggs) was in pain against Thornton Academy and didn't play in their last game, but I thought she'd play tonight," he said. "She's one of the top five players in our conference. Those kids played hard. I give a lot of credit to Coach Giordano. I think he had a great year with them. For us, the difference was the defensive pressure on Adams. We made her work."
Tough way to end
Scarborough got another stellar effort from super frosh Malone, who had a team-high 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
"Brooke makes coaching fun," Giordano said. "When you have a 5-6, 5-7 kid, who's outmatched in size and physicality, finish fourth in the league in rebounding, that's just a pleasure to coach. You saw what she gave tonight."
Adams and O'Brien had seven points apiece, Cowan added six, Farnkoff and Sargent each finished with two and Linehan had one.
The Red Storm gave the ball away 16 times and made 12 of 23 free throws.
"We played well," said Giordano. "(The girls) gave me everything they had. We competed. We felt good at halftime, but they just wore us down in the second half. We needed one more scorer tonight and she was sitting on the bench. You can't make up for her absence. Look at the stat sheet. You can't replace that, but I thought we replaced it with heart tonight. I told them they could use (Ashley's injury) as an excuse or use it as motivation. They used it as motivation.
"Our goal every year is to get to the tournament. Obviously our goal is to get to the quarters where everybody is watching. We had adversity earlier in the year when a couple young ladies, who could have helped us, decided not to play. We were very young, but they were committed. They worked hard. It was a great year."
Scarborough only graduates O'Brien, which suggests it will be even more in the hunt in 2014-15.
"We return everybody but one and we have a nice eighth grade class which will be freshmen, so the future is bright in Scarborough," Giordano said.
Into the jungle
Deering and McAuley have split six prior playoff meetings with the most recent, a 41-40 overtime triumph for the Lions in the 2011 regional final, the most memorable. While expected by most to be cannon fodder, the Rams have nothing to lose as the underdog.
"It's a great feeling to prove people wrong because they didn't think we'd win many games or make the playoffs," Amanda Brett said. "We won our first playoff game and now we're going to the Expo. We have to slow down (McAuley standouts) Allie Clement and Victoria Lux and make sure we don't give them open looks. We need to keep the tempo in our favor.""
"We'll work hard, take care of the ball and we won't be afraid to shoot," Titherington said. "We won't give up."
"I think we'll have to take care of the basketball and have the mindset that anything can happen and get (McAuley) to think," Goodman added. "The underdog wants to get the favorite to press. We're still alive and anything can happen."