Despite double-digit performances by Nick Thibeault, Billy Ruby and Sam Kilborn at the Portland Expo Friday evening, Gorham fell shy of victory – barely shy, three points shy – versus Deering in the tournament quarterfinals.

Through four close quarters, the two herds of Rams played out a nailbiter, but Deering held the edge in the end, eliminating Gorham from contention, 61-59.

Gorham came out on the short end of the stick, but head coach Mark Karter still had good things to say about his team.

“I thought we all played pretty well. Sam and Nick played a great game, and Billy came in and did a great job off the bench for us. They’ve had good years.”

Deering assembled a four-point, 17-13 advantage in the first, on the shooting and rebounding of Malik White, Ben Williams and Garang Majok. The team continued to lead through the second, but Thibeault, Ruby, Kilborn and Co. kept Gorham hot on their heels. 34-31 at the break.

Deering led by as much as eight in the third quarter, but Gorham refused to cash in their proverbial chips. So when, in the waning seconds of that stretch, Ruby dished to Cameron Smith and Smith dropped in the tying two – 45-45, now – the Gorham bench, as well as their fan contingent, understandably went a little berserk.

“I thought we executed down the stretch,” said Karter. “We were able to handle the pressure a lot better than the other two times we played them. For the most part, we kind of relaxed and got shots we wanted on offense.”

Ruby gave Gorham the lead in the early fourth, and with Thibeault, helped fend off the opposition for a spell, but nor, it seemed, would Deering be denied. Majok put them back on top, 51-50, and soon thereafter Williams gave them the narrow advantage yet again, 57-55.

With 27.4 seconds remaining, though, Thibeault ducked inside for a two – and drew the foul, which free-throw he sank – to give Gorham the lead once more, 59-58. Majok tried to answer; he couldn’t drain the two, but did earn a trip to the line, and got his points that way instead. 60-59, Deering.

“They’re a great defensive team,” Karter said of Deering. “It’s not easy to play against them. I thought we did a good job. We didn’t get some breaks down the stretch, and that was the difference in the game.”

With 8.9 seconds to play, Gorham on the attack; the team pulled a controversial traveling call, and the ball went back to Deering. Gorham had no choice but to foul, and Williams made only one of his shots, so if Gorham could come up with the ball – which Cody Elliot did – then a last-moment Hail Mary, if successful, would win.

Elliot raced up the court as far as he could before firing off a long, long three-point attempt – but the shot missed its target and Deering took the W.

Thibeault finished with 17 for Gorham, Ruby with 16 and Kilborn with 13. Trent Bassinthwaite added seven. White tallied 21 for Deering, a game high, while Williams contributed 13 and Majok 10.

Gorham, the four-seed, retires for the year at 13-6; No. 5 Deering moves on to face first-place Portland in Friday evening’s 7 p.m. semifinal at Cross Insurance Arena.

Jackson Fotter pushes forward on the attack for Gorham Friday evening.Billy Ruby dropped in 16 for the Gorham Rams in their quarterfinals loss to the Deering Rams on Friday.Gorham big Sam Kilborn fights for the basket through heavy coverage.


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