PORTLAND – It certainly wasn’t a shooting clinic. Nor did the Deering High girls’ basketball team show much crispness in running its offense.

But the Rams did do what they’ve done for pretty much the entire season: Play smothering defense and win.

Despite shooting 9 of 49 from the floor, the Rams beat South Portland 33-21 on Monday in a game between two teams likely headed directly to the quarterfinals in two weeks.

“It was an eye-opener. I definitely think only good can come out of this,” Deering Coach Mike Murphy said. “They know if you come in and you’re not mentally prepared you’re going to struggle.”

Second-ranked Deering improved to 16-1 and will finish the regular season hosting Cheverus, the third-place team in Western Class A, on Wednesday.

Most of the Stags (14-2) were in the stands on Monday.

For the better part of three quarters South Portland (12-5) was in position to pull an upset despite its offensive inefficiencies.

The Red Riots were 8 of 35 from the floor and committed 23 turnovers but held leads of 6-2 after a quarter, 11-10 at the half thanks to a 3-pointer by Maddie Hasson with 2 seconds left and 15-12 midway through the third.

“We definitely missed an opportunity,” South Portland Coach Mike Giordano said.

“To their credit they played great defense in the half court. We were ahead at the half. Hard to believe at 11-10, which I’m sure was hard to watch and it was hard to coach and we hung in there defensively, then we started turning the ball over.”

That’s when Deering senior Keneisha DiRamio hit a 3-pointer to tie the game. It was the Rams’ fourth basket of the game and their first from outside 3 feet.

DiRamio then scored on a three-on-one break to give Deering its first lead. Defense and free-throw shooting (10 of 11 in the second half) did the rest.

South Portland was playing its fourth game without leading scorer Danica Gleason, lost for the season with a dislocated kneecap.

Deering center Marisa MacMillan led all scorers with 11 points, making 9 of 11 free throws. DiRamio had seven points and Chelsea Saucier scored eight for Deering. Hasson scored eight for South Portland.

“You give South Portland credit. They played hard. It was just lacking offensive skills,” Murphy said. “To me it’s decision making. What’s the best angle to get a shot off? To make a pass. It just seemed like going through the motions.”

Deering did get a lift from Courtney Brett, who hit the only two shots she attempted; a pair of midrange jumpers that helped push the lead to 25-18.

Shortly after that MacMillan returned to the game after having to visit the trainer’s room. She had attempted to draw a charge along the sideline and took the brunt of a hard collision with Brianne Maloney (and was called for the foul).

MacMillan salted the game away with a three-point play for a 28-19 lead.

“They made their little run and down eight felt like 20,” Giordano said. “I felt like we didn’t show any composure in the half court to get good looks. I thought they had good looks and didn’t make them.”

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com