PORTLAND—It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.
The undefeated and top-ranked Scarborough girls’ basketball team traveled to Portland to take on a fierce fourth-ranked Deering Rams squad Monday afternoon and came out a bit flat on all facets of its normally crisp play.
The past week has been an atypical one for the Red Storm, though, with an extreme lack of official practices due to snow, illness, and a grueling academic finals week, but by the third quarter, the team was back to true form and executing in crunch time, especially at the free throw line.
“I was very pleased with the second half effort,” said Scarborough coach Tom Maines. “I think it is very difficult for a team to be undefeated and stay undefeated. The emotions sometimes favor softness, favor a lack of intensity.”
Scarborough certainly same out lackluster and at one point trailed 17-6 with 6:02 remaining in second quarter for the biggest deficit of the game. The Red Storm kept up its zone defense and heavy press for most of the game and eventually battled back. Deering committed 25 turnovers in the game.
Red Storm freshman Ashley Briggs scored nine of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter (five from the foul line) and played cool and collected throughout.
She certainly didn’t play like a freshman.
“We came out kind of soft on defense,” said Briggs. “Once we all realized we wanted to be an 11-0 team, we all hustled and got in the passing lanes. It’s a statement. We were underestimated and to come out 11-0 is something that people didn’t expect of us, so it’s exciting.”
Scarborough had gained a five-point lead with 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, but led by all-state caliber senior Ella Ramonas, the Rams did not go down without a fight.
Ramonas drained a 3-pointer, took it to the post, and poured in 10 points in the fourth quarter, including her team’s last seven in the final 2:22. She led Deering with 22 points, but unfortunately for the home crowd, her 3-point attempt with 12 seconds remaining and the scoreboard reading 50-47 just barely rimmed out and was rebounded by Scarborough, essentially ending the game.
“I think Deering is one of the better teams (in the conference),” said Maines. “They’re big, they can shoot it, Ramonas was really tough down the stretch.”
Deering played subpar defense and racked up eight team fouls in the third quarter and exceeded 10, rewarding the opponent a double foul shout bonus, just moments into the fourth. Coach Mike Murphy was less than impressed from what he saw from his squad.
“We fouled them,” said Murphy. “We played defense with our hands, instead of our feet. Bad decisions both with the ball and defensively.”
But make no mistake, the Red Storm made the best out of its foul shots, rarely missing them, hitting 14 of 16 in the fourth quarter.
Scarborough erased a 21-15 halftime deficit to enter the fourth quarter tied 33-33. Briggs and Maria Philbrick dominated third quarter, with Philbrick surging and scoring seven straight Scarborough points over a 2:15 span. The guard made three free throws, a 3-pointer, and an excellent down low layup through traffic for that spree.
The only Deering scoring in that span was a layup from 6-foot-4-inch Marissa MacMillan. MacMillan found herself in foul trouble, picking up her fourth at the end of the third quarter and eventually fouling out with 2:29 to play in the final period.
The fourth quarter featured some classic back and forth possessions, with the entire gymnasium knowing Ramonas was going to get the ball and do whatever possible to score. She had the competitive determination flowing as she attacked the rim and kept her team in the game as the Scarborough free throws were raining down heavily because of Deering’s third quarter defensive mistakes.
Moments into the fourth quarter, Ramonas made a perfect backdoor pass over the top of the defense for an easy Chelsea Saucier layup making it 35-33 Deering. Philbrick answered back a minute later with a mid-range jumper to tie it at 35-35 with 6:50 remaining. Mary Redmond made a layup and Briggs also went coast-to-coast for a layup making it 39-35 Red Storm with 5:15 left. Ramonas then stepped up and buried a 3-pointer with 4:07 to make it a one point game.
Several free throws later, Ramonas scored down low to make it 46-43 with 1:50 remaining. Then it was Briggs’ turn and she made two free throws. Ramonas then took it to the post successfully again making it 48-45 Scarborough with 1:15 left.
Briggs knocked down two more from the charity stripe, 50-45.
Any guesses on what happened next?
Ramonas again muscled down low, gained position in the paint area, made a very difficult basket in traffic and was fouled. Her free throw missed, though, and it was 50-47 with 26 seconds to play.
Deering knew it was do-or-die and the Rams swarmed on defense as Scarborough was attempting to stall, something it had started doing with about three minutes on the game clock.
Bodies were hitting the floor as the ball got loose and the Rams came up with it and instantly looked for Ramonas again, this time from behind the arc to tie the game. The shot with 12 seconds left missed by inches and three Red Storm free throws later it was a 53-47 final.
It was heartbreak for the Rams who came so very close to handing the Red Storm its first loss of the year. With their overall sloppy play, especially on defense, it’s a wonder how they kept the score so tight. Ramonas is that good, folks. Infinite energy and basketball IQ.
MacMillan finished with 12 points and Emily Cole added eight for Deering. Scarborough’s center Carly Rogers scored 10, Philbrick had 12, and Redman finished with seven points
The league is wide open. The Red Storm (which remains first in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) improves to 11-0, with the Rams falling to 8-4 (and fourth in the Heals).
While Deering next plays Friday at Westbrook, the Red Storm host third-ranked, defending Class A state champion McAuley in a delicious showdown Friday night.
“Should be fun,” said be Maines. “This is what it’s all about.”
S- 6 9 18 20- 53
D-10 11 12 14- 47