The renewal of the Portland-Deering boys’ basketball rivalry Thursday afternoon certainly didn’t disappoint anyone.

Short-handed Deering got a sensational effort from Remijo Wani, who scored 26 points, but it wasn’t enough as a double-double from Portland senior Wani Donato and a strong defensive effort helped the visiting Bulldogs earn a fourth straight win, 45-40.

A layup from Spencer Cross early in the fourth quarter put the Bulldogs (4-1) ahead to stay. Donato finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds

Deering, which played without injured big man Alex Willings, fell to 1-4.

“It feels good to beat (Deering),” Donato said after the Bulldogs snapped a four-game skid in the series. “It was great to have fans out here today. Having all these fans hyped us up.”

Portland came out sizzling and held a 15-9 lead after one quarter. The margin could have been more it not for Wani, who scored every Deering point.

The Rams closed the first half with five straight points, capped by a Wani 3-point prayer from just over midcourt, to forge a 21-21 tie.

“Remijo is one of the top players in the state,” said Deering Coach Todd Wing. “He does it all for us. His leadership will take us far.”

The Rams then took the lead for the first time when Wani started the second half with another 3-pointer. Deering was up 28-24 before the Bulldogs fought back to go ahead 34-32 after three quarters.

Deering’s Titayo Augusto opened the fourth with a pretty reverse layup, but Brady Toher then set up Cross for a transition layup and Portland was ahead to stay.

“Honestly, it was just a great pass from Brady and I’m glad he gave it to me,” said Cross.

An Augusto bank shot with 2:58 to play brought the Rams within a single possession at 41-38, but Donato and Toher each made a free throws and James Johnson sank a pair to help close it out.

“That was fun,” said longtime Portland Coach Joe Russo. “It was a very competitive game, which I expected. We’re very similar. I’m very pleased with how hard my players are working.

“The difference today was Wani Donato, and we made some big free throws down the stretch. I think we’re a little more cohesive on defense right now.”

In addition to Donato’s double-double, Pitia Donato had nine points, Toher added seven and Cross finished with six.

Deering made just 4 of 30 3-point attempts and didn’t get enough scoring from anyone besides Wani, but Wing isn’t about to panic, believing the Rams’ best days are still ahead.

“It was a fun game, a rock fight, as we expected,” Wing said. “So far this season, we’ve had to rely heavily on the 3-ball. It’s amazing we stayed as close as we did tonight.

“I’m proud of my kids. They give their all. I think our record is misleading. We’ll get Alex back, we’ll figure it out, and we’ll play anyone.”


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