BOX SCORE

Cheverus 64 Deering 55

C- 17 21 9 17- 64
D- 8 17 16 14- 55

C- Huntington 10-0-26, Ismail 5-0-12, Manning 3-3-9, Nzeyimana 2-3-7, St. Onge 2-1-5, McNabb 1-1-3, Cloutier 0-2-2

D- Lagassey 5-2-15, Augusto 6-0-12, Wani 3-6-12, Chikuta 3-0-6, Lindsay 3-0-6 Al Taee 0-2-2, Jamal 1-0-2

3-pointers:
C (8) Huntington 6, Ismail 2
D (3) Lagassey 3

Turnovers:
C- 11
D- 22

FTs
C: 10-15
D: 10-12

PORTLAND—For more than two weeks, Cheverus’ boys’ basketball team didn’t play a game.

Santa Claus came and went, the ball dropped in Times Square and the New England Patriots tumbled from the likely number seed in the AFC all the way to number six in the time it took the Stags to suit up again.

But Tuesday evening, at rival Deering, Cheverus returned to action with a flourish.

The Stags, who have been resurgent this season under new coach Richie Ashley, rode an early 10-0 run to take the lead for good and thanks to 10 first quarter points from senior sharpshooter Seth Huntington, held a 17-8 advantage after eight minutes.

The Rams drew within six in the second quarter, but Cheverus went on a 13-2 run to seemingly break it open en route to a 38-25 halftime lead.

Not surprisingly, Deering crept back in the game in the third period and behind consecutive layups from senior Titayo Augusto, drew within six, 47-41, heading to the fourth quarter.

There, the Rams came oh-so-close to completing a dramatic comeback, pulling within one on a 3-ball from promising freshman Evan Lagassey, but Huntington would have the final say, coolly draining consecutive clutch 3s to ice it and the Stags went on to a 64-55 victory.

Cheverus evened its record at 3-3, completed a season sweep of Deering and in the process, dropped the Rams to 2-6.

“It’s amazing to play a game again,” said Huntington. “We started off great, moving the ball, playing great defense. Second half, we kind of laid an egg, but we didn’t stop. We kept fighting and finished the game strong.”

Back on the court

It’s been a season of fits and starts for both teams, for different reasons.

Cheverus started with a 63-41 loss at Bangor, then defeated visiting Deering (73-72, in overtime) and Westbrook (64-45). After a 44-41 home loss to Portland and a 60-48 setback at Lewiston Dec. 23, the Stags had games versus reigning state champion Edward Little, Hampden Academy, Scarborough, Deering and Portland all postponed due to COVID complications.

Cheverus stayed together as best it could.

“We had about half the team out and we just wanted to stay in shape, so we went as hard as we could in practice,” Huntington said.

Deering, meanwhile, started with a promising 64-55 home win over Bonny Eagle, then lost at Cheverus (73-72, in overtime), at Bangor (74-55), at Oxford Hills (66-53), at home to Portland (45-40) and at Edward Little (83-55) before getting back on track Saturday with a 61-59 win at Windham, on junior Remijo Wani’s late basket.

In the teams’ first meeting Dec. 14, the Stags tied it at the horn in regulation on a putback from sophomore Gio St. Onge, then went ahead to stay in overtime on a basket from freshman Sammy Nzeyimana. Junior Silvano Ismail led Cheverus with 22 points, while the Rams were paced by 31 points from Wani.

Tuesday, Cheverus sought its first season sweep of Deering in 11 years (during a stretch the Stags won 11 in a row in the series) and thanks in large part to Huntington’s heroics, made it happen.

Wani opened the scoring with a pair of free throws 63 seconds in, but that would be the Rams’ lone lead of the night.

With 6:15 left in the opening stanza, a 3-point shot from Huntington put Cheverus ahead to stay.

Huntington added a layup, junior Nicholas Manning made a layup after a steal and a 3-ball from Ismail made it 10-2 Stags, forcing Deering coach Todd Wing to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Huntington added another 3 before a putback from Wani ended the 13-0 run.

Augusto added a putback, but Huntington drove for a layup, then St. Onge scored on a leaner in the lane. Freshman Justin Jamal countered with a floater that rolled home, but after one quarter, Cheverus held a 17-8 lead, as Huntington had 10 points in the frame and the Rams committed eight turnovers.

Deering gave the ball away to start the second period as well and Ismail converted it into a layup, but the hosts settled down, as Lagassey hit a 3-pointer from the corner, then with 6:59 to go in the half, Lagassey set up Augusto for a fastbreak layup to cut the deficit to 19-13, forcing Ashley to call timeout.

The Stags then roared to life, as senior Anthony Cloutier sank two free throws, Ismail got a floater in the lane to rattle home, Nzeyimana converted an old-fashioned three-point play (leaner, foul, free throw) and with 5:04 on the clock, Ismail sank a 3.

Wani ended the 13-0 run with two free throws, but Huntington countered with another 3 for Cheverus’ biggest lead, 32-15.

The Rams tried to answer, as Laggasey drove and finished and sophomore Quinton Lindsay got a leaner to roll home, but again, Huntington quelled the uprising with a 3.

After a layup from Deering senior Max Chikuta, Manning made a free throw.

Wani made a jump shot with just under a minute to play, then Huntington made a floater before senior Abdulla Al Taee answered with two foul shots to pull the Rams within 38-25 at the break.

Huntington led all scorers with 18 first half points, but he would be largely held in check in the second half.

Until it mattered most.

Augusto started the third period with a driving layup, but Nzeyimana countered with a bank shot.

Wani then set up Chikuta for a fastbreak layup, but Manning scored on a putback, then made a free throw to stretch the lead back out to 43-29.

Deering tried to counter, as Wani made two free throws and Chikuta tipped home a miss, but freshman Leo McNabb drove for a layup to put the Stags up by a dozen.

After Wani banked home a leaner, Manning made a layup, but the final six points of the frame would go to the hosts, as Lagassey hit two foul shots, Lagassey set up Augusto for a reverse layup, then Augusto went backdoor and took a pass from Lindsay and made a layup to cut the deficit to a manageable 47-41 heading for the fourth period.

There, Cheverus would do just enough to finish it off.

Manning started the final stanza with a free throw.

After Lagassey made a layup, St. Onge made a foul shot, but with 6:08 on the clock, a Lagassey 3 made it a one-possession contest, 49-46.

Unfazed, the Stags got a jumper from Huntington, his first points of the second half.

With 5:40 left, Lagassey set up Augusto for a layup to again cut the deficit to three, but St. Onge scored on a leaner in the lane and Nzeyimana set up Ismail for a layup to make it 55-48.

Deering kept coming, as Lagassey fed Lindsay for a layup, then Lindsay scored on a putback and after a foul shot from McNabb, with 1:53 on the clock, Wani found Lagassey in the corner and Lagassey calmly buried the 3 to make it a one-point game, 56-55.

All the pressure was on Cheverus, but the Stags were up for the challenge.

After the teams traded fruitless possessions, Cheverus went on offense and Ismail drew the defense, then passed to Huntington up top and Huntington didn’t hesitate, as he soared and drilled a 3-pointer for a four-point lead with 1:22 remaining.

“I just trust my teammates to make the right play and they did,” said Huntington. “The ball came to me, so I shot it. I like shooting in any gym. I just focus on keeping my hand wide. I usually go too thin, but I kept it wide and it worked.”

After Wani missed a 3, McNabb got possession back for the Stags and with 53.2 seconds showing, Huntington got the ball again and again, drained a 3 to ice it.

“Seth played great today,” Ashley said. “He’s a senior and he’s a leader. He did a good job. He got us back on track.”

Nzeyimana added two free throws with 34.6 seconds to play and this time, the Rams couldn’t answer as Cheverus put the finishing touches on its 64-55 victory.

“We had a really good first half,” Ashley said. “We had a sluggish third quarter, then they cut it to one and we answered the bell and hit some shots. Deering’s a good team with good players. They’re athletic. We’ve played some good games. We’ve beaten Deering twice, we had a good game with Portland and a good game with Lewiston.”

Huntington led all scorers with 26 points. He also had four rebounds, three steals and blocked a couple shots.

Ismail had 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Manning added nine points (and five rebounds), Nzyeyimana seven (to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals), St. Onge five, McNabb three and Cloutier two.

The Stags made 10 of 15 free throws and only turned the ball over 11 times.

For Deering, Lagassey continued to emerge as a budding star with 15 points and four assists.

“Evan’s a young kid who has a great future ahead of him,” said Wing. “In fact, his future is now. He’s led us in scoring the past three games. He’s gaining more and more confidence each game and he really stepped up tonight.”

Augusto had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds), Wani also finished in double-figures with 12 points (to go with nine rebounds and two steals). Chikuta and Lindsay (six rebounds, two assists) each added six points and Al Taee and Jamal had two apiece.

The Rams had a 39-26 rebound advantage and made 10 of 12 foul shots, but were doomed in part by 22 turnovers.

“We’re up and down,” Wing said. “That’s kind of what we do and that’s the difference between winning and losing. The comeback started on the defensive end. We allowed 38 points in the first half, which is way too many. We dug down defensively and got ourselves some easy looks and that got us back in the game.

“We played (Cheverus) in the summer and they’ve improved. They’re young and they’re hungry and Richie’s done a good job with them. We’ve had two good games with them this year.”

Fast forward to Friday

Deering looks to bounce back Friday at Westbrook. The Rams then play host to Lewiston Monday.

“We’re in a different realm than we’ve been in,” said Wing. “We’re determined to get better and we will get better. No doubt about it.”

Cheverus is back in action Friday at Hampden Academy. Monday brings a trip to Edward Little.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Huntington. “Working hard in practice and trusting each other. We’ve had a change in culture.”

“We have to continue to work hard,” Ashley said. “We have a tough stretch coming up. We have to make up five games. We’re just trying to get better every day. Our mantra is caring more about the name on the front than the name on the back. We started it in the summer and we’ll keep doing it.”

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

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