Deering junior Delaney Haines is defended by Portland juniors Reagan Brown (22) and Grace Stacey during the Bulldogs’ 42-36 victory Thursday.

Joe Carpine / photos.

More photos below.


Portland 42 Deering 36

P- 10 8 15 9- 42
D- 6 8 16 6- 36

P- D. Kabantu 4-3-13, Motema 3-4-10, Eubanks 3-0-8, A. Kabantu 2-0-5, Brown 2-0-4, Walsh 0-2-2

D- Haines 6-9-22, Mastropasqua 2-0-4, Dawson 1-0-3, Kim 1-1-3, Drelich 1-0-2, Garand 0-2-2

P (5) Eubanks, D. Kabantu 2, A. Kabantu 1
D (2) Dawson, Haines 1

P- 13
D- 9

Free throws
P: 9-13
D: 12-19

PORTLAND—Portland’s girls’ basketball team is in the midst of one of its most memorable and successful seasons this millennium, but one loss that stuck in the Bulldogs’ craw was a home setback to rival Deering in late December.

The Bulldogs had an opportunity to avenge that loss Thursday night when they paid the Rams a visit in the regular season finale, but late in the third period, Portland was down five points.

The Bulldogs saved their best for last, however, and closed the regular season in style.

Portland shot to a quick 10-4 lead and was on top almost the whole first half, but Deering, behind standout junior Delaney Haines, rallied and went ahead, 28-23, on two Haines free throws with 2:23 left in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs then rose off the deck, closing the period on a 10-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from senior Shayla Eubanks to go on top for good, 33-30.

In the fourth quarter, Portland kept rolling and when freshman Davina Kabantu banked home a 3-pointer and junior Reagan Brown scored on a putback, the lead was 40-32.

The Rams crept back within four, but two Kabantu free throws slammed the door and the Bulldogs prevailed, 42-36.

Kabantu had 13 points as Portland closed the regular season 12-6, dropping Deering, which got a game-high 22 points from Haines, to 7-11 in the process.

“This is huge for us to win on their floor in front of their crowd,” said Bulldogs coach Gerry Corcoran. “All great games have great runs and Deering made their run, but  I thought we controlled the game.”

Finding consistency

Both teams have shown promising glimpses this winter, but have suffered some frustrating losses along the way.

Deering opened with a 47-34 home win over Sanford, then downed host Lewiston, 48-33. After a 46-39 loss at Gorham, the Rams rallied to stun host Portland (48-43) and prevailed at Bangor, 43-36. When the calendar flipped to 2018, however, tough times followed, as Deering lost at Bonny Eagle (49-31), at home to Oxford Hills (50-35), at Scarborough (53-37), at home to Cheverus (32-20) and at Edward Little (55-32) and South Portland (49-40). The Rams got back in the win column with a 41-38 home victory over Massabesic and after falling at home to Windham in overtime, 49-44, Deering won at Thornton Academy by a 35-31 margin and downed visiting Noble, 47-37. After falling at home to Maine Girls’ Academy, 36-28, in a game which saw them score five first half points, the Rams lost at Cheverus Tuesday, 45-37.

The Bulldogs opened with a 39-30 win at Thornton Academy, then downed visiting Windham, 49-40. After falling, 57-38, at Oxford Hills, Portland responded with a 48-32 home win over Massabesic. After a 48-43 home loss to Deering, the Bulldogs enjoyed a 43-41 victory at Gorham, then rattled off wins over visiting Edward Little (57-42) and host Sanford (48-36). After falling just short at home against South Portland (47-38), Portland defeated visiting Lewiston (49-26) and Maine Girls’ Academy (42-39) and won at Cheverus (47-37) before being upset at Bangor (44-41). After a 56-49 home victory over Bonny Eagle, the Bulldogs handled host Noble, 57-39, before dropping a 42-35 home decision to Scarborough and a 71-35 decision at South Portland Tuesday.

Entering play Thursday, Deering had beaten Portland in 23 of the past 26 meetings (see sidebar, below), including the past three (junior Victoria Garand’s late three-point play helped the Rams prevail on Dec. 28, as Haines had 18 points and junior Mandy Mastropasqua added 16).

This time around, the Bulldogs got over the hump.

The game started slowly, as it took two minutes for Deering to break the ice, as Garand made two free throws, then it wasn’t until the 4:40 mark when Portland scored, as Eubanks sank a 3-pointer from the corner.

Portland sophomore Gemima Motema added a floater after a steal and after Haines scored her first points, on a long jumper, the Bulldogs got a 3 from Amanda Kabantu and a putback from Brown for a 10-4 lead.

The Rams answered with a floater from Haines to cut the deficit to four after one period.

In the second quarter, Portland tried to pull away, but Deering hung tough.

A 3 from Haines pulled the hosts within one, but Davina Kabantu scored on a left-handed putback and Motema sank two foul shots for a 14-9 lead.

After another Rams’ 3, this one from junior Isabel Dawson, junior Nettie Walsh countered with two free throws for the Bulldogs. 

After Haines drove for a layup, Motema got a spinner to roll in and the Bulldogs had an 18-14 advantage at the half.

In the first 16 minutes, Haines led all scorers with nine points, while Motema paced the visitors with six. Portland had a commanding 23-11 rebounding advantage.

In the third period, Deering roared into the lead, but back came the Bulldogs.

A pair of Haines free throws opened the second half.

After Motema made a layup after a steal, Haines countered with two free throws, but a jumper from Davina Kabantu made it 22-18 Portland.

The next eight points went to the Rams, as Mastropasqua set up sophomore Elizabeth Drelich for a layup, Mastropasqua tied it with a jumper that rattled around and in, Haines gave Deering the lead with a layup and with 3:43 to go in the frame, two Garand foul shots made it 26-22.

After Davina Kabantu made a free throw to end the run, Haines gave the Rams their biggest lead with two foul shots, but the Bulldogs closed on a 10-2 run.

After Davina Kabantu hit a 3, sophomore Aviyonna Kim drove for a layup for Deering, but Amanda Kabantu scored on a putback, Eubanks tied the game with a bank shot and with 5.4 seconds on the clock, a Eubanks 3 put Portland back on top to stay, 33-30.

Two free throws from Motema 42 seconds into the final stanza extended the lead.

After Kim made one foul shot for the Rams, Davina Kabantu banked home a 3-pointer to make it 38-31.

“I just believe in myself,” Kabantu said. “Coach told me before the game to have confidence shooting 3s. It’s one of my strengths. I was so happy when that went in.”

“That was a huge basket,” Corcoran said. “We needed to be poised at the end and someone had to step up and make a shot and she did.”

“The bank was open on that one and that was a killer,” Deering coach Mike Murphy lamented. “Give her credit, she made it.”

Haines got a point back at the line, but with 3:45 remaining, Brown put home a miss to extend the lead to eight.

“I’d say rebounding is a strength,” Brown said. “I really focused on that tonight.”

“Reagan had a great game rebounding,” Corcoran said. “We challenged her and she stepped up and had some big rebounds.”

Deering rallied again, as Mastropasqua set up Haines for a backdoor layup and with 2:11 on the clock, Mastropasqua drove for a layup to cut the deficit to 40-36.

The Rams couldn’t get closer, as with 1:15 left, Davina Kabantu made two free throws and after Brown blocked a Haines shot, Portland closed the door on its 42-36 victory.

“We’ve come really far,” Brown said. “Last year, we had a lot of bumps, but this year we’ve overcome. We wanted it. They’re our rival. That energized us.”

“We took care of our business and made the seniors proud and finished our season strong,” Davina Kabantu said. “It was fun.”

The Bulldogs were paced by Davina Kabantu’s 13 points off the bench. The standout athlete who wowed all on hand with her vertical leaping ability, also had five rebounds.

Motema added 10 points and seven rebounds before leaving with an apparent foot injury.

Eubanks had eight points (and six rebounds), Amanda Kabantu five (to go with six boards), Brown four (as well as a game-high 14 rebounds) and Walsh two.

Portland won the rebounding battle, 44-24, overcame 13 turnovers and hit 9 of 13 free throws.

Deering was paced by 22 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots from Haines.

Mastropasqua added four points and three assists, Dawson and Kim had three apiece and Drelich and Garand each finished with two.

The Rams only turned the ball over nine times against the Bulldogs’ pressure defense and made 12 of 19 foul shots, but fell short.

“It was a great effort, a lot of fun,” Murphy said. “It was a great atmosphere and the people got their money’s worth. The kids played with purpose and intensity and it showed. Taking care of the ball was the key going in. They score most of their points off steals and transitions. They struggle to score with five kids in front of them. They’re so athletic and quick.”

On to the quarterfinals

The Class AA playoffs will feature the quarterfinals being played on the home floor of the higher seeds for the first time.

Deering projects to be the number seven or eight seed in AA North and will travel for its game next week.

“I’m fine with whoever we play,” Murphy said. “We can be a tough out.”

Portland will likely be the second seed and will host Lewiston (8-10) or Bangor (4-14) on Wednesday.

“It’s really exciting,” Davina Kabantu said. “It’s my first time in the playoffs. We just have to get our game together.”

“It’s an amazing feeling to have this experience,” Brown said. “We believe we can overcome anything. I’m really excited. As long as we do the little things and execute, I think we’ll be good. We just have to stay confident in ourselves.”

“Out of our 12 wins, we’ve had seven by double-digits and we’ve had four close losses, so we could easily be 16-2,” Corcoran added. “The girls did a great job and I congratulated them.

“It’s now a one-game season. It’s a big deal to have a home playoff game. We showed tonight that we can be the team no one wants to play.”

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

Deering junior Victoria Garand goes up for a shot over Portland junior Nettie Walsh.

Deering sophomore Aviyonna Kim drives past Portland freshman Amanda Kabantu.

Portland junior Nettie Walsh defends Deering junior Delaney Haines on a drive to the basket.

Portland junior Reagan Brown and Deering sophomore Elizabeth Drelich battle for a rebound.

Portland sophomore Gemima Motema gets into the lane.

Portland senior Shayla Eubanks launches a shot.

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