BOX SCORE

Bangor 65 Deering 44

B- 18 14 15 18- 65
D- 12 15 7 10- 44

B- Martin 10-7-27, Szwez 8-1-20, Westrich 4-4-13, Clark 1-0-3, Noyes 0-2-2

D- Houssein 6-2-16, Germain 2-2-8, Morrione 2-1-7, Langella 2-0-4, Anda 1-0-3, Randall 1-1-3, Semuhoza 1-1-3

3-pointers:
B (5) Szwez 3, Clark, Westrich 1
D (7) Germain, Houssein, Morrione 2, Anda 1

Turnovers:
B- 15
D- 6

FTs
B: 14-20
D: 7-13

PORTLAND—Every once in awhile, an opposing player is so dominant, so unstoppable, that all you can do is tip your cap.

That’s exactly what happened to Deering’s boys’ basketball team Wednesday evening at the Portland Exposition Building.

The Rams hosted defending Class AA state champion Bangor in a late-season showdown and it was evident from the get-go that Bangor’s 6-foot-8 senior standout Sam Martin came not just to play, but to stuff the stat sheet.

Martin, aided in large part by four assists from junior Andrew Szwez, scored 11 first quarter points, helping Bangor open up an early 18-12 advantage.

Deering crept back within a point on a layup from senior Askar Houssein early in the second period, but Bangor went ahead by as many as 10 points before Deering drew within five, 32-27, at halftime.

Szwez then opened the second half with five quick points and an 8-2 run gave Bangor a 47-34 advantage after three quarters.

Martin then opened the fourth period with five free throws and senior Henry Westrich made consecutive layups to end all doubt and Bangor rolled to a statement-making 65-44 victory.

Martin had a game for the ages, not only producing 27 points, but also grabbing 18 rebounds and blocking eight shots, while Szwez added 10 points to help Bangor improve to 9-3 while dropping Deering to 11-3 in the process.

“We love this environment,” said Martin. “We love to be on the big stage where all the greats have played. We’ve finally come together this season.”

Midweek showdown

Bangor and Deering are top echelon programs who figure to be playing deep into February.

Bangor won its first four games this winter: 57-41 at Portland, 62-43 at Lewiston, 62-42 over visiting Windham and 53-47 over visiting Brewer. After a 56-42 setback at Edward Little, the Rams defeated visiting Oxford Hills (74-57) and visiting Cheverus (63-42). After a 72-64 loss at Hampden Academy, Bangor downed visiting Portland (64-44), then was upset at Windham (37-35) before bouncing back in most recent outing Jan. 13 with a 57-47 home win over Edward Little.

Deering, meanwhile, has lived up to preseason billing with only a pair of hiccups coming in.

The Rams started by winning at Oxford Hills, 84-60, then lost at South Portland, 74-62. After a 74-51 home win over Lewiston, the Rams downed host Windham, 60-43, rallied past visiting Bonny Eagle, the defending Class AA South champions, 65-61, beat visiting Cheverus (75-49), held on for a 50-49 win at Portland, their first over the Bulldogs at the Expo since 2006, then enjoyed home victories over Scarborough (61-47) and Oxford Hills (72-65). After a 71-59 setback at Edward Little, Deering edged host Sanford in overtime (53-51) and defeated visiting Windham (50-29) and host Lewiston (71-61).

Since Bangor beat Deering on a buzzer-beater in an epic Class A state final back in 2001 (mention the name Joe Campbell around Deering fans and you’ll get the same response Patriots’ fans have to the name Eli Manning), the Rams and Rams haven’t played often in countable games.

In 2017-18, Deering won at Bangor, 63-47. Last winter, host Bangor edged Deering, 47-42.

Wednesday’s game was originally slated for Dec. 30, but bad weather postponed it to late January and with Deering’s gym unavailable, the contest was moved to the Expo, where Bangor made itself at home.

The tone was set just a dozen seconds in, when Szwez drove for a layup.

Deering drew even when senior Mike Randall found sophomore Nick Langella for a layup, but Szwez got into the lane, drew the defense, then set up Martin for a layup and his first points.

After Deering tied the score for the final time, on a Randall layup, Szwez made a layup with 4:48 left in the opening stanza to put the visiting Rams ahead to stay, 6-4.

Szwez set up Martin for a layup and after senior Max Morrione hit a free throw for Deering, Szwez again fed Martin for a layup.

“Andrew and all my guards just get me the best looks and get me in the best position to succeed,” Martin said.

After being fouled on an offensive rebound, Martin hit one of two foul shots for an 11-5 advantage.

Senior Loki Anda cut Deering’s deficit in half with a 3-ball, but Szwez again set up Martin for a layup, then Martin scored on a putback for a 15-8 lead.

“(Martin’s) what we figured he was and more,” said Deering coach Todd Wing. “He did what he wanted. We tried to front him and tried to go over the 2-3 zone. We’ve got to come back and work on that because we see them again.”

Langella (off a pass from Anda) made a layup for Deering and senior Darryl Germain added two free throws, but at the horn, Westrich found sophomore Max Clark for a 3-pointer and an 18-12 Bangor advantage.

In the first eight minutes, Martin had 11 points, five rebounds and a blocked shot and Szwez added four points, four assists and four rebounds.

And Bangor was just getting started.

Deering made things interesting early in the second quarter, as Morrione sank a 3 and Houssein, who didn’t start, came into the game and made a layup to cut the deficit to one, but Martin made a layup, Martin banked home a shot, then with 5:27 left in the half, Szwez drained a 3 for a 25-17 Bangor lead.

Deering coach Todd Wing called timeout and while Houssein made a 3, Szwez countered with one of his own.

Randall found Houssein for a layup, but a Martin leaner and a driving bank shot from Szwez put Bangor ahead, 32-22., with 1:22 to go.

Deering finished the half strong, however, as Germain made a 3 and Houssein sank two free throws to make the score 32-27 at the break.

Bangor dominated the glass in the first half and got superb performances from Martin (17 points, eight rebounds, two blocks) and Szwez (12 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks), but nine points from Houssein kept Deering within hailing distance.

“I didn’t feel like we were out of it, but we needed to play with more energy,” said Wing. “That was lacking. Energy is who we are. If you don’t play with your identity, you’re lucky to be down five.”

Bangor then began to pull away in the third period.

Just 20 seconds into the second half, Szwez hit a leaner in the lane and 23 seconds later, Szwez sank a 3 to push the lead to double digits.

Houssein countered with a step-back 3, but Westrich scored his first points on a floater off the glass.

Houssein made a spinner in the lane, but a corner 3 from Westrich made it 42-32.

Randall countered with a free throw, but Martin made one, Westrich sank two and Szwez set up Martin for a layup before a free throw from junior Mpore Semuhoza pulled Deering within 13 points, 47-34, heading for the fourth quarter.

Bangor quickly ended any lingering doubt, as Martin made five of six free throws in a 45-second stretch and Westrich twice drove for layups to make it 56-34 with 4:58 to go.

After Semuhoza made a layup for Deering, Szwez answered with a layup for Bangor.

Houssein drove for a reverse layup, Germain hit a 3 and with 2:48 on the clock, Morrione sank a 3 to pull Deering within 58-44, but that’s as close as the host Rams would get.

Senior Parker Noyes made two free throws, Szwez hit one, Westrich set up Martin for his final points, a layup, then, after a technical foul was called on Houssein, Westrich sank two more foul shots and Bangor prevailed, 65-44.

“We knew we had to get on their shooters because Deering’s such a great athletic, shooting team,” Martin said. “We executed well and we put the ball in the hole. At halftime, we talked about stopping their back-cuts. We stayed disciplined and got after their shooters.”

“We took care of the ball,” Bangor coach Brad Libby said. “When we do that, I think we’re a tough team to beat. We pride ourselves on defense. Deering’s extremely and talented and they posed matchup difficulties for us, but we did a good job staying with their shooters.”

Martin had the game of his life with 27 points, 18 rebounds and eight blocks.

“Sam is a tough matchup for other teams,” Libby said. “He’s worked extremely hard on his footwork, staying out of foul trouble. He still has a ways to go to hit his peak and we’re excited about that.”

Not to be outdone, Szwez had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“Szwez came on quick,” Wing said. “He’s been passive against zones on film, but they made that adjustment.”

Westrich came on in the second half to finish with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Clark had three points and Noyes two.

“The special thing about this group of guys is they don’t care who scores or what the stat line is,” said Libby. “We rode that first group the whole second half and the bench couldn’t be more proud of how they played. Sam and (Andrew) had things going tonight and next time, it might be someone else. This team has so much chemistry and love for each other.”

The Rams had a 41-25 rebounding advantage, overcame 15 turnovers and made 14-of-20 free throws.

Deering was led by 16 points, three assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals from Houssein. Germain had eight points, Morrione seven (to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals), Langella four and Anda, Randall and Semuhoza three apiece.

Deering only turned the ball over six times and made 7-of-13 free throws, but had no answer for Martin or his teammates.

“They have good, quality players,” Wing said. “Westrich was quiet tonight, but we had to guard him and that opened things up for other guys.”

Make or break stretch

The teams meet again Jan. 31 and the end of the regular season will be a grind for both teams.

Bangor (third in the Class AA North Heal Points standings at press time) welcomes Lewiston Friday, then goes to Brewer Monday.

“We believe player-by-player, we have the best team in the league,” Martin said. “We’re setting each other up, getting good looks, playing good defense, playing good basketball.”

“We like playing down here,” Libby said. “We’re used to the long bus rides. If we can make other teams work extra-hard, then things are in our favor. Our goal is to get better every day. If we do that, we’ll be in the thick of the things at the end of the year. We want to host a quarterfinal game, then if we get down to Portland, it’s anyone tournament.”

Deering (second in Class AA North prior to Wednesday’s result being factored in) goes to Cheverus Friday, then hosts Edward Little in a pivotal battle for Heal Points Tuesday of next week. After going to Bangor, Deering closes at home versus Portland Feb. 6.

“We have to have a short-term memory, then play a good Cheverus team looking for a win,” Wing said. “It’s how the end of the season should be. It’s fun. Our guys like to play basketball. I’m not sure you saw that tonight, but they like to play and with a lot of games, that’s good for us. We’ve responded well to losses. We just have to do our job and we’ll be fine.”

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

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