PORTLAND – All Portland boys’ basketball coach Joe Russo wanted was to finish the regular season on a positive note.

That’s what happened Thursday night at the Portland Expo.

Mike Herrick poured in 25 points as the Bulldogs beat Deering 52-39 for their fifth consecutive SMAA victory.

The win came less than two weeks after the Rams beat Portland, 65-43.

“The last game, Deering beat us down the court almost every single play and they dominated the boards,” Russo said. “So we worked on getting back on defense and checking out so they wouldn’t dominate on the boards. We slowed them down.”

It was the fourth loss in five games for the Rams (10-8).

“We didn’t do a good job of covering Herrick,” Deering Coach Dan LeGage said. “We left him open and he made four 3s and scored 25 points, and that’s the game.”

Herrick sank all four of his 3-pointers in the second quarter to help propel the Bulldogs (11-7) into a 23-12 halftime lead.

“Last time, we had (Herrick) along the baseline and they did a good job against him,” Russo said. “This time we had him up at the top so he could have more touches.”

In the second quarter, Herrick sank four of his five shots from beyond the arc.

“I can put him up there. Big deal,” Russo said. “He still had to make the shots and he did.”

The Rams twice closed within four points of the Bulldogs in the third quarter.

Nick DiBiase made it 34-30 when he sank a 3-pointer with three seconds left for his only basket of the game.

“When Deering made that nice little run, the kids came off the court a little down,” Russo said. “I said, ‘Hey boys, that’s basketball. Let’s keep our composure,’ and they did. They hung tough.”

Portland started the fourth with a 14-2 run to open a 48-32 lead with three minutes remaining.

Nate Smart scored 10 points for Portland, Matt McInnes grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, and Nick Volger had four steals and five assists.

Jon Amabile led Deering with eight points, all of them in the first half.

Both teams are expected to qualify for the Western Class A tournament.

“We’re not hanging our heads,” LeGage said. “Our goal now is prepare for whoever we play and focus as well as we can on them. It’s a new season.”

The quarterfinal round of the regional tournament is scheduled to start next Friday at the Expo.

The final two rounds will be played at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“The regular season is over, and our goal is to get one win and get down to the Civic Center, where anything can happen,” LeGage said.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]