A fast start, a solid finish, and playing in front of the home fans for the first time in 22 months.

It all added up to a satisfying opening night 64-55 win for a Deering High boys’ basketball team expected to challenge in Class AA North this season against a solid Bonny Eagle squad from the AA South ranks.

“It’s a blessing to have fans out here,” said Deering junior Remijo Wani, who led all scorers with 21 points. “Last year with no fans we had to generate our own energy but now we have fans. It’s a blessing.”

The Rams had plenty of energy from the opening tip, forcing Bonny Eagle into 12 first-quarter turnovers, most caused on the perimeter by the quick hands of Wani, Max Chikuta (10 points) and Titayo Augusto (12 points). Deering led 19-9 after a quarter.

The middle quarters were played more evenly but Deering was able to stretch its lead to 47-33 entering the fourth quarter. A key aspect was the defensive effort of Deering’s 6-foot-8 senior center Alex Willings on Bonny Eagle’s top scoring threat, 6-8 junior Elliot Bouchard.

Bouchard did finish with 16 points but the combination of Willings aggressively and physically fronting him and Deering’s on-ball pressure made entry passes difficult. Bouchard was only able to take one shot in the first half.


“I think player of the game goes to Alex Willings,” said Deering Coach Todd Wing. “Alex Willings worked his tail off.”

Willings added 10 points in his return to the Deering court. He had spent his junior season at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn before returning to Deering for his senior season.

“I actually haven’t played a game on this floor in about two years, so I’m just glad to be back and to see the student section was a lot of fun,” Willings said.

Bonny Eagle, had just one scrimmage entering the game, got things rolling in the fourth quarter and twice cut the lead to just three points. Senior guard Aidan Walcott scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the quarter, including making a 3-pointer to make it a 54-51 game. Then, after Augusto had knifed his way to the basket for a layup, it was Bouchard who had an offensive putback to trim Deering’s lead to 56-53 with about 2:30 to play.

Twice in the fourth quarter Bouchard dove on the floor to secure a ball, once passing from a prone position to assist on a Walcott basket.

“Elliot will do anything the team asks. He took two charges earlier in the game, too,” said Bonny Eagle Coach John Trull. ”

Deering responded with good poise, and put the game away with six straight free throws, two by Chikuta and then four straight from Wani.

“We knew starting with Deering was going to be tough with our inexperience so it wasn’t a surprise that’s how we started the game,” Trull said. “It’s hard to simulate what they do. They have some great athletes. I’m more impressed with how we fought back than concerned with how we started.”

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