PORTLAND — Twice in the first quarter, Mike Murphy didn’t like what he was seeing from his Deering High girls’ basketball team, so he called a timeout. Thornton Academy had taken a 6-2 lead in their Western Class A quarterfinal at the Portland Expo and was looking to pull away.
“I just had to settle them down,” he said of his players. “We were discombobulated. You could see it in their faces. And once we were able to score and get into our press, that bothered them.”
Once they settled down, the Rams did what they do best — play defense.
Deering held the Trojans to two long scoring droughts on the way to a 33-25 victory. Thornton didn’t score during an 8:06 stretch spanning the first and second quarters, allowing the Rams to take the lead.
Then Deering held Thornton without a field goal in the fourth, when the Rams pulled away.
“That was our goal, defense, defense, defense,” said guard Chelsea Saucier, who led Deering with 12 points. “We knew that’s what was going to get us to the next game. And that’s what we did.”
Second-ranked Deering (17-2) will play third-seeded Cheverus (17-2) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The teams split in the regular season, each winning on the road.
The Trojans (13-6) led 6-2 after Olivia Shaw hit a 3-pointer with 2:13 left in the first quarter. Then Deering clamped down, running off 13 consecutive points before Shaw — who finished with 15 points — scored inside to make it 15-8. Deering forced seven turnovers in that stretch.
“With our defense, our scoring will come,” said Saucier. “We just know we have to shut them down.”
The Trojans pulled within 24-23 with a late run in the third quarter, as Shaw hit two 3-pointers in the final 2:23. Then the Rams clamped down again in the fourth.
Marissa MacMillan, Deering’s 6-foot-4 center, began the fourth with a three-point play, grabbing an offensive rebound for a basket and a foul.
“That was huge,” said Murphy.
Trojans Coach Eric Marston agreed. “I thought we had all the momentum at the end of the third and we wanted to build on it,” he said. “Then they started the fourth with that three-point play.”
Three consecutive Trojan possessions ended with turnovers, the last leading to a Saucier jumper that made it 29-23.
Playing with three fouls, MacMillan had a tremendous fourth quarter, scoring five points, grabbing five rebounds, blocking a shot and coming up with two steals. Her defense kept Shaw from scoring in the final eight minutes.
“We gave Shaw too many open looks in the third,” said Murphy. “In the fourth we told them, ‘Don’t let her get the ball.’ So once she gave it up, we made it hard for them to get her the ball back.”
MacMillan knew she had to be careful with the three fouls.
“It’s in your mind,” she said, “but you can’t let it affect you.”
Thornton’s only two points of the fourth came on free throws by freshman Ashley Howe with 4:20 remaining. But the Trojans turned the ball over three more times and missed four shots.
“We struggled own the stretch and I give a lot of credit to Coach Murphy and Deering,” said Marston. “They played with a lot of poise. We had our opportunities, certainly, and I think we had decent looks at it. But we just didn’t convert.
“Any time you’re trying to advance out of the quarterfinals, it’s not going to happen with those long stretches of not scoring.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: