SCARBOROUGH—The guard has officially been changed.
Friday evening at Alumni Gym, the two-time defending Class A state champion Deering Rams girls’ basketball team fell to 1-2 on the 2009-10 season with their second straight loss, a devastating 52-50 decision to the Scarborough Red Storm, who assume the bulls-eye as the team to beat in the region.
The Rams controlled play in the first half and led by as many as 12 points in the third period, but down the stretch, the Red Storm made a powerful statement in front of the home folks, rallying to take the lead for good on two foul shots from senior standout Christy Manning with 1:09 to play, then holding on for dear life to improve to 3-0.
“Since we entered Class A, we haven’t been at the top,” said Manning. “Beating a top team is pretty impressive for us.”
“It’s a statement win for the program,” added Scarborough’s fourth-year coach Jim Seavey. “It’s the first time we’ve beaten Deering. It’s senior leadership. At some point, our senior leadership had to pay dividends and tonight was a prime indication of that and hopefully a sign of things to come. A lot of teams down 12 would have packed it up and went home, but we did what we had to do.”
Prior to Tuesday’s 38-33 setback at Sanford, Deering hadn’t lost a game since Jan. 5, 2008 (a 37-game streak), when it was beaten 45-35 by visiting South Portland. The Rams were expected to be mortal this winter (following last year’s undefeated run) after being hit hard by graduation (most notably losing standout guards Diana Manduca and Jess Ruhlin), but figured to still be in good shape behind returning senior post star Claire Ramonas and juniors Kayla Burchill and Britni Mikulanecz.
Scarborough, coming off an 17-3 campaign which ended with an upset loss to Biddeford in the semifinals, returned almost everyone (point guard Reegan Brackett was the big exception) and got off to a hot start with wins over Gorham (53-33) and Massabesic (68-31).
Friday, Deering showed glimpses of a championship contender, but over 32 minutes, the Red Storm had too much.
The Rams shot to a quick 5-0 lead on a layup by Ramonas and a 3-ball from Burchill. The hosts came right back behind a 3 from senior point guard Brittany Ross (the field hockey sensation, who calls basketball her passion), a baseline jumper from Manning and a layup by Ross after a steal from classmate Heather Carrier to go up 7-5.
After sophomore Ella Ramonas tied the game with a layup, Manning made two foul shots to make it 9-7, but Deering would close the first on a 13-4 run, despite five turnovers.
Senior Maria Salamone tied matters with a layup, then 20 seconds later drained two free throws. After a Ross jumper made it 11-11, junior Aarika Viola hit a foul shot for the Rams, but Manning took a pass from Ross and scored on a pretty reverse layup for a 13-12 advantage.
Deering then got an old-fashioned three-point play from Claire Ramonas, a 3-pointer from Burchill and a backdoor layup by Ella Ramonas (on a nice pass from Mikulanecz) to make it 20-13 after eight minutes.
“I’m pleased with how we bounced back,” said Rams’ second-year coach Mike Murphy, who coached Scarborough for a dozen years in the 1990s and early 2000s. “We hadn’t lost in almost two years. The kids had a nice practice last night and came out with some fire. That’s a good sign.”
Early in the second, Burchill made two foul shots to push the Rams’ run to 10-0, but senior Sarah Moody ended it with a 3-pointer which made the score, 22-16. Burchill got those points right back with a 3-ball, but Manning hit a floater in the lane and senior Jenn Colpitts scored on a finger-roll layup to make it 25-20.
After Claire Ramonas made a layup at one end, Scarborough senior Ellie Morin answered with two free throws. Burchill hit a baseline jumper, but Manning converted a three-point play to make it 29-25 with 2:39 to go in the half.
Deering closed out the period with four straight points, sandwiching a free throw apiece from Mikulanecz and Viola around a Mikulanecz layup to take a 33-25 advantage into the break.
Early in the third, the Rams threatened to run away.
First, Claire Ramonas made a runner to stretch the lead to 10. After Colpitts answered with a 3, Salamone and Mikulanecz hit jump shots to make it 39-28. Manning made a foul shot, (after Burchill picked up her third foul), but Claire Ramonas sank a pair to make it 41-29 Deering with 4 minutes to go in the period.
Then, Scarborough seized control.
Colpitts made a layup, Carrier buried a 3, then fed Ross for a layup off an inbounds play, Ross made a pullup jumper and Manning made a layup with 40.3 seconds left to cap an 11-0 run and pull her team within one, 41-40. Two free throws from Viola with 7.2 seconds remaining restored order momentarily, but suddenly the hosts were within 43-40 heading for the fourth.
Down the stretch, Scarborough simply made more offensive plays than the champions.
After Ella Ramonas made a 3-pointer for a 46-40 lead just 19 seconds into the final stanza, the Rams managed just two hoops the rest of the way.
Moody hit a 3, then fed Manning for a layup and then, after Viola made a layup for Deering, Ross calmly buried a 3-pointer with 5:09 to go to tie the score at 48-48.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played like I did tonight,” Ross said. “I’m usually not a shooter. I just threw it up and it went in. I had two 3s. I usually don’t shoot 3s. I’m usually more of a defensive specialist. I have confidence in myself. If I’m open, I’ll take it.”
Ten seconds later, the Red Storm had the lead when Manning buried a long jumper. It was Scarborough’s first advantage since 13-12 and capped a dramatic comeback.
“Our team doesn’t give up,” Manning said. “No matter what the score is. We moved the ball to get better looks in the second half and played better defense.”
“We’ve all been playing together since sixth grade travel and we want it so bad,” Ross added. “A lot of us play other sports and know how to handle pressure.”
With 2:18 to play, Burchill made a reverse layup for her first points since the first half, tying the game at 50-50, but with 1:09 left, Manning was fouled by Claire Ramonas and hit both ends of the one-and-one for a 52-50 cushion.
The Rams had ample opportunities to answer.
Deering turned the ball over, missed a shot, almost turned it over again, then, with 4.5 seconds left, Ella Ramonas found herself open up top for a long 3, which fell well short and went out of bounds. Manning then passed to Carrier who ran out the clock and Scarborough celebrated one of the biggest wins (if not the biggest) in program history.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking at the end,” said Manning (a game-high 20 points). “In the second half, we played more of a zone and got out on their shooters more. I think that helped. We ran the ball and got them tired.”
“This is huge,” said Ross (who finished with 14 points and played superb at the point). “It sends out a huge statement to the whole league that we’re here to stay and we’re ready to do something Scarborough’s never done before.”
“I like the fact (Deering) put up 33 in the first half and just 17 in the second,” Seavey added. “We got it done. Defensively and rebound-wise we stepped up nicely in the second half.”
Colpitts added seven points, Moody finished with six, Carrier wound up with three and Morin contributed two.
“We made some huge shots,” said Seavey. “Christy’s always going to be there. It’s the complements. They tried to take Colpitts out of the game, but she had a couple big buckets. Sarah Moody had some big buckets. Heather Carrier had a big 3.”
Deering was left stunned.
“It still comes down to defense and taking care of the ball,” said Murphy. “We’re still trying to find ourselves. We did a better job tonight than we did the other night. We were poor the other night. Tonight we were better, but we gave one away.
“It was helter skelter the last few possessions. We had the ball, advantage us. We have to learn that as a team. Same thing on the defensive end. I really believe the legs were a factor in the second half. Burch missed two weeks of preseason with tendinitis. She’s just coming back. We’re trying to find combinations to give kids breathers. Obviously, (Scarborough’s) a quality team. Overall, I’m pleased with my kids.
“I think we ran out of gas, to be honest. Our shots weren’t falling. We didn’t take the ball to the basket when they gave it to us. The ball went in the first half, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will in the second. At gutcheck time, we had to take the ball to the hoop, but we didn’t take advantage. We hope to get better and learn from this.”
Burchill led the Rams with 15 points, but 13 of those came in the first half.
“She only had a layup in the second half,” Seavey said. “We went from fullcourt man to matchup and kept shifting it up in the second half. We tried to keep them guessing. I knew coming in we were getting them off a loss and an awful performance at the line. We knew it would be a good measuring stick. They’ll be a force at the end of the season.”
“Kayla wasn’t the same after her third foul,” said Murphy. “She has to realize she has five. You can’t stop on three.”
Claire Ramonas had 11 points and was huge on the glass at both ends from start to finish. Ella Ramonas finished with seven points, Salamone and Viola had six apiece and Mikulanecz ended up with five.
When you have the ball and the score is tied, you have to take care of it,” Murphy said. “It’s gold. You shouldn’t panic as an offensive player. We’ll live and learn. This group has a whole different identity. Last year’s group had tremendous room for errors. This group doesn’t and we’ve seen it.”
Pity poor Gorham, which goes to win-starved Deering Tuesday night.
For Scarborough, with another test passed, another begins. How will this team handle being the top-ranked team in the league and the favorite? The Red Storm feel they’re ready for the challenge.
“Even though we won, we have to put it behind us and improve even more,” said Manning. “There’s a still a lot we can do to improve. Hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll be at our best and can win the state championship.”
“Now, we’re the hunted,” added Seavey. “The target grew a lot bigger tonight. We have to bring our ‘A’ game from here on out. It doesn’t get any easier. A lot of teams will come into games with us with a mentality of having everything to gain and nothing to lose. We’ll see how we react. It was good for us to get pushed like that.”
Scarborough hosts Marshwood Tuesday and plays at Westbrook Thursday of next week. The next huge test for the Red Storm comes Dec. 22 at home versus McAuley.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scarborough senior Christy Manning shot over Deering senior Claire Ramonas during the teams’ Friday night showdown. Manning’s two foul shots late in the fourth period gave the Red Storm a 52-50 victory and allowed them to make a major early statement.