PORTLAND – Labson Abwoch wouldn’t be denied in the third quarter of Saturday night’s Class A state championship.

The Deering center kept battling for the ball among several Hampden Academy players and finally scored.

The play typified Deering’s resolve, which sparked a third-quarter surge (21-11) and carried the Rams to a 59-50 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“He kept tipping it,” Coach Dan LeGage said of the sequence.

“Labson then powered it in. It was an incredible effort.”

It was part of Deering’s 13-0 run as it stretched a two-point lead to 15.

The Rams followed with a layup by Jon Amabile on a play that the team had in its playbook, but rarely used this season because the other teams in the SMAA had it well-scouted.

The back-door layup works when teams are overcommitted on defense, LeGage said.

“There was no way Hampden could have seen it on film,” he said.

“We knew they were reeling and overplaying us on defense. We felt we needed one more basket to make the run complete. We ran the play at the start of the game and Jon almost scored.”

Deering’s full-court press keyed the rally in the third quarter. The Rams made some adjustments to the press at halftime and their quickness really kicked it.

“Hampden was breaking our press in the first half when the player inbounding the ball would run up the middle and take the return pass. It’s tough making adjustments on the fly and I didn’t want to take a timeout because I liked the pace of play,” said LeGage.

“At halftime, we had Jon come up for the return pass, Pat Green cover the middle and Thiwat cheat up more from the back of the press,” he said.

The effect was that the pace of the game got even faster, which played into Deering’s strategy.

Deering was the season-long leader in the SMAA and in the Heal point standings. The Rams had some strong performances during the season, but they saved their best for last.

“This was absolutely our best game of the season,” said LeGage. “By far. We peaked at the right time.”

Amabile scored 27 points, 18 in the second half. Thiwat Thiwat had his best game of the season, scoring 15 points while keying the inside defense with Abwoch. They had to be at their best to offset a game-high 28 points by Broncos’ standout Christian McCue, who tried to rally his team with 14 fourth-quarter points.

The Broncos (20-2), the season-long points leader in Eastern ‘A’, hadn’t faced a team nearly as quick as Deering.

It was the third time the teams had met in the state final. Hampden won in 2005. Deering got even in 2006, and now the school’s second state title.

After the game, the team had a reception at the school gym with refreshments. LeGage said a larger reception is being planned.

“A lot of the players have extended family members who couldn’t be at the game. We want to have something for them and honor the team,” he said. “We’ll present the Gold Ball to the school. It will be open to community members, alumni and anyone associated with the team.”

LeGage said the next few school days will be fun for the players.

“The administration and faculty have been great at giving the team recognition this season,” he said.

It will continue for at least the next few weeks, guaranteed.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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Twitter: TomChardPPH