The city rivalry was going to the wire, and Portland High had key players falling.
But Brianna Holdren then took the game into her hands Friday night, and the Bulldogs came away with a 60-55 victory against inspired Deering in a Western Class A girls’ basketball game at the Portland Expo.
Holdren hit the go-ahead bucket with a minute to play and pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to three with a left-elbow jumper in the lane with 19 seconds to play.
Portland improved to 11-1 a year after not making the playoffs. Deering, which trailed 14-2 after 3:39, dipped to 5-7.
Holdren finished with 21 points, eight in the fourth quarter.
LeeAnn Downs (18 points) and Tasia Titherington combined for 14 of Deering’s 16 fourth-quarter points. Amanda Brett scored a team-high 20 and gave the Rams their first lead with two free throws with 5:07 to play.
Shortly after that, Downs pushed the lead to three and Elizabeth Donato (11 points) of Portland went down with a knee injury. She didn’t return and had to leave the Expo on crutches with her left leg in a soft cast.
Portland point guard Mariana Angelo then had to hop off the court with a sprained ankle about two minutes later. Fortunately she was able to return after a brief absence.
“I look back and Elizabeth’s on the ground. We were down three and I don’t know if we’re going to pull through but amazingly we did,” Holdren said.
Portland Coach Jan Veinot also wondered how her team would respond to a new situation of being the hunted team that has lost a late lead.
“This was the first time where at the end of a game we’ve lost a lead. We’ve had teams get close but never go ahead,” Veinot said. “This was a testament to what are they going to do when they’re down three? And they came back.”
After Portland regained the lead as Holdren and Cierra Burnham (11 points) combined to make 5 of 6 free throws, Titherington scored on a back-door cross-court pass from Downs to give Deering its last lead, 55-54.
Seeing an opening from the right side of the court, Holdren didn’t hesitate and took it strong to the basket to regain the lead.
“This is definitely the closest game we’ve been in all season, so it was a new experience for all of us to have to hold the lead for the rest of the game and we can definitely learn from this,” Deering’s Downs said.
Angelo set the pace early with her speed in the open court and Portland aggressively pursued offensive rebounds to gain early control, rolling to a 14-2 lead and forcing Deering Coach Mike Murphy to call two quick timeouts.
The Rams played even the rest of the half behind the interior scoring of Brett, a freshman with a mature post game, and three outside buckets by Downs, their lone returning starter.
Portland scored 11 points on second-chance opportunities while taking a 32-23 halftime lead.
Brett was the main force in the third quarter, taking her turn getting offensive putbacks as she scored 10 points and Deering cut the lead to five at quarter’s end, 44-39.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: