South Portland wins at Deering, makes early season statement

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South Portland junior Eva Mazur goes up for a layup as Deering sophomore Delaney Haines defends during the Red Riots’ 57-46 victory Tuesday night. Mazur led all scorers with 21 points.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

South Portland 57 Deering 46

SP- 18 12 12 15- 57
D- 11 9 11 15- 46

SP- Mazur 8-0-21, Graff 6-2-15, M. Whitmore 4-1-9, Boles 2-0-5, K. Whitmore 0-4-4, Leckie 1-0-2, Henderson 0-1-1

D- Haines 5-2-15, Brett 4-1-9, Ramirez 4-0-8, Titherington 3-0-6, Garand 1-2-4, Mathisen 1-0-3, Mastropasqua 0-1-1

3-pointers:
SP (7) Mazur 5, Boles, Graff 1
D (4) Haines 3, Mathisen 1

Turnovers:
SP- 20
D- 14

FTs
SP:  8-12
D: 6-13

PORTLAND—South Portland’s girls’ basketball team has lived up to billing so far this winter.

The Deering Rams, meanwhile, have some work to do.

Tuesday evening, the Red Riots traveled to Deering for an early season showdown and for nearly 32 minutes, South Portland put on a show.

The Red Riots trailed for all of 44 seconds and thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from junior Eva Mazur, shot to a quick 16-6 lead and an 18-11 advantage after one quarter. 

The Rams got within three points in the second period, but Mazur made successive 3s, then converted a layup after a steal to open it again and South Portland was ahead, 30-20, at halftime.

Deering never got closer than eight points in the second half, as the Red Riots never allowed a run and they went on to an impressive 57-46 victory.

Mazur, best known for her defensive prowess, had a game-high 21 points and junior Meghan Graff added 15 points as South Portland improved to 2-0 on the young season, won at Deering for the first time since Jan. 5, 2008 and dropped the Rams to 1-1 in the process.

“We hadn’t won here in awhile and we’ve had some heartbreaks here,” said Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “We talked about matching their intensity. They’re more physical than we are, but we matched up.”

High hopes

Both Deering and South Portland came into the season viewed as favorites in their respective regions.

The Rams lost to Oxford Hills in the AA North semifinals last season and with a solid core of seniors, should be in the hunt all winter. Deering opened with a 52-32 victory at Portland, behind 22 points from senior Tasia Titherington and 18 from senior Amanda Brett.

The Red Riots reached the AA South Final in 2015-16, but lost to eventual champion Gorham. South Portland has some key players back and some promising newcomers and is considered the team with the best chance to dethrone Gorham this time around. The Red Riots opened with a 58-29 home win over Maine Girls’ Academy, as Graff had 20 points and sophomore Jena Leckie added 10 with 14 rebounds.

Entering play Tuesday, since the start of the 2001-02 season, Deering had beaten South Portland 16 of 24 times, but the Red Riots had won three of the past five meetings (see sidebar, below). Last year, each squad won at home (South Portland by a 40-37 score and Deering, 51-45).

This time around, the Red Riots put together a solid performance from start to finish and earned a win that will pay big dividends down the road.

Twenty-eight seconds in, the Rams reached their highwater mark when sophomore Mandy Mastropasqua set up Brett for a layup, but with 5:48 to go in the first quarter, freshman Maggie Whitmore made a jump shot and 37 seconds later, Whitmore drove a leaner, was fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play which put South Portland ahead to stay.

Deering countered when sophomore Delaney Haines drove for a left-handed layup, but Mazur, a South Portland native who played for McAuley as a freshman and sophomore, then heated up, making consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 11-4. 

“I’ve been doing a long of form work on my shot,” Mazur said. “Deering’s usually good and it’s really fun to compete with good teams. A fast start was really important. Deering really wanted to defend their homecourt. It was good to get momentum. It’s fun (being back in South Portland). I like it. It’s a bunch of girls I grew up with.”

Rams coach Mike Murphy called timeout and it worked momentarily as senior Abi Ramirez hit a leaner off the glass, but Graff countered with a 3-pointer and after a steal, Mazur made a layup for a 16-6 advantage, forcing Murphy to call another timeout.

After Brett set up sophomore Victoria Garand for a layup, Mazur picked up her second foul and Haines hit two free throws, but Graff made a baseline jumper at the other end. Brett then made a free throw to make it 18-11 South Portland after one quarter.

Mazur had eight points in that frame.

The Rams got within a possession in the second period, but the Red Riots opened it back up.

After Ramirez made a bank shot,Titherington made an up-and-under layup to make the score 18-15. Sophomore Katie Whitmore answered with two free throws for the visitors, but with 5:48 remaining, Ramirez drove for a layup to again make it a three-point game.

Mazur then turned momentum for good.

With 4:13 to go before halftime, she hit a 3-pointer.

Twelve seconds later, after a steal, Mazur took a pass from Graff and made another 3.

Then, with 3:20 to go in the half, Mazur stole the ball, raced in and made a layup to open up the lead to 28-17.

“Hats off to her, she’s a great player,” Murphy said. “She’s going to play at a different level.”

After Brett ended the run with a layup, Deering sophomore Mandy Mastropasqua made a free throw, but with 10.6 seconds left, Graff made a layup for a 30-20 South Portland advantage at the break.

Mazur had 16 first half points.

The Red Riots never allowed the Rams to make things interesting in the second half.

After Mazur set up Maggie Whitmore for a layup to start the third period, Haines made a 3, but Graff drove for a layup. Sophomore Ashleigh Mathisen hit a 3 to pull Deering within 34-26, but Graff made a jumper and senior Lydia Henderson made a free throw for an 11-point edge.

Haines made a layup, but after Maggie Whitmore kept possession alive with an offensive rebound and got the ball to Graff, Graff passed to Mazur, who sank another 3. Mazur then made a fastbreak layup from Whitmore to make it 42-28.

Inside the final minute, Haines hit another 3, but South Portland led by 11 going to the final stanza.

There, the Red Riots salted it away.

South Portland junior Sarah Boles opened the fourth period with a 3.

Garand answered with two free throws, but Graff drove for a leaner. After a Brett layup, Leckie made a layup for a 49-35 lead.

Ramirez tried to spark a rally with a layup, but Katie Whitmore sank two foul shots.

After Brett made a layup, a Mazur steal led to a putback from Maggie Whitmore. Titherington made a layup and Haines hit a 3 to cut the deficit to 53-44 with 1:28 to play and after a Red Riots’ turnover, Deering had a chance to draw even closer, but Brett missed a shot and Mazur got the rebound.

A Boles bank shot ended all doubt and after Titherington made a layup for the hosts’ final points, Graff made a pair of free throws and that slammed the door on South Portland’s 57-46 triumph.

Mazur had her finest offensive game in her high school career to date, erupting for 21 points on five 3-pointers. She also had five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

“We’ve seen Eva shoot like that in practice,” Hasson said. “All I can say is, ‘Wow!’ That adds to her arsenal. I want her to be confident and take her shot. She’s a great player and she’s a huge benefit to us when she shoots like that.”

Graff added 15 points, five boards, three assists and two steals.

Maggie Whitmore had nine points and six rebounds and played strong defense on Brett.

“Maggie doesn’t play like a freshman,” Hasson said. “She plays with a lot of confidence and a lot of skill.”

Boles added five points, Katie Whitmore had four (to go with four boards), Leckie two (and eight rebounds) and Henderson one (to go with three assists).

The Red Riots outrebounded the Rams, 30-15, overcame 20 turnovers by forcing 14 and converted 8 of 12 free throws.

Deering’s top scorer was Haines, who had 15 points. Brett added nine points, Ramirez had eight (as well as eight rebounds and a steal), Titherington six (to go with three steals), Garand four, Mathisen three and Mastropasqua one.

The Rams made 6 of 13 free throws.

“We stunk on both sides of the floor,” Murphy said. “We were a step slow and they’re very good. They shot the ball well, but it seems like everybody shoots the ball well against us. We did too much chasing and not enough diverting their offense to other spots. They set the tempo.”

Bigger test

Deering has its hands full Thursday, as it goes to Edward Little, looking to get back on track, before hosting Sanford Saturday.

“It’s early in one sense, but when you play against quality teams, you have to step it up a level,” Murphy said. “I think we have good talent here, but we have to step up to the challenge. We play a good, well-coached EL team Thursday. They’re always tough.”

South Portland faces its biggest test of the season Thursday, when it gets its lone regular season shot at Gorham.

“We’ll have to work hard in practice and come ready to play,” Mazur said. “It’ll be fun. Those are the kinds of games we like.”

“I’m really happy where we are,” Hasson said. “It’s too bad (we’re playing each other) so early. It’ll be a battle and it will certainly give us an idea where we stand. No one expects us to win. No one but our kids.”

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

South Portland sophomore Jena Leckie blocks the shot of Deering senior Amanda Brett.

South Portland junior Meghan Graff drives on Deering senior Tasia Titherington.

South Portland freshman Maggie Whitmore shoots over Deering senior Amanda Brett.

Deering senior Tasia Titherington defends South Portland sophomore Katie Whitmore.

Recent South Portland-Deering meetings

2015-16
@ South Portland 40 Deering 37
@ Deering 51 South Portland 45 

2014-15
@ Deering 59 South Portland 52 (OT)
Western A quarterfinal
South Portland 49 Deering 37 

2013-14
@ South Portland 50 Deering 48

2012-13
Deering 45 @ South Portland 37
@ Deering 33 South Portland 21

2011-12
@ Deering 46 South Portland 32
Deering 49 @ South Portland 35

2010-11
@ Deering 51 South Portland 45

2009-10 
Deering 44 @ South Portland 31

2008-09 
Deering 46 @ South Portland 24
@ Deering 46 South Portland 35

2007-08 
South Portland 45 @ Deering 35
Deering 30 @ South Portland 28

2006-07 
@ Deering 48 South Portland 28
Western A quarterfinals
Deering 50 South Portland 30

2005-06 
@ South Portland 42 Deering 38

2004-05 
@ South Portland 52 Deering 39

2003-04
@ Deering 55 South Portland 23

2002-03 
Deering 57 @ South Portland 47
@ Deering 45 South Portland 40

2001-02
South Portland 42 @ Deering 32
@ South Portland 40 Deering 27

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