Deering junior Victoria Garand looks to go up on Portland sophomore Kiera Eubanks during the rivals’ showdown Thursday evening. Garand scored 10 second half points and converted a clutch, late, three-point play to help the Rams prevail, 48-43.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.


Deering 48 Portland 43

D- 10 15 8 15- 48
P- 10 17 6 10- 43

D- Haines 7-2-18, Mastropasqua 4-7-16, Garand 3-4-10, Drelich 1-2-4

P- Motema 7-3-17, S. Eubanks 7-0-16, D. Kabantu 2-0-4, Brown 1-0-2, A. Kabantu 1-0-2, Stacey 1-0-2

D (3) Haines 2, Mastropasqua 1
P (2) S. Eubanks 2

D- 16
P- 14

Free throws
D: 15-31
P: 3-7

PORTLAND—Deering’s girls’ basketball team wasn’t given much of a chance when the 2017-18 season commenced and Thursday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, the Rams didn’t look like they had much of a chance against the new look Portland Bulldogs when they fell behind 8-0 in the first quarter.

But this Deering squad is discovering its identity and like many Rams editions of the past, its toughness and promise are going to pay big dividends as the winter progresses, something the Bulldogs learned the hard way in a countable game in front of a large and vocal crowd at the Red Claws Christmas Showcase.

Deering, thanks to the steady of play of junior veterans Delaney Haines and Mandy Mastropasqua, shook off its slow start and erased its early deficit by the end of the first quarter, as a Haines runner tied the score, 10-10.

Both teams then showcased what they do best in the second period, as Portland sophomore standout Gemima Motema got out in transition and senior captain Shayla Eubanks knocked down shots, while at the other end, Haines and Mastropasqua kept the Rams within hailing distance and allowed them to trail by only two points, 27-25, at halftime.

In the third period, Deering tightened up on defense and got junior center Victoria Garand involved in the offense as it held the Bulldogs scoreless for over six minutes. The teams went back-and-forth and went to the fourth quarter tied, 33-33.

The game would be deadlocked again at 37-37, 41-41 and 43-43 before Garand converted an old-fashioned three-point play with just 1:37 to go to put the Rams ahead to stay. 

After Portland missed an abundance of good looks to rally, free throws from Haines and Mastropasqua slammed the door and Deering went on to the 48-43 victory.

Haines had a game-high 18 points, Mastropasqua added 16 and Garand had 10 as the Rams improved to 3-1 and dropped the Bulldogs, who were paced by 17 points from Motema and 16 from Eubanks, to 3-2 on the season.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Deering coach Mike Murphy. “This being our fourth game, I’m very pleased where we’re at. I like the kids’ attitudes. They’re very coachable. I think they’re responding. A win like this, they believe even more.”

Rivalry renewed

A year ago, Portland missed the playoffs with a 3-15 record, while Deering took Oxford Hills to overtime before falling in the Class AA North Final.

This winter, the teams started from vastly different places, as graduation took a steep toll on the Rams, while the Bulldogs, thanks to an infusion of talent, were suddenly viewed as a favorite.

Portland opened with a 39-30 win at Thornton Academy, then downed visiting Windham, 49-40. After falling, 57-38, at Oxford Hills, the Bulldogs responded with a 48-32 home win over Massabesic.

Deering, meanwhile, opened with a 47-34 home win over Sanford, then downed host Lewiston, 48-33. In the Rams’ most recent outing, Dec. 19, they gave two-time defending Class AA champion Gorham a scare, but host Gorham eventually prevailed, 46-39.

Entering play Thursday, Deering had beaten Portland in 22 of the past 25 meetings (see sidebar, below), including the past two. The Bulldogs were hoping to beat the Rams for the first time since a 55-52 home victory Feb. 4, 2016, but instead, Deering found a way.

Portland got off to a sizzling start, as Eubanks sank a jumper 15 seconds in, junior Grace Stacey followed with a jumper from the wing and with 6:15 to go in the first quarter, a jump shot from junior Reagan Brown forced Murphy to call timeout.

It didn’t help, at least initially, as Eubanks added another jumper for an 8-0 lead.

The Rams got on the board with 5:13 left in the frame, when Haines hit a runner. Mastropasqua added a free throw and sophomore Elizabeth Drelich did the same, but Bulldogs freshman Davina Kabantu countered with a jumper for the hosts.

After Drelich scored on a putback, nearly three minutes elapsed before Haines set up Mastropasqua for a backdoor layup, allowing Deering to pull within two. Haines then hit a baseline runner and despite their slow start, the Rams had pulled even, 10-10, after one quarter.

“We usually start slow, but we realized that we had to keep pushing,” Haines said. “We eventually started scoring. There aren’t a lot of scorers on our team. We know we have to step up and lead the team.”

Eight seconds into the second period, Deering took its first lead, as Mastropasqua made a layup. Haines got a floater to rattle home before Eubanks made a bank shot with 6:35 to go in the half, ending the Rams’ 10-0 run and a 5-minute, 3-second drought.

Motema tied the score with a leaner after a nice spin move, but a Mastropasqua free throw put Deering back on top.

The back-and-forth action continued, as Eubanks hit a long jumper, but Haines countered with a 3, then she took a step back and buried another to make it 21-16 Rams.

Eubanks answered with a 3 of her own, but Mastropasqua converted an old-fashioned three-point play (a layup from junior Ashleigh Mathisen off an inbounds pass, foul and free throw) to make it 24-19.

The rest of the half then belonged to the Bulldogs, who closed on an 8-1 run.

Eubanks got the surge started with a jumper, Motema made a layup after a steal and with 1:32 on the clock, Motema went coast-to-coast for a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to put Portland on top. In the final minute, Motema and Drelich traded foul shots and the Bulldogs had a 27-25 advantage at the break.

In the first 16 minutes, Eubanks led all scorers with 13 points and Motema added eight. Haines (12 points) and Mastropasqua (nine) paced the Rams.

In the third period, Deering got Garand involved and retook the lead.

After Mastropasqua hit a foul shot, Garand converted a three-point play, then added two free throws to make it 31-27 Rams.

“The first time we kicked it into her, it was so easy, so we kept getting her open and passing to her,” Haines said.

Portland’s first points of the second half came with 2:35 left in the quarter, as freshman Amanda Kabantu hit a jumper, snapping Deering’s 7-0 run and a 6:02 drought. Motema then stole the ball and made a layup to tie it, 31-31.

The Rams ended a 4:43 drought of their own when Haines hit a floater with 51.7 seconds on the clock, but with 17.7 seconds to go, Motema stole the ball again and again made a layup to send the game to the final stanza deadlocked at 33-33.

There, each team had its chances, but it would be Deering making more plays and more shots with the game on the line.

Motema put Portland on top with a leaner 21 seconds in, then she stole the ball and made a layup with 6:54 to go, but again Deering rallied, as Haines made a free throw after an intentional foul, then Haines set up Mastropasqua for a 3-pointer which rattled home, tying the game anew, 37-37, with 6:26 to go.

The Bulldogs went back on top, as Motema made the second of two free throws with 5:50 remaining and 32 seconds later, after a Rams’ turnover, Motema set up Eubanks for a clutch 3 and a 41-37 lead.

After Garand finished a feed from Mastropasqua and made a left-handed layup with 3:56 remaining, Mastropasqua sank two foul shots with 3:30 to go to tie it once more, 41-41.

Thirty-eight seconds later, Haines drove for a layup and Deering was back on top, 43-41, but with 2:10 showing, Davina Kabantu made a layup to forge the game’s final tie.

It didn’t last long, as with 1:37 remaining, Haines got the ball down low to Garand, who turned and while being fouled by Brown (who fouled out), scored with her left hand to put the Rams on top to stay.

“I woke up in the second half and realized I could do something with the ball,” said Garand. “I was just looking to drive and score. It felt good.”

Garand then added the all-important free throw for the 46-43 lead.

“I just blocked the crowd out and focused on the rim,” Garand said.

“Their center won them the game,” said Bulldogs coach Gerry Corcoran. “She did fundamentally exactly what she’s capable of. She plays a great post. She did a wonderful job setting screens and getting the ball. She made big plays when she had to.” 

Portland hoped to answer and would have several chances to do so.

First Stacey barely missed a 3, but junior Nettie Walsh grabbed the offensive rebound. Walsh then missed, but Motema got the ball and missed as well. Davina Kabantu then got the rebound and missed, but Walsh kept possession alive for the Bulldogs.

After a timeout, with under a minute left, a long 3 from Motema rattled in-and-out, but the rebound went out to Portland, giving it one last chance. Motema then missed a runner and at last, Haines got the rebound and was fouled.

With 33.6 seconds on the clock, Haines missed her first free throw, but knocked down the second to make it a two-possession game.

After Eubanks missed a shot at the other end, Mastropasqua got the rebound and was fouled.

With 15.3 seconds remaining, Mastropasqua made one of two free throws and after Davina Kabantu missed, Garand got the rebound and that did it as Deering held on and celebrated its inspirational 48-43 victory.

“We calmed down and got the jitters out and got the pace to our level,” Garand said. “I knew we could do it.”

“(Portland’s) very fast, athletic and tough,” Haines said. “We had to play off them because they could get to the hoop. We knew we were slept on a little bit, but the Gorham game showed we have potential. We have that winning mentality now.”

“We were asleep the first couple minutes and we spotted them eight, but we came back and I’m very pleased with the overall effort,” Murphy added. “Delaney and Mandy carried us in the first half. They kept the game within reach. Vic was the difference in the second half. I didn’t think they could handle her and they didn’t. They were worried about Delaney and Mandy and that opened up the lane. She uses her body well and she gave us some nice baskets and got them in foul trouble. She’s tough in the post. I thought our 2-3 zone made them think in the second half and that somewhat stopped their penetration. They had a lot of empty trips. We wanted to make them run some offense.”

Haines led all scorers with 18 points and also had three steals and three assists.

Mastropasqua added 16 points, Garand had 10 (to go with six rebounds) and Drelich had four. 

The Rams gave the ball away 16 times and made just 15 of 31 free throws, but persevered. 

For Portland, Motema led the way with 17 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.

Eubanks had 16 points, Davina Kabantu four and Brown, Amanda Kabantu and Stacey two apiece. Walsh didn’t score, but she had five rebounds and four assists. 

The Bulldogs had a 30-22 rebounding advantage, but made just 3 of 7 free throws and committed 14 turnovers.

“It was a great game,” said Corcoran. “It was fun to coach. It’s a huge step for our program. We’re trying to build a winning culture. This was a big step. I thought we had Deering on the ropes. To their credit, they came back. They made the big plays down the stretch. Most of our offense is in transition. We’re becoming a better halfcourt team. No one practices shooting more than we do. We’re trying to build confidence. We had shots at the end. A lot of looks that went in-and-out. We took good shots and they just didn’t go in.

“I’m excited about what’s going on. It’s fun. It’s a great group of girls. The girls deserved the big crowd. It’s the first one we’ve had. I’m excited about the next time we play them.”

Til we meet again

The rivals will square off again Feb. 8 in the regular season finale at Deering. They both have plenty of work to do in the interim.

Portland has an even stiffer test in its next outing, Tuesday of next week at Gorham, which features junior post standout Mackenzie Holmes.

“We have Gorham next and we have to work on defending a center again,” Corcoran said.

The Rams hope to keep the good times rolling when they host Bangor Saturday. Deering opens the 2018 portion of its schedule next Tuesday at Bonny Eagle.

“We just have to hit free throws and box out,” said Garand. “We’re going to be pretty good.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Deering junior Mandy Mastropasqua rushes the ball up the floor.

Deering junior Isabel Dawson handles the ball in traffic .

Portland freshman Davina Kabantu gets past Deering junior Victoria Garand.

Portland senior Shayla Eubanks knocks down a shot for two of her 16 points.

Deering junior Delaney Haines and Portland sophomore Gemima Motema battle for possession. 

Deering sophomore Elizabeth Drelich protects the ball from Portland junior Nettie Walsh.

Portland sophomore Gemima Motema eyes a shot. Motema led the Bulldogs with 17 points.

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Deering junior Delaney Haines shoots over Portland senior Shayla Eubanks. Haines led all scorers with 18 points.

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