BOX SCORE

Deering 57 Bangor 51

D- 12 5 20 20- 57
B- 13 8 12 18- 51

D- Houssein 9-6-29, Germain 5-4-17, Semuhoza 2-2-7, Anda 1-0-2, Kamalandua 1-0-2

B- Westrich 3-5-11, Martin 3-2-8, Richards 3-0-8, Cyr 2-1-7, Szwez 2-2-7, Noyes 2-0-6, Clark 1-2-4

3-pointers:
D (9) Houssein 5, Germain 3, Semuhoza 1
B (7) Cyr, Noyes, Richards 2, Szwez 1

Turnovers:
D- 11
B- 10

FTs
D: 12-21
B: 12-15

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PORTLAND—Askar Houssein loves being the underdog.

And he loves being a Deering Ram.

And after Houssein’s game for the ages Wednesday afternoon, you can be sure that the Deering Rams and their legion of fans are pretty fond of Houssein too.

In a Class AA North semifinal round game at the Cross Insurance Arena, third-ranked Deering faced the daunting task of taking on second-seeded Bangor, which wasn’t just the defending state champion, but had also defeated Deering twice during the regular season.

But for Deering, the third time was the charm.

Was it ever.

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Houssein scored 10 first quarter points, but Bangor held a 13-12 advantage after eight minutes thanks to three 3-pointers.

Bangor went up by as much as eight in the second period, but Houssein rallied Deering within 21-17 at the half, as he had 15 of his team’s points in the first two quarters.

Deering continued to play stellar defense on Bangor’s big men when the second  half began and Houssein’s supporting cast began filling it up as well, as senior Darryl Germain hit a couple clutch 3s and senior Jesse Kamalandua added a putback just before the horn for a 37-33 Deering lead.

As expected, Bangor rallied and took a 40-39 lead on a pair of free throws from sophomore Max Clark with 3:56 to play, but 18 seconds later, Houssein drained an NBA-range 3 and Deering went on top to stay.

Germain added a clutch 3 and Houssein found junior Mpore Semuhoza for a breakaway layup and Deering hit just enough free throws down the stretch to go on to an inspirational 57-51 victory.

Houssein had a game for the ages, 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Germain added 17 points as Deering improved to 15-5, ended Bangor’s season at 16-4 and in the process, advanced to the Class AA North Final where it will meet second-seeded Edward Little (18-2) Saturday at 3:45 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

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“I’m so happy for the kids because this is a group that two years ago as sophomores, I rolled with them and we were 8-10 in the regular season and out in the quarterfinals, then we had a devastating (quarterfinal round) loss last year (to Portland) and they’ve never wavered,” said Deering coach Todd Wing. “They’ve stuck together and that’s special. I’m so proud.”

Rams everywhere

Deering has lived up to billing as a top contender this winter, even though it struggled against a couple top teams en route to a 13-5 record (see sidebar, above, for previous stories). The Rams lost twice apiece to top-ranked Edward Little and second-seeded Bangor and they also fell at undefeated, Class AA South top seed South Portland, but they handled everyone else and even swept Portland for the first time in 18 seasons.

In last Wednesday’s quarterfinal, played at Deering, the Rams pulled away in the second half for a 61-46 victory over No. 6 Cheverus.

Bangor, meanwhile, was expected to come back to the pack after last year’s stirring run to the state title, but the Rams from up north won 15 of 18 regular season contests, losing only at Edward Little, at Hampden Academy and at Windham. In last week’s quarterfinal round, Bangor dispatched seventh-seeded Oxford Hills, 79-55.

Wednesday’s encounter was the first in the postseason between Bangor and Deering since the epic 2001 Class A state final in Bangor, when Bangor’s Joe Campbell scored on an improbable putback at the buzzer for a 57-56 victory.

This time around, the teams didn’t produce quite as much drama, however, Deering loved the end result.

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Both teams did some damage from the 3-point stripe in a hard-fought, close first quarter.

Houssein opened the scoring with a putback after a steal, but Bangor’s first points came on a 3-point shot from senior captain Parker Noyes. Germain then took a pass from senior Mike Randall and made a layup, but Noyes’ second 3 gave Bangor a 6-4 lead.

Houssein gave Deering the lead again when he knocked down a long 3, but sophomore Keegan Cyr made a 3 for Bangor and senior big man Sam Martin followed with a putback for his first points.

After another long 3 from Houssein, junior captain Andrew Szwez made two free throws, but with time winding down, Houssein converted a runner in the lane to pull Deering within one, 13-12.

“I hit shots and that got everybody going, not just me,” Houssein said.

Houssein had 10 points in the first quarter, but he and his teammates took a long time to score in the second and Bangor took advantage and extended its lead.

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After Martin blocked successive shots on the defensive end, sophomore Keegan Cyr made a free throw, then sophomore Max Clark made his presence felt, driving for a layup and setting up Martin for a short bank shot. Martin then threw a touchdown pass to senior Henry Westrich for a dunk and Bangor was up, 20-12, forcing a Deering timeout.

Deering finally got its offense going again with 1:35 left in the half, when Houssein went coast-to-coast for a layup, snapping a 6-minute, 37-second drought and Bangor’s 7-0 run.

After Westrich got a point back for Bangor at the line, Houssein drained another 3 and despite its struggles, Deering was only down by four, 21-17, at the break, thanks in huge part to Houssein’s 15 points and four rebounds.

Houssein took his show into the second half as well, starting with a driving layup while being fouled before adding the and-one free throw, then he got into the lane with a dazzling move, drew the defense and set up Semuhoza for a go-ahead 3-pointer.

Bangor answered with seven straight, as Szwez set up Martin for a layup, senior Quinn Richards drained a 3 from the corner and Westrich was fouled after a steal and made two free throws for a 28-23 lead.

After senior Loki Anda scored on a layup for Deering, Westrich hit a jumper in the lane, but Houssein made another long 3, Germain sank a free throw and with 2:14 left in the quarter, Houssein set up Germain for an NBA-range 3 and a 32-30 Deering lead.

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Bangor went right back on top 18 seconds later on a 3 from Richards, but Germain made a 3 from the corner and as time expired, Kamalandua scored on a putback to make it 37-33 Deering heading for the fourth quarter.

There, Deering put it away.

Szwez opened the final stanza with an NBA-range 3, but Germain answered with a leaner in the lane.

With 5:42 to go, Martin sank two free throws and with 3:56 on the clock, two Clark free throws gave Bangor what proved to be its final lead, 40-39.

But 18 seconds later, Houssein, despite being well beyond the NBA arc, let loose a shot that rattled around, then rolled in to put Deering ahead to stay.

“That felt really good,” Houssein said. “Once we get the lead, we get excited and everybody moves on defense.”

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After a steal by senior Max Morrione, Houssein was fouled and made one of two free throws, but on the miss, Germain was fouled and he went to the line and sank both attempts to stretch the lead to 45-40.

Out of a Bangor timeout, Szwez was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one and Germain got the rebound.

At the other end of the floor, Morrione found Germain in the corner and Germain’s 3 was true for an eight point lead with 2:23 remaining.

“My guy guy found me for open shots and I made them,” Germain said.

Bangor got a boost from Cyr, when he hit a 3 with 1:35 on the clock, ending Deering’s 9-0 run, but Houssein countered with two free throws.

Then, with 1:23 remaining, Bangor got a boost, as a Szwez shot was good while a foul was being called on Deering and in addition to those two points, Westrich went to the line and sank both attempts to cut the deficit to just three, 50-47.

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Deering didn’t wilt, however, as Houssein was fouled and made two free throws.

“That (four-point play) was a wacky sequence and the clock didn’t run, but the guys didn’t hang their heads,” Wing said. “We got the ball and got fouled and hit free throws.”

After a Cyr miss, Houssein got a rebound and he found a streaking Semuhoza for a layup and a seven-point advantage with 56 seconds on the clock.

Westrich scored his final points on a putback, but with 35 seconds to go, Semuhoza made a free throw for a six-point lead.

Szwez nearly made it a one-possession game, but his 3 went in-and-out and Germain got the rebound and was fouled.

Germain made one of two free throws and after a Westrich 3 was off-target, Semuhoza added one more foul shot to put it away.

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Richards hit a jump shot with 3.4 seconds left, but Deering ran out the clock and at 3:26 p.m., celebrated its 57-51 victory.

“(Bangor) beat us twice and that really motivated us,” Houssein said. “I just felt like we were the underdogs. They were really big on the inside and they share the ball, so you have to stay disciplined. You can’t play defense for 10 seconds. You have to play for a minute or so.”

“It’s means a lot to the guys to win,” Germain said. “We came down here and did our game plan. We practiced defense, did a good job and executed. In the second half, we had to execute on defense. We faced a lot of adversity throughout the season. We kept our heads in the game and kept attacking.”

“We talked about getting here and anything can happen,” Wing added. “It’s a beautiful thing. What the advantage we had was had an opportunity to look at film. In both losses, we did things intentionally to get things on film for a third time. We thought we had a good game plan going in. We’ve been a predominantly man, 2-3 (zone) team throughout the year, but we adjusted to a 1-2-2 to clog up the middle and the guys executed. I wanted defense and free throws and we executed to perfection.”

Houssein, who turned heads for three years with a very successful Waynflete program, had his finest game yet in a Deering uniform, scoring 29 points, adding 10 rebounds for a double-double, dishing out three assists and producing two steals for good measure.

“Doesn’t (Askar) just cook sometimes?” Wing said. “Sometimes as a coach you have to simplify. I don’t have to be a genius coach to let my best player play. He’s got the heart of a lion. He’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever met. He’s never lost a sprint in practice. He stepped it up.”

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“Askar led that team,” said Bangor coach Brad Libby. “He had the ball in his hands and did a good job. He made deep 3s he didn’t make the first two times we played.”

Germain came alive in the second half, scoring 15 points to give him 17 for the game. Germain also had five rebounds.

“Once (Bangor) collapsed on Askar, I knew Darryl was going to knock down those 3s,” Wing said. “That was kind of a ripple effect. Darryl did a great job defensively and ran the floor and made shots when he had to.”

Semuhoza had seven points and Anda and Kamalandua had two points and five rebounds apiece.

Morrione didn’t score, but had five rebounds and two steals and Randall added three rebounds and a pair of assists.

Deering enjoyed a 39-29 rebounding advantage, only committed 11 turnovers in a high-stress setting and made 12-of-21 free throws.

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Bangor was paced by Westrich, the only Ram in double figures with 11 points. He also had seven rebounds and two steals.

Martin bowed out with eight points and nine rebounds, while Richards added eight points, Cyr and Szwez (nine rebounds) had seven apiece, Noyes six and Clark four.

Bangor made 12-of-15 free throws and had 10 turnovers.

“(Deering) really brought the intensity to us,” Westrich said. “They emphasized face-guarding me and Andrew and doubled Sam in the paint. We packed the paint a little bit with Sam in there, but they stepped up on the bigger court and spread us out more and took deeper shots and made them, so props to them.”

“They shot the ball really well and we didn’t,” said Libby. “They had a good game plan to double Sam inside.  It came down to us missing shots we usually make.”

High-stakes Saturday

Deering will take part in its first regional final since 2016 Saturday when it squares off against nemesis Edward Little. The Red Eddies took both regular season encounters, 71-59 Jan. 11 in Auburn and 56-50 Jan. 28 in Portland. The teams have met just once in the playoffs, dating back to 1964, in the 2002 Western A Final, a 75-55 triumph for the Rams.

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Deering will be the underdog again, but the Rams have demonstrated they thrive in that role, so the Red Eddies should beware.

“It’s really exciting and we’re not done yet,” Houssein said. “We just have to execute on defense. We have plenty of offense on this team.”

“Coach is going to have a game plan for us tomorrow in practice and we’ll go out and execute that,” Germain said.

“We know (Edward Little’s) personnel and we know they’re a solid team,” Wing added. “They’re so well coached. We didn’t come here to win just one game, so we’ll have to put up our best game to beat the best team in AA North.”

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

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