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Portland senior Manny Yugu soars for a shot as Deering sophomore Darryl Germain defends during the ancient rivals’ showdown Thursday night. Despite a valiant effort from the host Rams, the two-time defending Class AA champion Bulldogs pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 83-62 victory.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
P- 28 11 17 27- 83
D- 20 14 16 12- 62
P- Moss 8-4-22, Foley 6-2-18, Bellew 5-1-12, Chadbourne 4-0-12, Yugu 4-0-10, Ben 2-1-5, Ishami 1-0-3, Clarke 0-1-1
D- Onek 6-7-20, Bushiri 6-3-18, Germain 4-0-11, Biacho 2-0-5, Butera 1-0-2, Morrione 0-2-2, Randall 1-0-2, Vail 1-0-2
P (14) Chadbourne, Foley 4, Moss, Yugu 2, Bellew, Ishami 1
D (8) Bushiri, Germain 3, Biacho, Onek 1
PORTLAND—Don’t let the 21-point final spread fool you.
Thursday evening’s 227th all-time meeting between the Portland and Deering boys’ basketball teams was an old-fashioned, thrill-a-minute barnburner that had fans on the edge of their seats and gave each ancient rival reason for optimism heading into the tournament.
For the Rams, they learned that for three quarters at least, they could go toe-to-toe with arguably the state’s best team.
For the Bulldogs, they showed that even if they occasionally get knocked to the canvas, they’re more than capable of rising up and meeting the challenge.
When Portland shot to a quick 9-0 lead, it looked like another runaway was in store, but Deering stayed calm and behind a sensational effort from unheralded senior Nicsoni Bushiri and the sharp shooting of sophomore Darryl Germain, roared back.
The Rams got as close as three points, 17-14, before the Bulldogs, thanks to their outside shooting acumen and eight points apiece from senior stalwarts Griffin Foley and Terion Moss, took a 28-20 advantage after eight palpitating minutes.
When Bushiri drained a 3-pointer midway through the second period, Deering led, 31-29, but Portland closed the half on a 10-3 run to go back on top for good, 39-34.
The Rams refused to buckle in the third quarter as well, as after the Bulldogs went up by as many as nine, Bushiri hit a highlight reel 3-pointer from midcourt as time expired to bring the partisan crowd to its feet and cut the deficit to 56-50.
When senior Blaze Vail opened the final stanza with a layup for Deering, upset dreams were very much alive, but instead, Portland flipped the switch, found another gear and in the blink of an eye, pulled away.
Four quick points from Moss and 3s from Foley and senior Manny Yugu helped spark a 17-1 run that finally ended all doubt and the Bulldogs went on to prevail, 83-62.
Moss had 22 points and Foley added 18 as Portland improved to 149-78 all-time in the series after beating Deering for the 13th straight time, ending its regular season at 17-1 and dropping the Rams, who got 20 points from junior Ben Onek and 18 from Bushiri, to 8-10 in the process.
“It’s a rivalry game, so the records are out the window,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Joe Russo, who earlier this week was named as an inductee into Maine’s Basketball Hall of Fame. “(Deering) kept battling back. They played terrific. We knew it was Senior Night, the last game, the kids are friends and there were bragging rights, so we expected them to come out strong. We had to settle down. We got caught up taking quick shots, then we got back to team-first (play), we made the extra pass, then we went on a roll.”
Whenever Portland and Deering square off, a buzz follows, even when one team has had the other’s number in recent years.
Entering play Thursday, the Bulldogs were in the midst of their longest win streak in the series since they took 22 in a row between 1914 and 1925, back when World War One was fought and won, through the Wilson, Harding and Coolidge Administrations and during a time Babe Ruth played both for the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Portland’s most recent victory in the series was a 53-34 home win Dec. 28, when Moss led the way with 18 points and junior Simon Chadbourne added a dozen (Onek paced the Rams with 15).
Deering has had an up-and-down season, but has been trending in the right direction.
The Rams started with a 71-43 victory at Sanford, then downed visiting Lewiston (73-42) and Gorham (66-53) before losing at Portland (53-34). After beating host Bangor (63-47) to end the 2017 portion of their schedule and downing visiting Bonny Eagle (55-28) to open 2018, the Rams started a seven-game skid with a narrow 40-37 loss at Oxford Hills, then they fell at South Portland (64-50), at home to Scarborough in overtime (58-53), at Cheverus (53-52), at home to Edward Little (67-50), at home to South Portland (54-42) and at Windham (56-47). After a 46-42 home victory over Thornton Academy, Deering downed host Noble, 81-35, and after a 59-51 setback at Massabesic, the Rams edged visiting Cheverus Tuesday, 62-60.
Portland, meanwhile, has been close to unbeatable again.
The Bulldogs started with victories over visiting Noble (101-43), host Windham (61-44), visiting Oxford Hills (66-50) and visiting Massabesic (86-43). After downing visiting Deering (53-34), Portland beat visiting Gorham (73-52), held on for a 78-70 victory at Edward Little, then rolled at Sanford (82-54). After downing visiting South Portland, 62-53, the Bulldogs handled host Lewiston (80-48) and Cheverus (59-37). After Portland was upset, 69-66, at Scarborough, it responded with a 78-39 home win over Thornton Academy, a 77-47 home victory over Bangor, a 64-27 win at Bonny Eagle, a 67-45 home win over Cheverus and Tuesday’s 74-62 victory at South Portland.
Thursday, in front of a raucous, nearly full house, the Rams were hoping to beat the Bulldogs for the first time since a 37-30 home decision Feb. 7, 2013, but Portland went out and made it a baker’s dozen.
Not without some anxious moments, however.
The Bulldogs got off to their accustomed fast start, as 59 seconds in, Moss sank an NBA-range 3-pointer, Yugu added a floater and a layup after a steal and after Deering coach Todd Wing called timeout, junior Pedro Fonseca, on the break, threw a gorgeous no-look pass to Foley for a layup and a quick 9-0 lead.
Bushiri got Deering on the board with 3:29 left in the quarter with a bank shot and Onek followed with a free throw. After Foley drained a 3 from the corner, Bushiri made a driving layup, but Portland junior Trey Bellew hit a leaner to make it 14-5.
After Onek converted an old-fashioned three-point play (leaner, foul, free throw), Chadbourne buried a 3 from the corner for Portland, but sophomore Emmanuel Biacho hit a 3 for the hosts and Germain added another to make it a one-possession game.
Chadbourne countered with a 3, but senior Junior Butera made a layup for the Rams.
After Moss made a layup while being fouled and hit the free throw, Germain banked home a shot.
Moss added two free throws, then nearly had a breakaway layup before landing awkwardly and having to leave the game momentarily.
“I was going to try and lay it up but my knee kind of gave out on me and I went down and it was awkward,” Moss said.
Late in the frame, Onek hit two free throws, but a long 3 from Foley as time expired made it 28-20 Portland after one wild quarter.
Moss and Foley each had eight points for the Bulldogs, while Germain led Deering with eight points and Onek added six.
The pace slowed slightly in the second period, as the Rams managed to complete their rally and grab a brief lead, but the Bulldogs closed the half strong.
A 3 from Germain started the frame. After Foley hit a free throw, Biacho scored on a putback, Onek put back a miss and after a Bushiri free throw, Bushiri drained a 3 with 3:37 left in the half for a 31-29 lead.
Portland responded, as Bellew hit a free throw (Germain was whistled for his third foul on the play and had to sit the rest of the half), senior Lino Ben converted a three-point play to put the Bulldogs on top for good, Moss made a layup after a steal, Yugu set up Ben for a layup and after a Yugu steal, Moss made a layup to cap the 10-0 run.
A late 3 from Bushiri cut Deering’s deficit to 39-34 at halftime.
In the first half, Moss led all scorers with 12 points, while Bushiri paced the Rams with 11.
The third quarter remained nip-and-tuck.
Chadbourne started the second half with a 3-pointer, but Bushiri drove for a left-handed layup and off an inbounds set, Biacho set up Onek for a layup to make it 42-38.
Moss countered with a left-handed layup, but a 3-pointer under pressure from Onek pulled Deering within three.
A free throw from Foley and a 3-pointer from Yugu (off a pass from Fonseca after a steal) made it 48-41 with 2:40 to go in the frame.
Onek countered with a three-point play, but Bellew hit a jumper in the lane and Moss got a leaner to drop for a 52-44 edge.
Germain hit a 3 for the hosts, but Fonseca set up Bellew for a layup and Moss hit two late free throws to seemingly give Portland all the momentum.
Until Bushiri stole the show.
As time was about to expire in the period, Bushiri got the ball at midcourt near the far baseline and he launched a shot that was never in doubt. Everyone on hand could see it had promise and it kissed through the net just after the horn sounded to pull the Rams within six, 56-50, seemingly giving them the momentum heading for the final stanza.
Instead, the visitors quickly shook it off.
“That was a very impressive shot,” Yugu said. “There’s nothing you can do about that. Coach just said, ‘It’s just a 3-point shot and we still have a six-point lead.’ We didn’t change our mindset. We just went out and played basketball.”
“When they made that shot, it didn’t affect us as much as it could have because we just realized it was such a nice shot and what can you do?: Russo said. “That didn’t bring us down.”
When Germain set up Vail for a layup 31 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs’ lead was down to four, but they would carry play the rest of the way.
Moss restored order by banking home a leaner with 7:09 to go.
Yugu added a 3 and after a steal, Moss made a layup to stretch the lead to 63-52 with 6:30 remaining, forcing Wing to call timeout.
This time, it didn’t stem the tide, as Foley buried a 3, Bellew drained a short hook shot and after an Onek free throw, Foley made a short jumper, then buried a 3 to cap a 17-1 surge that suddenly spelled a 73-53 lead with 4:51 to go.
Deering got a leaner from Onek, but Chadbourne made another 3.
After an Onek free throw, Bellew made a 3-pointer.
Bushiri got two points back at the line, but another 3-ball, this one from junior Derrick Ishami, gave Portland its biggest lead of the night.
In the final minute, Rams sophomore Max Morrione made two free throws, senior Quinn Clarke countered with one for Portland and sophomore Michael Randall banked home a shot for the hosts to account for the 83-62 final score.
“They shot the ball really well and we stopped playing our kind of basketball,” Moss said. “We came out in the second half and talked more. We came out (in the fourth quarter) and spread the floor, penetrated and got open shots.”
“We knew they’d come out and play hard,” Yugu said. “They hustled and they had big players step up. We weren’t playing team basketball. We tried to do too much individually. That got us off our rhythm. We kicked it into gear in the second half. We responded by trying to out-hustle them.”
Moss overcame his injury scare to lead all scorers with 22 points. He also had five assists.
“I’ve played here four years and tonight was just a fun night to play basketball,” Moss said. “The fans were in it and they played well. It was very important to win. My brother, Amir, told me when I started playing to never lose to Deering.”
Foley added 18 points, Bellew and Chadbourne each had a dozen, Yugu finished with 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists, Ben had five points, Ishami three and Clarke one.
“We needed our bench tonight,” Russo said. “In the first half, we had Manny and Trey with foul trouble and Pedro wasn’t feeling well tonight and I put Lino and Quinn in and they helped us keep the lead.”
Portland made 14 3-pointers, made 9 of 15 free throws and only committed nine turnovers in a hostile setting.
Deering was paced by a double-double from Onek (20 points, 11 rebounds). Bushiri added 18 points (to go with four rebounds and three assists), Germain had 11, Biacho five and Butera, Morrione, Randall and Vail two apiece.
The Rams had a 32-29 edge on the glass, but turned the ball over 20 times. They sank 12 of 19 foul shots.
“I think the fans got what they were looking for tonight, a competitive back-and-forth game,” Wing said. “The score certainly doesn’t indicate that, but that’s a tribute to the explosiveness of Portland. Tonight, we played in a different gear.”
Deering will be the number six seed in Class AA North and will go to No. 3 Oxford Hills (12-6) for the quarterfinal round of the tournament next week.
“I believe we’re a team ready to peak,” Wing said. “If we continue to play as hard as we did tonight, I think we’ll be a tough out in the tournament. Our record says we’re the underdog, but this team expects to make some noise. We expect to win. My staff and I will make sure (the guys) are prepared.”
Portland will be the top seed in Class AA North for the third year in a row and for the fifth straight winter overall. The Bulldogs will host Lewiston (2-16) in their quarterfinal Wednesday.
Portland has a great chance to win three successive state titles for the first time in the program’s illustrious history.
“I like what we’ve done so far,” Moss said. “The loss to Scarborough kind of helped us know what it feels like to lose. We just have to play our team basketball.”
“I think (17-1) is something the fans won’t forget and we won’t forget,” Yugu said. “We put it all together. We head into the tournament more confident than ever. If we play our game, we’ll be very tough to beat.”
“We started the year with some goals,” Russo added. “None of them really had to do with our record, more how we performed as a team and being competitive and improving individually. Now it’s one-and-done and if we can put our pieces together, we can take care of business.”
“It won’t be an easy road this year, especially in the North division. Oxford Hills is tough. Deering showed they won’t go down easily. Windham has a great guard. Edward Little is an athletic team that can score points. We have to focus and play our best basketball if we want to continue to win.”
Deering senior Nicsoni Bushiri who had a breakout game with 18 points, goes up over Portland junior Pedro Fonseca (5) and senior Terion Moss for a basket.
Portland senior Griffin Foley, who had 18 points, lines up a shot.
Portland junior Pedro Fonseca shoots over Deering junior Ben Onek.
Deering sophomore Emmanuel Biacho drives on Portland junior Simon Chadbourne.
Deering senior Blaze Vail goes up for a shot as Portland senior Lino Ben looks on.
Portland coach Joe Russo, who was named a Maine Basketball Hall of Famer earlier this week, watches the action.
@ Portland 53 Deering 34
Portland 39 @ Deering 35
@ Portland 46 Deering 22
Portland 60 @ Deering 57
@ Portland 71 Deering 47
@ Deering 59 Portland 50
@ Portland 53 Deering 47
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 48 Deering 41
@ Portland 63 Deering 55
Portland 64 @ Deering 49
Portland 63 @ Deering 58
Deering 61 @ Portland 58
Western A Final
Deering 70 Portland 64
@ Portland 54 Deering 46
Portland 55 @ Deering 52
Western A semifinals
Deering 57 Portland 54
Portland 85 @ Deering 46
@ Portland 65 Deering 38