Labson Abwoch of Deering, left, and Ben Burkey of South Portland jostle for rebounding position Friday night during Deering’s 58-52 victory in overtime.
By Tom Chard
SOUTH PORTLAND - Labson Abwoch of Deering had two foul shots with no time left in regulation Friday night, his team trailing by one point.
He made the first to tie it, then missed the second.
But in overtime, Abwoch went 4 of 4 from the line as the Rams pulled away to hand South Portland its first loss, 58-52 in an SMAA game at a packed and raucous Beal Gym.
Deering (7-1), the defending Class A state champion, trailed for most of the second half after a spurt by South Portland (7-1) early in the third quarter.
The Riots looked in control, leading 44-37, but the Rams, known for their quickness, kept scraping and took a 47-46 lead on a Dominic Lauture 3-pointer from the corner with 32 seconds left in regulation.
The lead was short-lived. Jaren Muller of South Portland scored on a layup while being fouled with 20 seconds but missed the free throw.
Abwoch then took a hard foul driving the baseline and with no time left, went to the line. With the South Portland crowd screaming, Labson made the first to make it 48-48. His second rolled off.
Deering's aggressive play paid off in overtime when it got most of the calls and went to the line. The Rams, who made only 7 of 17 from the line in regulation, canned 8 of 10 in overtime.
The Riots made three costly turnovers to squander their seven-point lead with just under three minutes left in regulation.
"We never quit," said Abwoch, who scored a game-high 18 points. "I love playing in this environment."
Abwoch wasn't sure of the sequence that found the ball in his hands as the seconds ticked down in regulation, but he didn't waste time going to the basket.
It was a big win for the Rams after losing to Bonny Eagle last Saturday, 45-44. Deering beat Kennebunk on Wednesday.
"For our backcourt, this was the first real big-game environment they've been in," said Deering Coach Dan LeGage. "It was their first pressure-cooker and they did a great job. The veteran players stepped up. They have a lot of mental toughness. It's always nice to win at Beal Gym."
LeGage praised guards Kevin Masse, a senior, sophomore Liam Densmore and Lauture, another senior, who hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Only Lauture among them played last year.
Abwoch, a 6-foot-6 center, and Thiwat Thiwat, a 6-4 forward, starters last year, began slowly but got better as the game wore on.
The game was physical from start to finish. Play was occasionally sloppy.
"The physical nature prevented any real flow to the game," said LeGage.
The final minutes of regulation, then overtime, made up for the disjointed play.
"Deering was ranked as one of the top two teams going into the season," said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. "We played them toe to toe and had the lead in the fourth quarter. We know we can play with them. I'm real proud of the way the kids competed."
Tanner Hyland, the second-leading scorer in the SMAA at 21 points per game, got off to a rough start but finished with 15 points to lead South Portland. His 3-pointer gave the Riots their first lead at 27-25 in the third quarter. Hyland's other 3-pointer came midway in the fourth to make it 42-37.
Conner MacVane was outstanding for the Riots, as was Muller, a 6-5 sophomore. MacVane had six points in the third quarter when the Riots outscored Deering, 16-10. MacVane and Muller both finished with 14 points.
Thiwat added 10 for the Rams.
Deering led 21-12 midway in the second quarter before the Riots rallied, led by center Jack Toland and Hyland, to trail 23-22 at halftime.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Tanner Hyland of South Portland finds room in the Deering defense to get off a shot Friday night. Hyland led the Red Riots with 15 points but the Rams came away with a 58-52 victory in overtime.