Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Tom Chard firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND - Coach Dan LeGage's message to his players at halftime was to pick up the intensity.
A dunk by Labson Abwoch with about two minutes left in the game set off a celebration on the Deering bench, and soon everyone joined in as the Rams beat Hampden Academy on Saturday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center to win the Class A state championship.
Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Boy, did they ever.
Leading by a point, Deering came out flying in the third quarter and turned the game around, outscoring Hampden Academy, 21-11.
The spurt was the difference as the Rams downed the Eastern Maine champions 59-50 to win the Class A state basketball championship Saturday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
"It was no secret that for us to win, we had to push the tempo," said LeGage. "Hampden obliged us by going along."
It was Deering's second state title in seven seasons. The Rams also beat the Broncos in 2006 at the Civic Center after Hampden beat them the year before in Bangor.
Deering went 64 seasons from its first state title-game appearance to its second, and now has been in five finals since 2001.
Jon Amabile led Deering (19-3) with 27 points. Thiwat Thiwat added 15.
"Coach told us we had to pick up our intensity," said Amabile, who scored his 1,000th career point just before halftime.
"We controlled the pace of the game in the second half. They couldn't run with us. This feels so good with all the hard work we've put in."
Deering's halfcourt trap press helped turn the game in its favor.
The Rams came up with steals and turned a 21-21 tie into a one-sided game with a 13-0 run in the third quarter. The Broncos (20-2) had the height advantage, particularly in the backcourt, but hadn't faced a team as quick as Deering.
"We knew Deering was quick," said Hampden Academy Coach Russ Bartlett. "We made some poor rotations on defense and Deering just rolled with it."
Amabile and Thiwat both scored eight points in the third quarter. Thiwat hit a short jumper to break a 21-21 tie.
The Rams wouldn't trail again.
Labson Abwoch scored for the Rams before Fred Knight, the Broncos' 6-foot-7 center, hit a basket. Amabile hit a 3-pointer to start the run. Amabile had three more points in the surge.
Thiwat contributed four points, and Cal London and Abwoch had the other three points for a 15-point Deering lead.
The Broncos' brief spurt at the end of the quarter cut it to 40-29 entering the fourth.
Abwoch and London scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to make it a 15-point bulge again.
The closest Hampden got the rest of the way was seven points.
Christian McCue of Hampden scored a game-high 28 points, including 14 in the final quarter. He was 9 of 9 from the line.
Deering kept up its frenetic pace in the fourth quarter. Amabile took it hard to the basket, scoring on twisting moves. He scored 18 points in the second half.
"Jon showed tonight that he's one of the best players and scorers in the state," said LeGage.
Thiwat, a rugged 6-foot-4 junior, gave the Rams a huge boost at both ends of the floor, as did Abwoch, his 6-6 classmate. Abwoch finished with 10 points and played strong inside, blocking and altering several shots.
His dunk with 2:04 remaining put the icing on Deering's victory.
"Tonight, Thiwat was everything I knew he could be. All our guys, Labson, Pat, Cal and Chhorda (Chhorn), did something along the way." LeGage said.
During the season and before the tournament, the talk was of parity in Western Class A.
"They talked about it but we were in the top spot in the rankings for most of the season," said LeGage. "We peaked at the right time."
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: