SOUTH PORTLAND – It’s easy to expect a lot of offense when two teams that average more than 57 points per game go head-to-head.

Sometimes you have to expect the unexpected.

It was tight defense that helped Deering get past South Portland 40-29 in a Southern Maine Activities Association boys’ basketball game Friday night at Beal Gym.

“It was two teams battling against each other and challenging every possession,” said Deering Coach Dan LeGage.

“For us defensively, I was very proud of our performance. We held them to single digits in three of the four quarters. That’s pretty good against a quality team like South Portland.”

Both teams discovered early that it would be a tough night: Deering led 6-5 after the first quarter.

Tight defense led to limited opportunities and when the opportunities did come, neither team was able to respond.

“After the first quarter we knew it was going to be a defensive battle,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. “You adjust your game plan by that and I think both teams tried to take care of the ball. But once again, both teams played great defense, which made it hard for the offense.”

Deering (6-0) used a rare outburst early in the second quarter to open a gap — a run South Portland never was able to answer.

Labson Abwoch started the run with four of his 11 points as the Rams outscored South Portland 9-0 to grab a 15-5 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the opening half.

Tanner Hyland salvaged something from the period for the Red Riots (6-2) when he drained a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to leave Deering ahead 15-8 at halftime.

“It was definitely a grind,” said Pat Green, who scored a game-high 12 points for Deering. “We had to get up and we had to defend hard. That’s what we preach in practice and that’s what we did tonight.”

The Rams continued to hold the Red Riots in check in the third quarter, limiting South Portland to four points — its third straight single-digit quarter.

Deering wasn’t exactly thriving offensively either, managing to only increase its lead by two points to 21-12 heading into the final period.

“It was a good defensive effort but when we got the offensive opportunities, we just couldn’t capitalize,” said Jordan Muller, who scored eight points for South Portland.

Things loosened up dramatically in the final quarter. The teams combined for 36 points, eclipsing the 33 total points scored in the first three quarters.

A 7-4 run to open the fourth period put Deering ahead 28-16 with six minutes left.

The 12-point spread represented the largest of the game.

South Portland came back with its best run of the game to keep the pressure on. The Red Riots put together a 9-3 spurt that reduced the Deering advantage to 31-25 with 2:36 remaining.

Twenty seconds later, Green quelled the comeback when he drained his third 3-pointer of the game to restore a nine-point lead.

Hyland led South Portland with 11 points.