Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Tom Chard firstname.lastname@example.org
Labson Abwoch and Thiwat Thiwat emigrated to the United States with their families before they were old enough to go to school. Now they are hoping to carry Deering High to a Class A basketball state championship.
Thiwat Thiwat, foreground, and Labson Abwoch, background, aren’t just teammates on a Deering High boys’ basketball team seeking the state title tonight, but also are longtime friends with a shared background. Their families are both from war-torn Sudan.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
CLASS A BOYS' STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
WHO: Deering (18-3) vs. Hampden Academy (20-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Cumberland County Civic Center
Jon Amabile, G, 17.2 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 2.1 apg.
Pat Green, G, 8.2 ppg., 2.3 rpg., 2.5 apg.
Chhorda Chhorn, G, 2.2 ppg., 1.6 rpg., 1.5 apg.
Labson Abwoch, C, 13.2 ppg., 8.6 rpg., 0.7 apg.
Thiwat Thiwat, F, 8.1 ppg., 7.7 rpg., 0.5 apg.
KEYS FOR DEERING
First and foremost, the Rams need to stay out of foul trouble, particularly their big men -- Abwoch and Thiwat -- as well as top scorer Amabile. Deering will be the smaller team, so rebounding at both ends of the court will be essential. The Rams have to take advantage of their quickness and force the pace as much as possible. They also have to take care of the basketball. A fast start will help build confidence. This is the third state championship game between the two teams since 2005. Hampden Academy won in 2005; Deering won the next season.
HAMPDEN ACADEMY STARTERS
Christian McCue, G, 17.0 ppg., 3.0 rpg., 3.1 apg.
Fred Knight, C, 8.7 ppg., 6.0 rpg., 0.5 apg.
Logan Poirier, F, 6.2 ppg., 8.0 rpg., 3.2 apg.
Zach Gilpin, G, 11.7 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 2.0 apg.
Matt Palmer, F, 5.4 ppg., 4.0 rpg,. 4.0 apg.
KEYS FOR HAMPDEN ACADEMY
"We have to limit Deering's second opportunities, take great shots and value the basketball," said Coach Russ Bartlett. The Broncos have the height advantage, particularly in the backcourt. They want to stay out of foul trouble and look to make the hustle plays. McCue is one of the top players in the state. The Broncos also will look to get the ball inside to the 6-foot-7 Knight, who has a soft touch on his jumper. "I think the matchup with our big guys and their big guys will be great," said Bartlett.
- Tom Chard
They are Deering's twin towers, even though the Rams will be the shorter team against Hampden Academy tonight at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Both juniors, Abwoch and Thiwat match up well with Hampden's inside players in height and talent. It's the rest of the team where the Broncos have a decided height advantage.
Still, Deering's chances of winning the Gold Ball likely will hinge on how well the 6-foot-6 Abwoch and the 6-foot-4 Thiwat play and how effective they are staying out of foul trouble.
Abwoch and Thiwat, both from Sudan, came to the United States with their families at different times but both at a young age -- Abwoch was 9 months old, Thiwat was 4 years old. Being so young, they have no memories of their homeland, which has been involved in civil war for years. They assimilated early on in language, culture and love of sports, especially basketball.
"I feel we've had an easier time adapting to this country than others because we came here so young," said Abwoch.
Abwoch and Thiwat went to different grammar schools. They became teammates and soon best friends at Lincoln Middle School.
"I'm glad we came to this country because if I had known Labson in Sudan, we wouldn't have been able to be friends," said Thiwat. "We were from different tribes and would have had to fight. Sudan is a war-torn country."
Thiwat's mother and two brothers live in Ethiopia. He lives with his father in Portland. "My mother wants me to come visit her," he said.
Both players have strong support systems. Abwoch's family is here. Thiwat has a mentor.
Bonnie Kam, a retired assistant principal at Windham High who lives in Portland, has been Thiwat's mentor since he was in the third grade. She sees him regularly and makes sure he has what he needs, from helping with schoolwork to providing rides.
"I feed him, clothe him and love him," said Kam. "Thiwat takes all college prep courses and does well. I'm here to provide the inspiration."
"I call her my grandmother," said Thiwat.
Abwoch doesn't have a mentor, but Coach Dan LeGage and his assistants serve that role in an unofficial capacity.
"Whatever support a player needs, we're there for them," said LeGage. "People ask me why I need six coaches. This is why. To make sure the players have what they need. It could be support on homework, making sure they're fed properly or have a buddy system in place. I believe it's an extension of the actual coaching part.
"When things aren't going well for them, you try to be a better listener. When things are going well, you continue to teach. Coaching goes beyond winning or losing."
LeGage said the team is close and players look out for each other.
Abwoch has been a starter since the beginning of his sophomore year. Thiwat was on the junior varsity at the start of last season. He moved up to varsity later in the year and impressed.
"We had several games in a row at the end of last season because of snow," said LeGage. "Against Marshwood, Thiwat scored 12 points and had eight rebounds. From then on he played a lot.
"Thiwat had a great summer and teams were a lot more aware of him."
Abwoch has improved steadily and gotten stronger, said LeGage. Naturally strong, Thiwat needs to improve his agility, said the coach.
"Their weaknesses are the other's strengths," said LeGage. "Labson has improved his strength but needs to get stronger. Thiwat is as strong a player as there is in the SMAA. We want him to get more agility, and work on his speed and quickness."
Both want to play in college on scholarship. Win or lose today, Deering will have them for another season.
"It's going to be nice to have them back," said LeGage.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: