PORTLAND — A week ago, the Deering High girls’ basketball players watched as McAuley celebrated a victory on the Rams’ home court.

“After that game we knew what we wanted,” said Kayla Burchill of the Rams. “Watching them celebrate got in our heads. We wanted to be that team this time.”

And somehow they were.

Deering rallied from 14 points down midway through the third quarter, holding the Lions scoreless over the game’s final 5:03 to win 38-35, earning the top seed in Western Class A.

“It’s very exciting because going into the season not many people predicted us No. 1,” said Ella Ramonas of Deering. “We wanted to prove them wrong and show that we can come out on top.”

The Rams, ranked second going in, finished the regular season 17-1, the lone loss a 47-43 overtime thriller to McAuley. The Lions, seeded first coming in, finished 16-2, losing twice in the season’s final seven days.

“There’s a lot of pride on this team,” said Rams Coach Mike Murphy. “We talk a lot to them and they take it to heart. They don’t go away. They don’t put their heads down. They suck it up and go play like a real athlete.”

McAuley jumped to an early lead and with 6-foot-2 center Alexa Coulombe hitting four 3-pointers in the first half, led 22-13. Deering shot 1 of 11 in the second quarter.

Then McAuley pushed the lead to 14 as Hannah Cooke hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Coulombe dropped in a foul shot with 4:27 left in the third.

Deering scored the next 10 points — reserve Emily Cole hitting a huge 3-pointer — but in the process Burchill picked up her fourth foul and had to sit with 1:13 left in the third.

McAuley, leading by four after three quarters, quickly pushed the lead back to seven and Burchill came back just 31 seconds into the fourth quarter. She played the rest of the way and scored eight of her team-high 14 in the final quarter.

“I knew I couldn’t foul,” she said. “If it came down to it, I would have stepped aside and given up a layup.”

Cooke hit two foul shots with 5:03 left to give the Lions a 35-28 lead. They wouldn’t score again.

McAuley’s next five possessions resulted in a missed shot and four turnovers. McAuley hit only 1 of 6 shots in the final quarter.

“Give Deering credit,” said Lions Coach Amy Vachon. “We didn’t do what we needed to do to put this one away. They pressured us and we didn’t really handle it that well, turned it over a couple of times, rushing shots.”

The Rams, meanwhile, attacked the basket. Burchill hit two foul shots, Chelsea Saucier drove left for a basket, then ran a perfect give-and-go with Ramonas, resulting in a Ramonas layup that made it 35-34.

Burchill gave Deering the lead at 36-35 with 1:53 left, taking a pass from Saucier on the left and powering in for the score. After a turnover, she scored inside again, taking a pass from Ramonas for the game’s final basket.

Deering’s defense was exceptional, especially the job of Aarika Viola on McAuley’s Rebecca Knight, who scored 26 a week earlier but only eight on Tuesday.

“Tonight is going to be a real memory because everyone stepped up,” said Burchill. “It wasn’t one person and we all tried our hardest. We all knew what we wanted and we got it.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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