Deering forward Ahmed Ali really likes to play at the Portland Expo.
Friday night, the 6-foot-7 senior put on a shooting exhibition, pouring in a season-high 30 points to lead the Rams to a 77-51 win against Gorham in a Western Class A boys’ basketball game.
“I always play well here,” Ali said. “The court’s nice and I like the big stage.”
While the game was held in conjunction with Portland High’s 28th annual holiday tournament, it counted in the Heal point standings.
Before Friday night, Ali, who came into the game averaging a team-high 12 points, hadn’t scored more than 14 in a game this season.
“My shot was falling but it was like a team thing,” he said. “It was pretty much my teammates. They were feeding me and I was finishing.”
“He shoots like that every day in practice but this is the first time he’s done it in a game,” said Liam Densmore, a junior guard who scored 11 points.
Ali scored 17 points in the first half to help Deering (4-2) move into a 39-26 lead.
“He’s a tough matchup for people,” Deering Coach Todd Wing said. “He’s a 6-7 shooter who can rebound very well. He’s a coach’s dream. He can bring guys away from the basket with his shooting and open it up around the hoop for other players.”
Gorham (3-3) stayed close for the first 12 minutes.
“I thought we played well for a quarter and a half,” Gorham Coach Mark Karter said. “We had about a three-minute stretch where we played really soft and you can’t play soft against a good team.”
Deering finished the first half with a 10-0 run, holding Gorham scoreless for the final 2½ minutes.
“It went from two (points) to 13 in about 30 or 40 seconds and that’s too much for us to overcome,” Karter said.
“Our pressure defense is getting better and better, and that improves our (ability to score in spurts),” Wing said.
A lot of that pressure in the closing moments of the half, was applied by Deering’s reserves.
“We have great guys coming off the bench,” Wing said.
“The guys coming off the bench are ready and they like playing defense. As a coach you can’t ask for anything more. They’re waiting for their opportunity and they took advantage of it.”
Gorham, led by sophomore center Sam Kilbourne’s 15 points, managed to close the gap to 49-40 midway through the third quarter, but Deering finished the period with a 14-4 run to move into a 63-44 lead.
“(Deering is) an athletic team and we need the game to be down in the 40s and the 50s, not up in the 70s to be competitive,” Karter said.
“We need to get a little better, a little more athletic and physical.”