SOUTH PORTLAND – The task was clear for Deering High guard Chelsea Saucier: shut down Danica Gleason of South Portland.

For the most part she did, and Deering won Monday’s matinee between undefeated SMAA schoolgirl basketball teams, 45-37 at Beal Gym.

“Me and Danica are actually (long-time) friends. We grew up together and played on the same AAU team so I have a feel for how she plays,” Saucier said.

“Definitely she’s grown as a player. She’s great, but my job was to shut her down. She only scored a couple of buckets and she forced shots, and that’s what we wanted out of her.”

Holding Gleason to nine points (one basket with 2:17 left) wasn’t all Saucier did. She also single-handedly broke South Portland’s full-court pressure, negating another aspect of the Red Riots’ offense.

“I thought what Chelsea did would dictate the game, which it did,” said South Portland Coach Mike Giordano. “She handled our pressure, which made us get out of it because we were getting nothing out of it. Then it became a half-court game, which fed right into what they wanted to do.”

Deering (7-0) has a Friday matchup against McAuley looming.

South Portland (6-1), which starts two freshmen and a sophomore, struggled with shooting, particularly in the first half. With Gleason going 0 for 6, the Riots were 2 for 31 from the floor.

“Danica is probably the most explosive player in our league with the ball and you’ve got to make it tough on her,” Deering Coach Mike Murphy said. “I thought Saucier did a great job on her.”

Deering was having its own offensive troubles and led only 21-12 at the break.

Deering’s 6-foot-4 center, Marissa MacMillan, was called for two touch fouls in the first 56 seconds and didn’t play again in the half. She finished with four points in less than six minutes.

“We played very well without her. It’s nice to have her,” Saucier said, “but we adjusted very well and did very well as a team.”

Courtney Brett, a 5-6 sophomore, came in for MacMillan, played the post on offense, ran the court hard and scored seven of her 10 points in the first half.

“I thought (Brett) gave us great minutes, hustle minutes, at both sides of the floor,” Murphy said.

That helped offset an 0-of-6 half from Keneisha DiRamio, normally a smooth shooter from mid-range to beyond the arc.

DiRamio found her stroke in the second half and finished with a game-high 14 points, hitting consecutive mid-range jumpers midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 43-29.

“I can’t get down,” DiRamio said. “I just have to keep shooting and a couple went in, and if they don’t go in I just get back on defense and help out.”

Gleason showed her grit by getting in the lane and scoring moments later, sparking an 8-1 run that cut the lead to 44-37 with 41 seconds left. At that point, Saucier and DiRamio slowed the tempo and effectively ran out the clock.

“Saucier being a three-year starter does a nice job settling us down on the floor,” Murphy said. “I thought the other kids, with Keneisha, did a great job on the offensive end. It was a calming effect.”

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be reached at 749-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com