After shaking off some first-game, first-quarter jitters, Deering High opened some breathing room, then emphatically slammed the door on cold-shooting South Portland in the fourth quarter to win their SMAA opener Friday night, 53-40.

Deering went 8-11 last season, often struggling in the fourth quarter. Against South Portland the Rams shot 7 of 10 with only one turnover in the final period, building a 20-point lead before Coach Todd Wing emptied his bench.

“That’s what we needed to work on through preseason,” said Ben Onek, Deering’s senior leader. “Tonight we definately capitalized on that. We came out strong and finished toward the end.”

Deering had three players in double figures. Onek had 13 points. Junior point guard Darryl Germain scored 11 with three well-timed 3-pointers. Those two are returning double-figure scorers.

A key was the efficient 14-point effort from junior Max Morrione, who scored eight points in the second quarter as Deering built a 25-17 halftime lead.

“I mean (my job is to) fill the team’s needs. Score when I can. Move the ball. Just do what I can, really,” Morrione said.

In the first quarter, Deering was slowed by six turnovers and two reach-in fouls by Onek that put him on the bench.

When Morrione buried a 3-pointer after a dribble-drive kickout from Germain – who alertly stopped short of being caught in a double-team as had happened in the first quarter – Deering took a 12-10 lead. It never trailed again.

Morrione drove to the basket for two and a forced South Portland shot led to a long rebound, which led to a one-handed dunk by Onek for a 16-10 lead.

“We knew what we had to do. We came out strong. We had Max over here and he came out and lit it up a little bit, and we had other guys contributing,” Onek said. “It was all a team effort.”

South Portland stayed close for awhile with 6-foot-7 Scott Lewis scoring eight of his team-high 12 points in the second quarter. Lewis is the only returning starter. Tyree Bijokta had six points.

But South Portland, which used 11 players in the first half, never found a consistent rhythm on offense. It made 15 of 49 shots, helped by three makes in 12 seconds after Deering built a 53-33 lead, and just 3 of 15 from behind the arc. Deering made 8 of 19 3-pointers.

“I knew coming in our Achilles heel would be our offense,” said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington. “Scoring is going to be a challenge, but that’s what happens I think when you have guys that haven’t played a lot of varsity minutes and you’re trying to figure out who’s going to play. The good news is offense comes as the season goes on and I didn’t think we were bad defensively.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig