Portland 54 Deering 32

D-7 7 8 10- 32
P-16 8 11 19- 54

D- Wani 4-1-11, Willings 1-7-9, Chikuta 1-5-7, Augusto 0-2-2, Otti 1-0-2, Lindsay 0-1-1

P- W. Donato 6-1-14, Cross 3-6-13, Khamis 3-0-7, Girumugisha 1-3-5, Biaya 2-0-4, P. Donato 1-1-4, Charles 1-0-3, Toher 1-0-3, Veilleux 0-1-1

D (2) Wani 2
P (6) Charles, Cross, W. Donato, P. Donato, Khamis, Toher 1

D- 21
P- 15

D: 16-23
P: 12-18


PORTLAND—When Portland and Deering square off on the hardwood, the fans are usually the ultimate winner.

Often for reasons that go beyond basketball.

That was the case Tuesday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, when the Bulldogs had their way on the court, thanks to a smothering defensive effort, but that all took a back seat to the long-awaited, and ultimately triumphant appearance of Portland’s 6-foot-6 senior center Jared Biaya, who is contending with a heart ailment, but whose display of heart conquered all in front of a boisterous gathering.

Biaya, who has been sidelined this season by HCM, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, earned a start on Senior Night, and fittingly scored the game’s first and last baskets.

The Bulldogs never trailed, taking a 16-7 lead after one quarter, stretching it to 24-14 at the half and 35-22 after three periods before going on to a 54-32 victory.

Portland limited Deering to just seven field goals the whole night and got 14 points from senior Wani Donato, 13 more from classmate Spencer Cross and four from Biaya in limited action as it improved to 11-6 on the season, dropping the Rams to 7-10 in the process.


“To come out and play with my teammates and show my family and friends what it means to play one final time meant a lot,” said Biaya. “It shows I have something left in me. It felt like home, honestly.”


Deering and Portland have met in the regular season’s final week for years and often, one or both squads have gone on subsequent deep playoff runs.

This season has seen the Rams struggle early, then hit their stride, while the Bulldogs have alternated big wins with some tough losses.

Deering opened 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 reigning Class AA champion Edward Little (83-55) before getting back on track with a 61-59 win at Windham. Losses to visiting Cheverus (64-55), Lewiston (67-62) and South Portland (66-52) followed before the Rams gave coach Todd Wing his 100th victory, 64-59, over visiting Edward Little, then rallied to knock off host Lewiston (61-56) before falling at home to Oxford Hills (59-55), beating visiting Windham, 73-51, surviving at Westbrook (77-73), then outlasting visiting Hampden Academy in double-overtime Saturday, 84-78.

Portland, meanwhile, started with a 42-40 home loss to Lewiston, then won at Bonny Eagle (45-41) and at Hampden Academy (63-42), rallied for a 44-41 victory at Cheverus, then downed host Deering, 45-40. A 47-41 home loss to reigning Class AA state champion Edward Little was followed by a nearly two-week hiatus before Portland returned to action with an impressive 45-36 home victory over reigning Class AA South champion Thornton Academy and an equally impressive 52-43 home victory over Oxford Hills. After falling at home to Cheverus, 46-42, the Bulldogs held off visiting Falmouth, 47-44 and beat visiting Windham (65-53). Losses at Lewiston (64-44) and Oxford Hills (45-40) were followed by a 49-44 home win over Bangor and a 45-44 victory at Windham. In Portland’s last outing, last Tuesday, it lost at Edward Little by a 56-35 margin.


In the teams’ first meeting, two days before Christmas, junior Remijo Wani went off for 26 points for the Rams, but Donato paced a balanced attack with a dozen points as the Bulldogs did just enough to win at Deering and snap a four-game skid in the series.

Portland entered Tuesday’s game holding the all-time lead in the series which dates to 1911, 151 wins to 83.

The Rams hoped to earn a measure of revenge and beat Portland at the Expo for just the second time since 2006, but in front of a big crowd, which included raucous student sections from both schools, the Bulldogs managed to sweep Deering for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign.

On Senior Night, Portland started four seniors, Biaya, Cross, Donato and Aiden Christensen.

Fittingly, Biaya took a pass from Donato and made a layup to open the scoring.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t a nervous wreck,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Joe Russo. “We got (Jared) cleared with his cardiologist, who’s gone above and beyond. He gave us strict instructions. It’s Senior Night and we wanted to make it an honorary game, but not a game where no one was trying. We talked to Coach Wing and he was awesome with it. (Deering) showed a lot of class and I appreciate that. Basketball is important, but our kids are more important.”


“Jared’s a great kid,” Wing said. “He was part of our program for two years. He’s a kid as a coach you root for and I’m happy for him.”

The Rams tied things up on a jumper from senior Alex Willings, but with 6:04 left in the opening stanza, junior Brady Toher set up Donato for a fastbreak layup and the Bulldogs wouldn’t look back.

Donato then converted an old-fashioned three-point play (putback, foul and free throw) and after a 3 from Wani, sophomore Pepito Girumugisha converted a three-point play, before two Cross foul shots made it 12-5 Portland.

Willings answered with two free throws, but sophomore Jeissey Khamis closed the quarter for the Bulldogs by getting two contested shots to drop and after eight minutes, Portland was up, 16-7.

The Bulldogs continued to make life miserable for Deering in the second quarter and added to their lead.

The Rams looked to make a run, as Willings opened the frame with a free throw, then senior Max Chikuta found Wani for a layup, but Deering wouldn’t make another field goal for a long, long time.


Pitia Donato then made a free throw and Cross hit a pair to stretch the lead back to nine.

After a pair of Chikuta free throws, Cross scored on a putback, then Pitia Donato got a 3-point shot to hit the rim and drop into the net.

Senior Titayo Augusto made a pair of late foul shots for Deering, but Portland had a 24-14 advantage at halftime.

The Bulldogs didn’t let up in the third quarter, as Cross sank a 3 from the corner to get things started and after Chikuta hit a pair of foul shots for the Rams, Girumugisha answered with two free throws. Wani made a foul shot for the visitors, but Wani Donato drove for a layup, then junior Kennedy Charles sank a 3 from the corner and Portland had doubled up Deering, 34-17.

Cross added a foul shot before Willings countered with two free throws and as time wound down, Wani stole the ball, threw up a prayer from beyond the 3-point arc and it bounced off the glass and rattled home to not only snap a 15-minute, 23-second field goal drought, but also pull the Rams within 35-22 heading to the final stanza.

Where the Bulldogs wrapped up the victory.


Cross opened the fourth period with a short hook shot and after Willings made two free throws, Cross found Wani Donato for a layup, then Donato made another layup to make it 41-24.

Sophomore Quinton Lindsay made a free throw for Deering and Chikuta added another, but Toher banked home a 3-ball, then, with 3:30 on the clock, a Khamis 3 pushed the lead to 47-26.

After Wani made a layup for the Rams, Cross countered with a free throw. Chikuta hit a jumper, but Cross found Wani Donato open in the corner and Donato buried a 3 for a 51-30 advantage.

The Rams’ final points came on a short shot from freshman David Otti. Then, after a foul shot from Portland freshman Drew Veilleux, Wing called timeout, allowing Biaya to return to the floor to a rousing ovation from his teammates and the fans on hand, then he took a pass from Pitia Donato and made a layup to bring the curtain down on the 54-32 Bulldogs’ victory.

“I use basketball as an escape,” Biaya said. “To be out there and hear the fans call my name felt wonderful. I didn’t care about any other game, Senior Night was the one.”

“I felt so happy for Jared,” Cross said. “We’ve all begged him to come back all season. It’s good to see him come back. The whole city wanted him to play.”


“(Jared) brought a lot to us this summer and we were hoping to have him this season,” Russo said. “I think it was very important to him because it’s been hard on him not playing. You could see what he means to his teammates and the crowd. He scored the first and the last baskets and I’m really happy for him and appreciative of the time and effort he gave us. I’m glad he was recognized. It was well-deserved.

“We talked about defense and needing to play defense to be successful. The kids played defense tonight from the beginning, for 32 minutes. We had some nice rotations and took some good charges. We made (Deering) work for everything they had. Tonight, we were committed to defense and that was the difference in the game.

“We had six games in eight days and we were tired. I was tired. We took a couple days off and the last few days of practice were more conceptual than physical. We needed the rest. The kids know each other, it’s a rivalry. It was nice to see the crowd get excited. Deering played hard and they were scrappy. Their 1-2-2 (zone) slowed us down at times, but we made 3s and that kept our separation going.”

Portland placed nine players in the scoring column, as Wani Donato had a game-high 14 points, to go with 10 rebounds and two assists. Cross added a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds. He also had three assists.

“It was nice seeing Spencer have a nice game tonight,” Russo said. “I was really pleased with him.”

Khamis tallied seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks, Girumugisha had five points and three steals, Biaya and Pitia Donato (five assists, four rebounds and two steals) four apiece, Charles and Toher three each and Veilleux one.


“Coach said in the locker room we played 32 minutes of hard basketball and that’s all you can ask for,” said Cross. “We just came into the game after a great practice yesterday knowing what we could do and we executed it perfectly.”

The Bulldogs had a 39-25 advantage on the glass, hit 12-of-18 free throws and overcame 15 turnovers.

For Deering, Wani had 11 points, Willings nine (to go with eight rebounds and two blocks), Chikuta seven, Augusto and Otti two apiece and Lindsay one.

The Rams made 16-of-23 free throws, but were doomed by 21 turnovers.

“It was just one of those games and Portland had a lot to do with that,” said Wing. “They played excellent defense and we forgot who we really were. We have to correct that. We never got that one little spurt that we really needed. It was surprisingly close at the half and after the third. I told the guys that I embrace being backed into a corner because you have no choice but to come out swinging, but with Portland’s defense and with us being off our game, it was a perfect storm.”

Tournament tune-up


Each team plays one more regular season game, then, for the first time in two years, can look forward to a postseason.

The Rams (currently ranked fifth in the Class AA North Heal Points standings) finish Thursday at a Scarborough team that is also peaking late in the season.

“We’ll regroup and take care of business,” said Wing. “This puts a flame under us to have a good practice tomorrow before we play a good Scarborough team that’s got new energy, then we’ll figure out who we’re matched up against in the playoffs.

“We can play with anyone.”

The Bulldogs (third in Class AA North) will close at powerhouse South Portland, the one-loss, Class AA South favorite, Thursday night.

“We’re underdogs,” Biaya said. “Everybody should know that. People doubted us before the start of the season and teams better watch out.”

“I think we have a good chance,” said Cross. “We’re feeling better than ever.”

“I’m looking forward to playing South Portland,” Russo added. “They’re the best team in the SMAA. Then, the stress multiplies with the tournament.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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