Portland’s buzzer beater stuns Deering in quarterfinals

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Portland’s reserves tell the story as they exult following junior Stillman Mahan’s game-winning 3-pointer just before the horn of the Bulldogs’ 51-50 win at Deering in a Class AA North quarterfinal for the ages Friday night.

Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 51 Deering 50

P- 7 17 15 12- 51
D- 16 13 8 13- 50

P- Mahan 3-3-12, Alado 4-0-10, Chadbourne 4-1-10, Bellew 3-0-6, Wakati 2-0-6, Fonseca 1-2-4, Gaddas 1-1-3

D- Germain 7-3-21, Morrione 3-2-10, Semuhoza 3-0-6, Randall 0-5-5, Anda 1-0-3, Onek 0-3-3, Kamalandua 1-0-2

3-pointers:
P (8) Mahan 3, Alado, Wakati 2, Chadbourne 1
D (7) Germain 4, Morrione 2, Anda 1

Turnovers:
P- 15
D- 15

FTs
P: 7-18
D: 13-22

PORTLAND—Portland and Deering’s boys’ basketball teams have been battling for over a century and have squared off in the playoffs since 1930, but it’s safe to say that the ancient rivals never produced a game quite like their scintillating Class AA North quarterfinal Friday evening in Deering’s gym.

In an absolute epic, an instant classic, a game for the ages, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs and fourth-seeded Rams thrilled a capacity crowd for 1,920 seconds and Portland needed all of them to pull off an upset victory and extend its season.

Eight days after getting run out of the same gym by 24 points, the Bulldogs found themselves down, 22-7, in the second quarter, as Deering junior Darryl Germain hit from anywhere and everywhere, but thanks in part to Rams senior standout Ben Onek having to sit with three fouls, Portland settled down and rallied.

Trailing 24-10, the Bulldogs scored 13 straight points, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from senior reserve Ronaldo Wakati, but Portland couldn’t take the lead and when Deering junior Loki Anda banked home a contested 3 just before the horn, the Rams had regained some momentum and held a 29-24 lead at the half.

Deering was up seven, 36-29, after a Germain driving layup with 3:14 to play in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs closed the frame on a 10-1 run, then took the lead for the first time when junior Stillman Mahan (remember that name) buried a 30-foot shot just before the horn for a 39-37 advantage.

Portland would go up by as much as six, 43-37, on a free throw from senior Simon Chadbourne with 7:01 to play, but the valiant Rams responded and drew even at 43-43 and 46-46.

Two Onek foul shots with 1:27 on the clock gave Deering the lead back, but Bulldogs senior Lewis Gaddas tied the score with a layup.

After Germain got a leaner to drop with 50 seconds to play, the Rams were on the brink of advancing, but Portland ran the clock down before Mahan made the shot of his young life, an NBA-range 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left and the Bulldogs escaped with an epic 51-50 victory.

Portland got 13 points from senior Jeremiah Alado, 10 from Chadbourne and nine from Mahan and improved to 11-8, ending Deering’s season at 12-7 and in the process, advancing to meet top-ranked Bangor (17-2) in the Class AA North semifinals Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“I just told the guys I’ve done this a long time and we’ve won our share of championships, but this game ranks right up there because it was in (Deering’s) gym, because of the rivalry and because the 4-5 game is traditionally a nail-biter,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “This ranks right up there with any win we’ve had. I hope the fans enjoyed it.”

Full house

This one was highly anticipated and fans got an extra day to think about it as the contest, originally scheduled to be contested Thursday, was moved to Friday to avoid a conflict with the schools’ girls’ quarterfinal round games, which were held Thursday.

Deering came in confident and red-hot, having closed the season with wins in six of seven games, capped by a therapeutic and emphatic 64-40 home victory over Portland Feb. 7. As the No. 4 seed in Class AA North, the Rams earned a home quarterfinal.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, came into the tournament having dropped four of their final five games, which left them fifth in the region and forced them to travel across town.

The teams were meeting for the 15th time in the postseason.

Deering took the first playoff encounter, a 45-27 first round victory, way back on March 14, 1930, when Herbert Hoover was in the White House and the Philadelphia Athletics were in the midst of winning consecutive World Series.

The Rams won the first three postseason showdowns in fact, but on March 7, 1942, three months to the day after Pearl Harbor, Portland prevailed for the first time, 25-15, in the regional final.

Deering and Portland didn’t meet in the postseason for nearly a half century between 1956 and 2004, but began squaring off regularly again in 2005, when the Rams upset the Bulldogs, 57-54, in the Western A semifinals.

The next season, Deering held off Portland in a regional final thriller, 70-64, en route to the Rams’ first state championship.

The Bulldogs earned a quarterfinal victory in 2008, then beat the Rams in the 2014 semifinals (64-49), again in the 2015 semifinals, in a down-to-the-wire thriller, 59-57, on Amir Moss’ late three-point play, then again in the 2016 Class AA North Final, by a decisive 70-39 margin in a game played in Augusta (see sidebar, below, for previous Deering-Portland playoff results).

Portland led the overall series, 149-79, entering play, but Deering had plenty of confidence after finally snapping its long skid at the Bulldogs’ expense a week prior.

This time around, Portland dug a hole again, then rallied before producing an ending that proves that sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

The game’s first point came from the foul line, where Rams junior Mike Randall made a free throw.

Germain then sank his first 3 and Deering was off.

After Russo called an early timeout, Gaddas made a free throw, but Germain scored on a floater and Anda set up junior Jess Kamalandua for a layup and an 8-1 advantage.

The news wasn’t all good for Deering, however, as three minutes in, Onek picked up his second foul and had to sit.

Chadbourne made a 3 for Portland’s first field goal, but Germain buried a long 3, junior Max Morrione drove for a reverse layup and with 2:03 remaining in the first, Morrione was fouled and sank both free throws for a 15-4 advantage.

The Bulldogs started to show some life late in the frame, as senior Trey Bellew scored on a leaner and Mahan scored his first point, on a free throw, but a Germain foul shot made it 16-7 Deering after eight minutes.

Portland was hindered by eight first quarter turnovers, but the Bulldogs would settled down and enjoy a much better second period.

But not before the Rams threatened to run away and hide.

After Onek returned to start the frame, only to pick up his third foul 55 seconds in, Germain sank a long 3, then with 5:35 to go in the half, Germain made another 3, exulting after it tickled the twine, and Deering was up, 22-7, forcing Russo to call timeout.

This time, his charges responded.

Wakati came in and made his presence felt with a 3-ball, then after Germain made two free throws, the next 13 points went to the Bulldogs.

A putback from Alado got things started.

Wakati followed with a second 3-ball.

After Bellew scored on a putback, Mahan made two free throws, Bellew drove for a layup and after Rams coach Todd Wing called timeout, Chadbourne made a layup after a steal to pull Portland within a single point, 24-23, with 1:20 to go in the half.

“Last week, we were off guard and they came out at us strong and had energy and we weren’t ready,” Bulldogs senior Pedro Fonseca said. “This time, we knew what we had to do and we played hard and came back.”

Deering didn’t relinquish the lead, however, as Randall sank two free throws and after Fonseca got a point back at the line for the Bulldogs, Anda, despite being well guarded by Fonseca, launched a 3 at the horn which banked home for a 29-24 advantage.

The Rams were paced in the first half by Germain’s 17 points, but seven second quarter turnovers allowed Portland, which was led by six points apiece from Bellew and Wakati, to get back in the game.

The Bulldogs were able to complete their comeback and take the lead in the third quarter, but not until the very end of the stanza.

A Fonseca foul shot opened the second half, but Morrione buried a 3 from the corner.

After Chadbourne hit a jumper in the lane, then drove for a layup, Portland was back within three, 32-29, but sophomore Mpore Semuhoza drove for a bank shot and Germain made a layup to push the lead to seven.

With 5:58 left, however, Onek got his fourth foul and was again rendered a spectator.

Back came the Bulldogs again, as Alado scored on a putback while being fouled and while he missed the ensuing free throw, Portland got the offensive rebound and the ball came back out to Alado, who sank a 3.

Onek returned to the floor with 2:18 on the clock and 53 seconds later, he scored his first point, from the line, but the Bulldogs closed the frame with a flourish, getting a leaner from Fonseca to pull within one, then with time winding down, Mahan fell for the Deering student section’s fake countdown and launched a 30-footer with 3.7 seconds showing, but the shot found nothing but net and Portland had the lead for the first time, 39-37.

And the fun was just beginning.

The fourth period featured both sides of the gym feeling exhilarated one minute, then downtrodden the next.

Mahan opened the fourth quarter with 3 from the corner, and Chadbourne added a free throw to make it 43-37, but the Rams got off the deck and scored the next six points, pulling even thanks to a leaner from Semuhoza, a 3-ball from Morrione after Randall kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, and after Bellew fouled out, a free throw from Randall with 5:45 on the clock, which made the score, 43-43.

It took all of 23 seconds for the Bulldogs to regain momentum, as after Fonseca drove the baseline, then kicked out to Alado, Alado sank a clutch 3 and Portland was back in front.

Both teams then missed multiple shots and after Morrione forced a turnover, Semuhoza spun and banked home a shot while being fouled to cut the deficit to one with 3:09 left.

Semuhoza missed the and-one free throw, but Randall got the rebound a second later and was fouled and he made one of two attempts to tie the score again.

At the other end, Mahan missed a 3, but Gaddas got the rebound. Chadbourne then missed a runner in the lane.

With 1:27 to play, Onek had a chance to salvage his challenging evening when he was fouled and he made both free throws to give Deering its first lead of the final stanza, 48-46.

Portland answered, thanks to an unexpected source, as Alado got into the lane, drew the defense, then set up Gaddas for a layup which tied the game for the final time.

The final minute would more than live up to the drama that the previous 31 had built.

The Rams set up on offense, Germain got a step on a defender, then got into the paint and took a shot which hit the rim, then bounced over and in for a 50-48 lead with 50.6 seconds to go.

The Bulldogs then set up, but couldn’t do anything with the ball and Russo called timeout with 30 seconds to play.

After Fonseca collided with a defender with nothing called, the ball came to Chadbourne, who was double-teamed as time wound down.

Chadbourne was eventually able to get the ball to Alado in the paint and Alado kicked it out to Mahan.

Mahan, with Onek racing at him, lined up his shot and launched the ball. It looked good off his hands and with 2.6 seconds remaining, the ball swished through the net for a 51-50 lead.

“I was just trying to get open and space the floor,” Mahan said. “The play wasn’t meant for me, but it came to me and I let it fly. I’m on the team for shooting. I believe in my shot. I got my shot going. I just knew it was going in as soon as I let it go.”

“All week, we talked about patience, taking good shots, making good decisions and good passes,” Fonseca said. “Stillman is one of the best shooters on the team. My hopes were high when he shot. I had no doubt.”

“We wanted to run the clock down, but that not far,” said Russo. “The best thing about that was Jeremiah passing it out. I thought the shot was good when it left his hands. Stillman has been playing all year. He’s done good things and not so good things, but I have confidence in him. We stuck with him. He learns from his mistakes. He’s savvy.”

“It was a great shot, a broken play,” Wing said. “It happens. We took away their main threat and broke down their play, but he hit the shot. That’s how it goes. That’s why (basketball’s) a great game.”

Deering had two timeouts remaining and several players tried to get the officials’ attention to stop the clock and set up one final chance, but the clock ran out regardless with Portland students and fans rushing the floor.

“We were looking for a timeout,” said Wing. “I don’t think (the officials) could see us with everyone on the court. You hope at the end, the refs understand and look for the timeout with people running on the floor. You have to see that. Whether we’d make it or not, we had two timeouts remaining.”

Portland then celebrated, with a pile of bodies eventually landing right in front of the Rams’ bench.

“It was special to have all my teammates come up to me and hear the crowd going crazy,” Mahan said. “We didn’t have energy last game, but this game, we made sure we had it and we did it really well. It’s a big win. Deering’s our rival and we’re not the best team standings-wise, but this means a lot. Representing Portland and our fans means a lot.”

“Deering has always been our biggest game of the year and after we lost to them last week, coming in here and winning tonight is huge,” Fonseca said.

“Deering’s a legitimate team,” Russo added. “We got down and crawled back with patience. We tried to give it away, but we hung in there. It didn’t look good in the beginning. We keyed on Morrione, Germain and Onek. You can’t shut those guys out, they’re too good. We wanted to cut their production in half. When we lost Trey, I was worried, but Ronaldo and ‘Stilly’ did great off the bench. We were resilient.”

Mahan had the way with 12 points. Chadbourne added 10 points (and three assists), Alado had 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists, including the biggest one of the night, Bellew six (along with three blocked shots before fouling out), Wakati six, Fonseca four (to go with nine rebounds and three assists) and Gaddas three.

Portland had a 32-21 rebounding advantage, only made 7 of 18 free throws and overcame 15 turnovers.

Agony

Deering got a game-high 21 points from Germain. Morrione added 10 (to go with three rebounds and three steals), Semuhoza had six, Randall five (to go with five boards), Anda three (to go with four rebounds and three steals), Onek three and Kamalandua two.

The Rams made 13 of 22 free throws and had 15 turnovers, but ultimately ended up one painful point shy.

“The guys played as hard as they could, but there are certain things you can’t overcome,” Wing said. “We weathered (Onek’s foul trouble), but we shouldn’t have had to weather it. You hope your best player, one of the best players in the state, would have an opportunity to showcase his abilities. We knew it wouldn’t be a blowout and they’d come in ready. It came down to a final shot. It was a fantastic atmosphere.”

Deering will graduate Onek and Luke Hill, but everyone else will return to a team that will look to use this brutal loss as motivation.

“Ben has believed in what we’ve done here,” Wing said. “He chose Deering. He chose me. I’m proud to have him as a player. He’s going to do special things, not just on a basketball floor, but in life.”

Beating Bangor?

Bangor will come south next week as a mystery team. The Rams produced a solid 16-2 regular season (losing only to Edward Little and Oxford Hills) and eliminating No. 8 Lewiston with ease Tuesday in the quarterfinals, 68-36.

On Dec. 21, Portland let a 15-point halftime lead slip away in a 64-58 loss at Bangor. The teams have met twice previously in the postseason, both Rams’ victories in Class A state finals (41-22 in 1923 and 56-39 in 2007).

“It feels great to go to the Civic Center,” Mahan said. “I’m excited. Our leaders will lead us. We believe we can keep going and go all the way.”

“We’ve been there before,” Fonseca said. “This is nothing new. We have to do what we do every year, work hard and go out there and have fun. We won’t take Bangor lightly. We have the confidence to win, but we know we’ll have to play hard.”

“I’m so happy for the guys to get to the Civic Center,” Russo added. “The seniors now have their own identity. Bangor’s one heck of a team. We’re going to forget the first game and prepare for them.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Deering senior Ben Onek shoots while being defended by Portland seniors Lewis Gaddas, left, and Jeremiah Alado.

Deering junior Darryl Germain, who scored a game-high 21 points, shoots a 3 over Portland junior Stillman Mahan.

Deering senior Ben Onek and Portland senior Jeremiah Alado get up close and personal.

Portland senior Ronaldo Wakati and Deering junior Max Morrione go for a rebound.

Deering sophomore Mpore Semuhoza celebrates after making a basket.

Portland junior Stillman Mahan shoots the game-winning 3-pointer over Deering senior Ben Onek.

After the shot falls through the net, Mahan is congratulated by senior Easton Bradford, left, junior Griffin Buckley and sophomore Jacob Bouchard.

Portland senior Jeremiah Alado, left, and hero Stillman Mahan jump for joy following the victory.

Portland coach Joe Russo screams in ecstasy after the win.

Deering’s reaction to the buzzer-beating loss.

Portland’s student section enjoys itself during the victory.

Previous Portland-Deering playoff results

2016 Class AA North Final
Portland 70 Deering 39

2015 Western A semifinal
Portland 59 Deering 57 

2014 Western A semifinal
Portland 64 Deering 49

2008 Western A quarterfinal
Portland 48 Deering 41

2006 Western A Final
Deering 70 Portland 64

2005 Western A semifinal
Deering 57 Portland 54

1955 Class L West quarterfinal
Portland 58 Deering 56

1949 Class L West quarterfinal
Portland 52 Deering 35

1945 regional final
Portland 28 Deering 22

1944 regional final 
Portland 22 Deering 16

1942 regional final
Portland 25 Deering 15

1937 regional final
Deering 19 Portland 17

1935 second round
Deering 38 Portland 37

1930 first round 
Deering 45 Portland 27

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.