February 15, 2013

Girls' basketball: Deering's Saucier is never at a loss, even when loss is deep

Chelsea Saucier, who lost her father a year ago, is the upbeat leader for Deering, even when it's tough emotionally.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Chelsea Saucier, Deering High's quietly superior senior point guard, is quite sure she will remember this year's Western Class A tournament in greater detail.

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Chelsea Saucier is the leader of a Deering team that may pose the biggest threat in the Western Class A tournament to McAuley, the unbeaten, two-time defending state champion. Saucier can score when needed, is a bulldog on defense and keeps the team focused.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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On Valentine's Day 2012, Chelsea's father, Scott Saucier, died at his home. Six days later favored Deering was unceremoniously dispatched in the quarterfinals by Windham, 45-33.

"He had heart disease and he had a cold and passed away in his sleep," Saucier said. "I don't remember a thing about the game. Like I probably remember two plays and that's it."

Deering Coach Mike Murphy recalled that the death of Saucier's father left his whole team in an emotional fog but that it was Saucier among them who played close to her capabilities.

"She had something to play for," Murphy said.

Scott Saucier was "my role model, my best friend. I was very close to my dad," Chelsea Saucier said.

Before each game she plays his favorite song, the Kid Rock power ballad "Only God Knows Why." It was a phrase Scott Saucier had tattooed and last summer on Father's Day, Chelsea followed suit.

But you could go a season without noticing anything out of the ordinary when watching Saucier play. She believes in the value of understatement.

"Keep it calm, be a leader," Saucier said when asked how she views her role. "My job is to bring everyone else up, keep them up. Never be negative ever."

This year she's done her job without flourish but with much success.

"I love it. She has a very calming influence," said Deering senior Keneisha DiRamio, who has played with Saucier since their grade-school days. "She doesn't need to be flashy. She's a good player."

The Rams enter the tournament as the second seed in Western Class A with a 16-2 record and will face No. 7 Thornton Academy in Monday's 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.

Deering is the only team this year to come remotely close to beating two-time state champ McAuley, losing 43-35 in mid-January. McAuley has won 44 straight games.

"Oh yeah, I definitely think about facing McAuley," Saucier said. "We know we can beat them. We just have to play the way we play in practice."

But the final week of the season was frustrating. A sluggish 33-21 win against South Portland was followed by a 47-38 loss to Cheverus in the regular-season finale. It was the first time Cheverus had beaten its crosstown rival in the 11-year history of Cheverus girls' basketball.

"I honestly don't know what happened but it will just make us better," Saucier said.

If Deering is to make another deep run -- Saucier played in the Western A final as a freshman and sophomore -- she will be the one setting the tempo and controlling the game.

"For us to be successful, we need her to play," Murphy said.

At 5-foot-10 and possessing modest foot speed, Saucier uses an uncanny ability to change speeds and direction to break pressure, and always has a sure-handed grasp of her team's goals.

"She will never show you 'oh my God,' plays but coaches in the league know what that kid means to Deering," said South Portland Coach Mike Giordano. "She's a great player defensively, never gets beat, is always on the floor, never gets in foul trouble and controls the tempo on offense."

In her third year as a starter, Saucier is averaging a career-high 9.8 points a game. Her four lowest-scoring outputs have come in lopsided victories.

"This year she's playing with confidence," Murphy said. "Chelsea's really not a scorer but we've needed her to be a little more selfish. We've asked her to shoot the ball a little bit more."

In the second South Portland win, with Deering making less than 20 percent of its shots and trailing the injury-plagued Red Riots in the third quarter, Saucier pointedly took the ball to the basket and drew fouls, making all four foul shots.

"We weren't going anywhere and nothing was happening, so step up and make something happen," Saucier said.

Murphy said that was another sign of Saucier's maturation as a player and "I really think she's going to have a good college career."

Saucier said her first choice is to play at Bridgewater State. The University of Southern Maine is also a top option.

Saucier was asked if it's been hard to keep her emotions in check this season, considering one end is fast approaching and another came way too soon.

"It's really hard for me, actually," Saucier said, "but I just know in the end everyone is looking to me and if I'm down or not, it's my job to be upbeat and keep everyone calm."

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com

 

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