PORTLAND—Deering’s boys’ basketball team had beaten Gorham once and believed it could do it again.

And for three quarters, the Rams from the city gave the Rams from the suburbs everything they could handle.

But ultimately, top-ranked Gorham just had too much scoring balance, defense and rebounding and was able to fend off fifth-seeded Deering’s upset bid and survive and advance.

Deering got off to a great start, taking a 13-7 lead after one quarter, as junior Tavian Lauture scored five points.

Gorham then came to life in the second period, as a 9-0 run helped produce a 22-20 halftime advantage.

But Deering refused to roll over and despite falling behind by seven points early in the second half, the Rams went on a 9-0 run, capped by a basket from sophomore Tayshaun Cleveland, to go on top, 31-29.


While visions of an epic upset were dancing in Deering’s head, Gorham retook control with a 9-3 run to end the frame, then it gradually pulled away in the fourth quarter and went on to a 61-52 victory.

Gorham got 26 points from senior standout Ashton Leclerc, 15 from junior big man Griffin Gammon and a dozen from senior guard Gabe Michaud as it improved to 18-2, advanced to take on No. 2 Scarborough (16-4) in the regional final Saturday at 8:45 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena and in the process, ended Deering’s campaign at 8-12.

“I don’t think people expected (a close game), but every single one of us in the locker room expected it,” said Deering coach Todd Wing. “We had a good week of preparation. I thought we matched up pretty well with them. We came in with a good game plan, but they’re number one for a reason. I tip my cap to Gorham. They’re very good. They’re strong from the outside, they have strong guard play. They were just a little bit better than us tonight.”

No quit

Deering was one of just two teams to beat Gorham this season, springing a 62-61 home upset Feb. 19 (Gorham beat visiting Deering, 79-59 a week prior).

The Rams struggled to win games much of the year, but saved their best for the playoffs, knocking off No. 4 Sanford, 65-53, last week in the quarterfinals (see sidebar for links to previous stories).


Gorham came into the season as a favorite and didn’t disappoint, losing only at Cheverus and Deering while outshooting everyone else. The Rams earned a bye into the semifinals.

The teams had met just once before in the tournament (see sidebar).

Thursday featured both teams playing for the first time on the Cross Insurance Arena floor and it was the lower seeded team that settled in first, but when the game hung in the balance in the fourth period, Gorham did what it had to do to advance.

Deering junior Mogga Yanga hounds Gorham senior Gabe Michaud during Gorham’s 61-52 victory in Thursday’s regional semifinals. Hoffer photos.

Gorham opened the scoring 68 seconds in, as senior Caden Smith knocked down a short jumper, but Deering countered on a leaner from Cleveland, which rolled in.

After Michaud drove for a layup and his first points, Deering got a driving finger roll from Lauture, followed by a Lauture 3-pointer, set up by junior Evan Legassey, for a 7-4 advantage.

After Gammon set up junior Jack Karlonas for a layup, Deering junior Mogga Yanga got going with a driving layup, then junior Justin Jamal made a layup after a steal.


Michaud got a point back at the line, but in the final minute, a bank shot from senior Josiah King capped an 11-3 surge and gave Deering a 13-7 lead after eight promising minutes.

Gorham then hit its stride when the second period began.

Thirty-two seconds in, Leclerc, a semifinalist for Mr. Maine Basketball, scored his first points, on two free throws. He then drove for a layup and followed that up with a 3-pointer with 5:08 to go before halftime, putting Gorham back in front, 14-13, and forcing Wing to call timeout.

Michaud then set up Gammon for a layup before Legassey was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and he sank all three attempts to tie the score, 16-16, and end Gorham’s 9-0 run, as well as a 6 minute, 29 second scoring drought.

Gammon put Gorham back in front with a 3 from the corner and after Yanga scored on a floater, Michaud got a leaner to roll in.

“There wasn’t really panic,” Michaud said. “We know what kind of team we are. It just took us a quarter to really take off.”


In the final minute, Yanga drove and finished with his left hand, but a Michaud free throw sent Gorham to the locker room with a slim 22-20 advantage.

In the first 16 minutes, Leclerc had seven points, while Michaud added six.

Gorham then threatened to break the game open when the second half began, but instead Deering stood tall and momentarily went back in front.

Deering sophomore Tayshaun Cleveland is defended by Gorham junior Jack Karlonas.

After Smith set up Gammon for a layup to start the third period, Legassey fed Yanga for a resounding dunk, but Smith countered with a 3, then with 6:39 on the clock, a Gammon putback gave Gorham a 29-22 lead.

Deering then scored nine quick points of its own to remind everyone that it wasn’t going anywhere.

The comeback began with a Jamal driving layup. Jamal then drove for another layup, was fouled in the process and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. Legassey then drove for a layup to tie it before Cleveland banked home a shot with 4:11 on the clock to give Deering a 31-29 lead.


After Gorham first-year coach Ryan Deschenes called timeout, his team responded, tying the score on two Gammon free throws, then taking a lead on a Michaud layup after a steal. Two Cleveland free throws tied the game, but with 1:12 left in the frame, Michaud’s three-point play gave Gorham a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

After Leclerc doubled the lead with a 3-point shot, junior David Otti’s free throw pulled Deering back within five, 39-34, heading to the fourth quarter.

Where Gorham slammed the door.

The final stanza began with a pair of Leclerc free throws and a Gammon putback.

“As veteran a team as we are, it was our first game here together,” Deschenes said. “We needed that first quarter. We knew we had to get stops and rebounds, then the pace improved in the second half.”

After Legassey hit a 3 in the corner to make it a two-possession contest, Smith found Leclerc for a pivotal 3 of his own.


Lauture fed Cleveland for a layup, but Gammon scored on a putback.

After a Legassey putback, Leclerc singlehandedly opened it up, draining a 3 from the corner, sinking a pair of foul shots, then with 1:02 to play, making two more free throws for a 55-41 advantage.

Lauture answered with a 3 to end Gorham’s 26-10 game-breaking run, but down the stretch, Michaud made a free throw, Cleveland hit a pair, Smith sank one foul shot, Yanga scored again on a dunk and after Leclerc made two free throws and Jamal answered with a layup, Leclerc sank two more foul shots before a layup from Deering sophomore Michel Butera brought the curtain down on Gorham’s 61-52 triumph.

“We were expecting a hard-fought game,” Michaud said. “We know the kind of team Deering is. They work hard and they’ve mastered that 3-2 zone. It feels great to win.”

“We wanted to be tested,” said Deschenes. “Deering’s a tough matchup for us because of our athleticism. It was good that we knew they could beat us. It locked the guys preparation-wise. We knew our offense would come and go tonight on this floor against their tough 3-2. We found a way to score enough. The defense and rebounding was the difference in the second half.”

Leclerc, who was held in check for a time, wound up finishing the game’s leading scorer with 26 points. He also had four rebounds.


Gammon had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, to go with four assists and two blocked shots. Michaud also wound up in double figures with 12 points, as well as six rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“We all know our roles,” Michaud said. “We knew they’d be heavily on Ashton, so we all had to step up. Not just me, but everyone. I had a lot of fun. It took some time to get used to (playing here) at first, but once you get used to the bright lights, it’s awesome.”

Smith had six points (three assists and three rebounds) and Karlonas finished with two.

“We knew they’d stay connected to Ash, so we had to figure out other ways to score,” Deschenes said. “We were versatile.”

Gorham made 19-of-24 free throws and only turned the ball over five times.

The Rams now turn their attention to Scarborough, which shot lights out in a 73-55 win over No. 6 Thornton Academy in its semifinal Thursday.


Gorham beat the Red Storm twice this season, 58-51, at home Jan. 6 and 54-51 in Scarborough in the regular season finale Feb. 8.

The teams have split six prior playoff meetings, with the Red Storm’s 59-58 upset victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.

The Rams have a chance to end a long state game drought, but they know they’ll need to battle for 32 minutes Saturday to earn the right to keep playing.

“We’re really excited for Saturday, but our final goal is states,” Michaud said. “Scarborough’s a great team. We’ve played them twice. They know us and we know them. I think it’s going to be a good game. We have to rebound, play defense, do the little things.”

“It means everything to get Gorham in a really good spot going forward,” said Deschenes. “Coach (Mark) Karter did a tremendous job leaving this program in a great state. I came in and got our system in and we’ll keep going.

“(Scarborough’s) guards are shooting well. They’re aggressive defensively and physical. It’s the way it should be, the two best teams in AA South. We’ll see who can execute better for 32 minutes.”


Building block

Deering had three players finish with 10 points, Cleveland (who also had seven rebounds), Legassey (who also contributed four rebounds and three assists) and Yanga (nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks). Jamal added nine points (and four rebounds), Lauture had eight, Butera and King two apiece and Otti one.

The Rams enjoyed a 37-31 rebounding advantage, hit 9-of-12 free throws and only turned the ball over 13 times, but it wasn’t enough.

“It was just a matter of knocking down a couple more shots,” Wing said. “(Gorham) mixed it up and we adjusted well. Mogga got good touches in the middle and started attacking, but it was just a couple defensive plays and a couple offensive plays that made the difference.

“We played the 3-2 (zone) against them the last time. We tried to disguise it a little early with a 1-3-1 and showed a possession of 2-3. Their guards are good and we didn’t want them to get overly comfortable.”

Deering improved from one victory last year to eight this season and really put it together down the stretch.

It was a step forward,” Wing said. “We had some early season losses that could have crumbled us, but we didn’t crumble and I think we peaked at the right time. I’m very proud of the guys.

“Human nature, we all want it now, but in reality, it’s a process and you have to stay true to the process. I just talked to the guys and thanked the seniors and told the others that the process for next year starts now. I’m positive these guys are going to be back here next year.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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