Deering senior Askar Houssein shoots over Portland junior Jacob Bouchard during the Rams’ 55-39 victory Thursday night. Hoffer photo.

BOX SCORE

Deering 55 Portland 39

P- 10 15 11 3- 39
D- 10 17 12 16- 55

P- Mahan 2-7-12, Smart 5-2-12, Katz-Cronin 3-2-8, Donato 1-1-3, Bouchard 1-0-2, Russell 0-2-2

D- Houssein 6-3-16, Germain 5-0-14, Anda 3-1-8, Kamalandua 2-1-5, Morrione 2-0-5, Sheja 0-4-4, Randall 1-1-3

3-pointers:
P (1) Mahan 1
D (7) Germain 4, Anda, Houssein, Morrione 1

Turnovers:
P- 17
D- 13

FTs
P: 14-20
D: 10-17

PORTLAND—Portland wouldn’t go down without a fight, but host Deering was up to the challenge in the ancient rivals’ regular season-ending boys’ basketball contest Thursday evening.

Nearly a year to the day after the Bulldogs shocked the Rams on a buzzer beater in the playoffs, Portland threatened to ruin Deering’s Senior Night, but this group of Rams is bound and determined to make the plays when it matters most and the end result was a historic victory.

After a first period which featured four lead changes and three ties and ended up, 10-10, the Rams took the lead for good on senior Loki Anda’s layup early in the second quarter.

Deering threatened to open up a commanding lead when Anda sank a 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs, whose effort wasn’t representative of their record so far this season, battled back and only trailed by two, 27-25, at halftime.

The Rams went up by eight, 37-29, on senior Jesse Kamalandua’s slam dunk late in the third quarter, but again, Portland answered, drawing within one on an old-fashioned three-point play from senior Kevin Smart.

Deering senior Askar Houssein wouldn’t let his team lose, however, opening the fourth period with a 3-pointer and with the Rams’ defense completely stymieing the Bulldogs to the tune of no field goals in the final stanza, Deering pulled away and went on to a 55-39 victory.

Houssein led the way with 16 points, senior Darryl Germain added 14 and the Rams improved to 13-5, secured the No. 3 seed for the upcoming Class AA North tournament and in the process, dropped Portland to 3-15.

“It meant a lot to me and I know how much it meant to the rest of the guys,” Houssein said.

Opposite ends

While Deering has been in its expected spot as a top contender in Class AA North this winter, Portland has struggled through its most challenging campaign in decades.

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). After losing a “home” game to Bangor (65-44) in a contest played at the Portland Exposition Building, the Rams handled host Cheverus (58-39). Deering then lost at home to Edward Little (56-50), and dropped a 67-48 decision Monday at Bangor.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, knew they had their hands full coming into the season.

Portland opened with a 57-41 home loss to defending Class AA champion Bangor, then gained some optimism with victories at Windham (55-54) and at home over Oxford Hills (56-43), but the Bulldogs dropped their next 10 games. Their skid began with a 52-48 setback at Scarborough and continued against visiting Edward Little (55-48), host Cheverus (65-48), host Lewiston (49-46), visiting Deering (50-49), visiting South Portland (48-31), host Bangor (49-36), visiting Gorham (49-40), host Thornton Academy (68-46) and host Oxford Hills (35-31). After beating “visiting” Cheverus, 63-48, in a game played at Southern Maine Community College, Portland lost to visiting Windham (18-16), at Edward Little (78-38) and home to Lewiston Tuesday, 47-44.

In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 4 at the Expo, Deering led, 32-20, at halftime, then held on for dear life to prevail by a point behind 21 points from Germain and 13 from senior Max Morrione (sophomore Wani Donato, Mahan and senior Kevin Smart all had 12 points for the Bulldogs).

Portland entered the game holding the all-time lead in the series which dates to 1911, 150 wins to 80 (see sidebar, below, for recent results), but Thursday, for the first time since Nik Caner-Medley and Walter Phillips were star players (2001-02), Deering managed to sweep the Bulldogs in the regular season.

Portland came out strong and opened the scoring when senior Smart tipped home a missed shot 34 seconds in.

The Rams’ first points came on a putback from senior Mike Randall and Germain gave the hosts their first lead with a 3-pointer.

Undaunted, back came the Bulldogs, as senior Finn Katz-Cronin scored on a putback and Smart hit a baseline runner for a 6-5 lead.

After Germain sank his second 3, a short baseline jumper from Katz-Cronin tied it and after junior Jacob Bouhard drove for a layup, Houssein did the same for his first points and after eight back-and-forth minutes, the game was deadlocked, 10-10.

With 7:34 to go in the second period, Smart made a driving layup, but that proved to be Portland’s final lead.

The next eight points went to Deering, as Germain set up Morrione for a layup, Houssein fed Anda for a layup and a lead the Rams wouldn’t relinquish, Germain hit a runner in the lane and with 5:53 left, Houssein set up Anda for a layup and an 18-12 advantage.

“Coach (Todd Wing) told me to find shooters,” said Houssein. “There are a lot of great shooters on this team. I just wanted to find the open man.”

Mahan then came to life, draining an NBA-range 3-pointer before sinking two free throws to cut the deficit to a single point.

Deering then extended its lead, as Germain took an inbounds pass from Hosusein and made a 3-pointer.

“We just worked the ball around,” said Germain. “My teammates found me open and I had the shot. It doesn’t matter what shots I get, as long as we score as a team.”

After Mahan made two foul shots, Houssein hit a leaner in the lane, then set up Anda for a 3 and a 27-19 lead with 3:07 to go before the half.

Portland didn’t buckle, however, and made things very interesting.

First, sophomore Wani Donato made a free throw.

Mahan then converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and with 2.4 seconds on the clock, Smart’s runner after a steal cut the Rams’ advantage to 27-25 at the break.

In the first half, Germain led all scorers with 11 points, while Mahan had 10 for the Bulldogs.

The third quarter again saw Deering threaten to run away and hide, only to have Portland respond.

Houssein started the second half with two free throws and Germain added a 3.

After the Bulldogs got a jumper from Katz-Cronin, Houssein drove and banked home a shot.

With 3:36 left in the third quarter, Katz-Cronin made two free throws, but Deering senior Jesse Kamalandua answered with a foul shot, then took a pass from Houssein and slammed the ball home for a 37-29 lead.

While most on hand expected the dunk to energize the hosts, instead, Portland went on a 7-0 run to make things very interesting.

After two Mahan foul shots, Donato hit a runner, then Smart converted a three-point play to pull the Bulldogs within a single point, 37-36.

Portland had a chance to go on top, but turned the ball over and Houssein made a layup after a steal to keep the Rams in front, 39-36.

It appeared the game would go down to the wire, but Deering ended the competitive phase of the contest early in the fourth quarter.

After the Bulldogs failed on a pair of opportunities to creep closer, Houssein’s 3-pointer from the corner put the Rams ahead, 42-36.

Smart got a point back at the foul line, but Houssein set up Morrione for a clutch 3.

That sparked a 13-0 Deering run which ended any and all doubt.

Houssein made a layup after a steal, Randall and Anda each sank one free throw and senior Valliant Sheja made four free throws to put the Rams up 16 before Kamalandua punctuated matters with another rousing dunk for Deering’s final points and while junior Gabe Russell made two foul shots in the waning seconds for the Bulldogs, the Rams went on to a 55-39 victory.

“Our game plan really changed in the fourth quarter,” Houssein said. “We locked down on defense. We got away from gambling and reaching.”

“We came together, stuck to our game plan and did what Coach told us to do,” said Germain. “Our defense was good. Most of (Portland’s) points in the first half came from free throws. We wanted to keep our man in front of us in the second half. I feel like we’ve done well and learned from our mistakes.”

“We made a decision as a team collectively to stop reaching, keep our man in front and rebound the basketball,” Wing added. “Mastering the simple aspects of the game wins.

“It’s a big senior class. These guys have been together forever. They played for each other. They represented the school and community. They wanted it.

“(The atmosphere was) great. It’s like this every single year. That’s what makes this game special. Beating Portland is always an accomplishment. City rivalry, throw the records away. We knew we’d have to beat them. We knew they wouldn’t beat themselves. We had to impose our will in the fourth quarter.”

Houssein led all scorers with 16 points, while adding eight assists, four rebounds and two steals.

“Askar makes everybody better,” Wing said. “He embraced that today. He came off the bench and brought great energy throughout. He was invaluable.”

Germain also finished in double figures with 14 points. Anda had eight points and 10 rebounds, Kamalandua contributed five points, Morrione also had five points, while Sheja finished with four and Randall had three (to go with six rebounds).

Deering had a 29-26 edge in rebounds, made 10-of-17 foul shots. and overcame 13 turnovers.

Portland was paced by a dozen points apiece from Mahan and Smart (nine rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals).

Katz-Cronin had eight points, Donato three and Bouchard and Russell two apiece.

The Bulldogs committed 17 turnovers and made 14-of-20 foul shots.

“I’m very proud of the kids tonight,” said Portland coach Joe Russo. “They battled. We played tough for three quarters. We were down 39-36 and had two possessions and had turnovers, then they got separation. That’s why our record is what it is. At crunch time, our inexperience shows. We do OK, until we try to call a play in the fourth quarter.

“I thanked the guys for keeping me going. I’ve had to coach every second this year and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Let the fun begin

Portland, which posted its fewest wins in a season since 1983-84, will be the eight seed in Class AA North and will travel to either Bangor or Edward Little next week for a quarterfinal round game.

The Bulldogs lost both meetings to both potential foes this winter, but that doesn’t mean an upset is out of the question.

“I told the guys to not get too upset,” said Russo. “It wasn’t too many years ago (2000) that we were in eighth place and beat the number one seed (Edward Little), so there’s still hope.”

Deering is the No. 3 seed in Class AA North and will host a quarterfinal versus Cheverus, likely Wednesday.

The Rams swept the Stags in the regular season.

“We just have to focus on defense,” said Houssein. “We have great scorers. If we stick together on defense, we’ll be all set.”

“Cheverus will be a different team, but our guys are ready to go,” Wing said. “We hope to survive and advance. We’ll prepare. I have a feeling this team can flip the switch. I’m excited to move forward.”

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

Recent Deering-Portland results

2018-19
@ Portland 55 @ Deering 32
@ Deering 64 Portland 40
Class AA North quarterfinals
Portland 51 @ Deering 50

2017-18
@ Portland 53 Deering 34
Portland 83 Deering 62

2016-17
@ Portland 63 Deering 44
Portland 67 @ Deering 47

2015-16
Portland 61 @ Deering 51
@ Portland 74 Deering 62
Class A North Final
Portland 70 Deering 39

2014-15
@ Portland 65 Deering 62 
Portland 66 @ Deering 44
Western A semifinal
Portland 59 Deering 57 

2013-14
Portland 77 @ Deering 42
@ Portland 63 Deering 46
Western A semifinals
Portland 64 Deering 49

2012-13
@ Portland 44 Deering 37
@ Deering 37 Portland 30

2011-12
Portland 39 @ Deering 35
@ Portland 46 Deering 22

2010-11
@ Deering 65 Portland 42
@ Portland 52 Deering 39

2009-10
@ Portland 56 Deering 45
@ Deering 49 Portland 48

2008-09
Portland 60 @ Deering 57
@ Portland 71 Deering 47

2007-08
@ Deering 59 Portland 50
@ Portland 53 Deering 47
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 48 Deering 41

2006-07
@ Portland 63 Deering 55
Portland 64 @ Deering 49

2005-06
Portland 63 @ Deering 58
Deering 61 @ Portland 58
Western A Final
Deering 70 Portland 64

2004-05
@ Portland 54 Deering 46
Portland 55 @ Deering 52
Western A semifinals
Deering 57 Portland 54

2003-04
Portland 85 @ Deering 46
@ Portland 65 Deering 38

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