Oxford Hills junior Jade Smedberg hounds Deering senior Delaney Haines during the Vikings’ 51-29 victory in Saturday’s Class AA North Final. Haines was held to five points as the Rams’ Cinderella playoff run came to an end.

John Ewing / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Oxford Hills 51 Deering 29

D- 3 10 11 5- 29
OH- 11 16 15 9- 51

D- Drelich 5-1-11, Haines 2-1-5, Kim 1-3-5, Cavallaro 1-0-2, Garand 1-0-2, Mastropasqua 1-0-2, Serappa 1-0-2

OH- Colby 3-6-14, Hartnett 3-0-9, Dieterich 3-1-8, Dumont 3-0-6, Whitney 3-0-6, Smedberg 1-2-5, Adams 1-0-2, Carson 0-1-1

3-pointers:
D (0)
OH (7) Hartnett 3, Colby 2, Dieterich, Smedberg 1

Turnovers:
D- 10
OH- 8

FTs
D: 5-8
OH: 10-15

PORTLAND—Midnight struck quickly for Cinderella, but what a ball she had.

Deering’s girls’ basketball team saw its magical and improbable postseason run come to a close Friday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena, but the seventh-seeded Rams didn’t go down without a fight against top-ranked Oxford Hills in the Class AA North Final.

Deering, which struggled most of the season before saving its best for last, dug a quick 7-0 hole against the Vikings and trailed, 11-3, after one quarter.

Oxford Hills went up by as many as 16 points in the second period before two free throws from junior Aviyonna Kim pulled the Rams within 27-13 at halftime.

Deering senior standout Delaney Haines started the second half with a jump shot, but Vikings junior star Julia Colby produced steals that led to points on consecutive possessions and when Colby buried a 3-pointer late in the third period, Oxford Hills had a 42-24 advantage heading to the fourth.

There, the Rams never could make a run and after both coaches cleared their benches, the Vikings went on to a 51-29 victory.

Deering got 11 points from junior Liz Drelich, but Haines was held to just five as the Rams’ season ended at 6-15, while Oxford Hills improved to 19-2 and advanced to face Scarborough (19-2) in the Class AA state final Saturday, March 2 at 6:05 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“It was a tremendous run,” said Deering coach Mike Murphy .”We just ran into an outstanding team today. I’m so pleased with the progress we made and that the kids bounced back from a miserable season to having a good ‘second season.’ The kids didn’t quit. They stayed together through the whole process.” 

Meeting their match

Friday’s regional final featured one of the biggest differences in the win/loss column in memory.

Deering was once 1-13 after a 12-game skid, but the Rams won three of their final four regular season games as Haines returned from a wrist injury and got back into basketball shape, other players gained confidence and as a result, Deering earned the No. 7 seed in Class AA North (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories). The Rams upset No. 2 Windham, 41-26, in the quarterfinals, then Wednesday, doubled up No. 7 Bangor, 34-17, in the semifinals to earn a once-unthinkable trip to the regional final.

Oxford Hills won 16 of its 18 regular season contests, losing only to Class AA South top seed South Portland and defending Class A champion Greely. Oxford Hills closed the regular season on a seven-game win streak and in the quarterfinals, had no trouble with No. 8 Lewiston (77-26). In Wednesday’s semifinal, the Vikings ousted No. 4 Portland, 47-36.

The teams met just once this year, Jan. 4, when Oxford Hills dominated, 53-19.

The teams had met five previous times in the postseason, with the Vikings holding a 3-2 edge (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

Friday, Oxford Hills came out and did what a top seed wants to do, deliver an early blow, if not an outright knockout punch.

A long jumper from sophomore Cassidy Dumont broke the ice 80 seconds in and put the Vikings on top to stay.

Junior Margaret Hartnett followed with a 3 and with 5:15 to go in the opening stanza, a runner from junior Cecilia Dieterich put Oxford Hills up, 7-0, and forced Murphy to call timeout.

“I don’t know what happened,” Haines said. “Our heads were in it. We were talking on defense. They’re just a good team.”

With 4:20 remaining, Deering got its first points, when Drelich put home a miss, but Dieterich made a free throw and junior Jade Smedberg added a 3 before a free throw from Kim with 3.9 seconds to go pulled the Rams within eight, 11-3, after one quarter.

The Vikings opened it up even further in the second period.

A 3-ball from Colby got things started and senior Bailey Whitney followed with a putback.

After Drelich made a layup for Deering, Hartnett buried a 3 from the corner to make it 19-5.

Haines scored her first points, on a driving layup with 4:04 to go in the half, but Whitney took a pass from Dumont and made a layup to push the lead back to 14.

After Drelich made a layup, the Vikings answered again, as Whitney made a layup.

Kim scored on a putback, but Colby made a free throw and Dieterich sank a 3 before two Kim free throws sent the game to the half with Oxford Hills on top, 27-13.

In the first half, the Vikings got six points apiece from Dieterich, Hartnett and Whitney, while Drelich paced Deering with six points.

In the third period, the Rams hoped to make things interesting, but Colby and her teammates pulled away instead.

Haines opened the second half with a jump shot, but Colby stole the ball on the next possession and was fouled, hitting both free throws.

Colby then stole the ball again and was fouled, this time hitting one of two attempts.

Colby then set up Dumont for a fastbreak layup and a 32-15 advantage.

Deering crept back within a dozen behind a runner from senior Mandy Mastropasqua and an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) from Drelich.

After Colby scored on a runner, Drelich hit a leaner, but a jumper from Dumont, a layup from Dieterich (after a Colby steal), a Colby 3 and a junior Brooke Carson free throw, pushed the lead to 20.

Senior Victoria Garand scored on a putback just before the horn, but that only pulled the Rams within 42-24 heading for the final stanza.

Where Oxford Hills put the finishing touches on its regional crown.

A pair of Colby free throws, followed by two from Smedberg opened the fourth.

After Haines hit a foul shot for her final high school point, Hartnett knocked down a 3 and Colby set up senior Jadah Adams for a layup and the Vikings’ final points of the game.

Down the stretch, Deering got a leaner from junior Livia Serappa and a bank shot from junior Victoria Cavallaro to account for the 51-29 final score.

“It feels really good, especially after last year (losing to Edward Little in the regional final),” Colby said. “That motivated us a lot. That was an awful feeling.”

“This is amazing, it’s awesome,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “The girls have worked so hard. We put in some time to start the summer because last year left a sour taste in their mouth. They wanted to get back here and get a chance to win a state championship and they did. As a whole, we shot the ball like we should. Overall, the girls just worked hard.”

Colby, who was named the Edward “Red” McMann Award winner as the top player in the AA North girls’ tournament, stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“That (award) feels good, but I’m just happy we won the game,” said Colby.

Hartnett added nine points, Dieterich had eight, Dumont and Whitney six apiece, Smedberg five (to go with seven rebounds), Adams two and Carson one.

Oxford Hills enjoyed a 28-20 rebounding advantage, made 10 of 15 free throws and only turned the ball over eight times.

First time?

The Vikings return to Portland next Saturday where they’ll meet a red-hot Scarborough squad, which upset South Portland, 35-25, in its regional final Friday.

Oxford Hills and Scarborough didn’t meet this year and have no playoff history.

The Vikings got to the Class A state final in 1990, 2008, 2014 and 2018, but lost to Lawrence, Deering, McAuley and Gorham, respectively.

This time around, Oxford Hills hopes to finish the job.

“We have to play like we have all year,” Colby said.

“Winning a title is definitely in the back of our minds,” Pelletier said. “We’ll put in a great week of practice and give it our best shot. Scarborough’s a tough squad. We’ll play our hearts out and hopefully get a win.”

Quite a ride

For Deering, Drelich had a terrific game, scoring 11 points and adding five rebounds.

“Liz plays hard constantly and today, the ball dropped for her,” Murphy said. “She’s a hard worker and a great kid.”

Haines bowed out with five points, as Oxford Hills made a point of not allowing her to go off.

“We had to mostly faceguard (Haines),” Colby said. “We didn’t want her to get the ball.”

“All the girls were very aware that Delaney Haines is an amazing player,” said Pelletier. “It was definitely a point of emphasis in practice to know where she was at all times and I think we did a pretty good job. Against a team with a really good player, the best thing you can do is try to confuse them as much as possible. When we put Jade Smedberg at the top of the 1-3-1 (zone), it makes it tough on teams. Our halfcourt D has been great, our fullcourt D has been great. We tried to mix it up as much as we can and see what works best.”

Kim added five points, while Cavallaro, Garand, Mastropasqua and Serappa each finished with two.

The Rams only turned the ball over 10 times and made 5 of 8 free throws, but couldn’t continue their magic.

“We didn’t give up and we kept fighting,” said Haines, who plans to take a post-graduate year next year with the hope of eventually playing basketball at the next level. “The last week or two has just been unreal for us. We went from being 1-13 to being in a regional championship game. It was a surprise to everybody, but we knew we had potential. We were happy to get here.”

“Oxford Hills wanted to speed up our game and they did,” Murphy said. “They’re a good team. Talented at every position. When you’re behind, making each possession count is tough.”

Deering will lose Garand, Mastropasqua, Ashleigh Mathison, Isabel Dawson and Haines to graduation, but the Rams hope some younger players step up and lead another playoff run next winter.  

“I’m glad Delaney got to come back,” Murphy said. “I hate to see a player of her caliber miss out on her senior season. The seniors went to two regional finals in their four years. They did their job.

“We talked in the locker room about the returning players having opportunities. They have to work on their games and get stronger. 

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

Oxford Hills senior Jadah Adams looks to shoot as Deering senior Delaney Haines (23) and junior Aviyonna Kim defend.

Deering junior Liz Drelich defends Oxford Hills junior Julia Colby.

Deering junior Aviyonna Kim goes up for a shot as Oxford Hills junior Julia Colby, left, and junior Brooke Carson defend.

Deering senior Victoria Garand knocks the ball away from Oxford Hills junior Cecilia Dieterich.

Previous Deering stories

Season Preview

Gorham 49 Deering 35

Deering 48 Cheverus 36

Class AA North semifinals
Deering 34 Bangor 17

Previous Deering-Oxford Hills playoff results

2018 Class AA North quarterfinals
Oxford Hills 55 Deering 40

2017 Class AA North Final
Oxford Hills 46 Deering 41 (OT)

2016 Class AA North semifinals
Oxford Hills 45 Deering 35 

2008 Class A state final
Deering 55 Oxford Hills 43

1991 Western A prelim
Deering 50 Oxford Hills 45