BY MICHAEL HOFFER
Deering's Max Chikuta makes a move to the basket while Scarborough's Mason Porter, left, and Nathaniel Glidden play defense during the Rams' 49-40 win Saturday at Deering High School. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo
Deering 49 Scarborough 40
S- 7 8 14 11- 40
D- 8 6 20 15- 49
S- Thompson 6-0-12, Haskell 5-1-11, Lewis 5-0-10, Sullivan 3-0-7
D- Semuhoza 5-3-13, Chikuta 5-0-11, Artan 3-0-7, Langella 3-0-7, Solomon 2-0-5, Wani 2-0-4, Al Taee 1-0-2
S (1) Sullivan 1
D (4) Artan, Chikuta, Langella, Solomon 1
PORTLAND—Max Chikuta is happy to be playing again.
Mpore Semuhoza is thankful to be playing at all.
And Deering’s boys’ basketball team was thankful to have both on the floor for Saturday afternoon’s home contest versus Scarborough.
The Rams did little right in a first half which saw them register the same number of turnovers as points, but you can only hold this explosive offense at bay so long and eventually, Deering hit its stride and went on to victory.
The Rams held an 8-7 lead after one period, but the Red Storm, playing their first game in over a week, clung to a 15-14 advantage despite three fouls apiece on top offensive contributors senior Ben Thompson and sophomore point guard Zander Haskell.
Senior Adam Lewis scored six quick points for Scarborough early in the second half and the Red Storm opened up a five-point lead, but behind eight points from Semuhoza, who was clearly hindered by an ankle injury he suffered Friday, Deering rallied and held a 34-29 advantage heading for the fourth period.
There, the Rams slammed the door, as Chikuta, who missed the first two games this winter, made a couple clutch baskets, and they went on to a 49-40 victory, their fourth in succession.
Deering got 13 points from Semuhoza and 11 from Chikuta as it improved to 4-2 on the season and in the process, dropped the Red Storm to 1-4.
“It’s a cumulative effect, like Deering teams of old,” said Rams coach Todd Wing. “We press, press, press and it pays dividends in the fourth quarter. We prefer that fast pace. You might give up some easy (baskets), but you know you’ll get some the other way.”
Deering dropped its first two games, at South Portland (52-47) and at home to the Red Riots (65-54). After getting in the win column with a 48-41 victory at Cape Elizabeth, the Rams swept Cheverus earlier in the week (67-51 at home and 61-51 on the road).
Scarborough began with a pair of losses to Gorham (60-48 away and 62-53 at home), then split with Thornton Academy, winning at home, 43-40, and losing in Saco, 63-38. The Red Storm had two games versus South Portland postponed earlier in the week.
Last year, Deering beat the visiting Red Storm, 61-47.
Saturday, Scarborough sought just its second ever win at Deering, but instead, the Rams came alive in the second half and kept their win streak going.
Chikuta hinted at a big day to come when he opened the scoring with a 3-pointer.
The Red Storm then scored seven straight, as Haskell scored on a runner and junior Cade Sullivan sank a 3, then made a layup after a steal.
Deering closed the period strong, as Chkikuta hit a baseline jumper, Semuhoza scored his lone first half point on a free throw, then Chikuta set up sophomore Remijo Wani for a layup with 4.1 seconds left for an 8-7 lead.
“We’re so excited about Remijo’s future,” Wing said. “It’s unfolding before us. He’s had some double-digit scoring games and he’s playing with confidence.”
Junior Nick Langella opened the second quarter with a layup after a steal before a Thompson putback ended a 6-minute, 30-second drought.
Junior Kyimique Solomon, seeing his first action of the season, answered with a runner, but Thompson made consecutive layups to put Scarborough ahead, 13-12.
With Haskell already sidelined with three fouls, Thompson picked up his third foul and the Rams capitalized, as Semuhoza set up senior Mohamed Artan for a layup, but with 2.4 seconds to go, Lewis’ putback gave the Red Storm a 15-14 halftime lead.
The teams combined for 31 turnovers in the first half while only combining for 29 points.
The second half would be a much different story.
Scarborough started fast in the third period, as Lewis made consecutive layups.
After Artan answered with a layup, Lewis made another for a 21-16 advantage.
And that’s as good as it would get for the Red Storm.
Semuhoza then came alive with a driving layup and two free throws and after Lewis scored off the glass, Langella’s layup pulled Deering within one, 23-22.
Haskell countered with a pullup jumper, but an Artan 3-ball tied it.
Off a press break, the speedy Haskell fed Thompson for a layup, but Solomon made a 3 to put the Rams back on top, 28-27.
With 3:15 left in the third, Haskell drove for a reverse layup and what proved to be Scarborough’s final lead.
After Thompson picked up his fourth foul, Semuhoza’s leaner in the lane gave Deering the lead for good, 30-29, with 1:44 left in the quarter.
Semuhoza then added a contested leaner and a runner from Chikuta gave the Rams a five-point advantage heading for the final stanza.
Langella opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer and after a Semuhoza steal, junior Adbulla Al Taee’s layup put Deering up by 10, 39-29.
After Haskell hit a bank shot, Wani answered with a layup after a steal.
A jumper from Sullivan and a contested leaner from Haskell pulled the Red Storm within six, 41-35, with 4:11 to go, but Chikuta hit a leaner and after a Haskell free throw, Semuhoza went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 45-36 lead.
Thompson scored on a layup before Chikuta hit a bank shot and Semuhoza drove for a layup.
Thompson then hit a jumper in the final minute and from there, Deering closed out its 49-40 victory.
“We took better care of the ball, moved it around and we knew we had to be energized,” Chikuta said. “Seeing Mpore inspired me and made me want to step up.”
“The best thing about our group is energy,” said Semuhoza. “Second half, we came with energy and that’s why we won the game. We were missing some of our key players our first two games against South Portland. We battled, but we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. We’ve got our players now and we’ve won four in a row.”
“We had three games this week on one-day’s rest and we played on a Saturday (afternoon), so you know what’s going to happen as a coach, but you don’t really like it,” Wing added. “It’s something you have to endure. It’s a matter of what’s the one thing that will get the guys excited? It’s usually a turnover that leads to an easy bucket. A couple of those in a row, the guys remember they’re pretty good.”
Semuhoza paced the Rams with a game-high 13 points, as well as eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I slipped on the snow last night and tried to gather myself, then I tweaked it again, so I knew coming into this game I wouldn’t be at my strongest, so I had to move the ball around to my teammates,” said Semuhoza. “First half, I was a little slow. My energy wasn’t there. I’m glad my teammates came through today.”
“Mpore was noticeably limping, but it was more a pain tolerance thing,” said Wing. “(Basketball) matters to him. He’s a senior and he knows every game can be his last. He battled through.”
Chikuta added 11 points and three steals.
“It’s good to be back out here,” said Chikuta. “It’s a blessing to be with my guys on the court. I’ll look back at the good memories with the boys.”
“Max brings energy, he can shoot the ball and he can play defense,” Semuhoza said.
“Max is playing himself into game shape,” Wing added. “He’s a quality outside shooter and he’s crafty-smooth getting into the paint.”
Artan (four rebounds) and Langella (seven rebounds, three assists) each had seven points, Solomon finished with five, Wani (seven rebounds, four steals, two blocked shots) had four and Al Taee two.
“This was Kyimique’s first competitive game this year and you can see his defensive intensity,’ Wing said. “Between Kyimique and Adbulla Al Taee, it’s a nightmare for opposing guards.”
The Rams committed 20 turnovers, but only had six after halftime. They made 3-of-6 free throws and out-rebounded the Red Storm, 36-34.
Scarborough’s effort was led by Thompson, who had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Haskell finished with 11 points and three steals, Lewis had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Sullivan wound up with seven points.
The Red Storm made just 1-of-6 foul shots and turned the ball over 25 times.
“Inexperience was a difference,” said Scarborough assistant coach James Philbrook, who was filling in for head coach Phil Conley, who was unavailable Saturday. “A lot of guys who played today haven’t really played significant minutes. They got a lot of time and fatigue might have been a factor at the end there. Deering hit a couple shots and went on a run and separated and it stayed that way. We did a good job for three quarters, but you have to do it for four. It’s always tough to have guys sitting that you need out on the floor.”
Scarborough still has two games remaining against Westbrook and another versus Bonny Eagle.
“We want to win and keep developing because we have a lot of young guys who need experience,” said Philbrook. “We’ll definitely have some good talent next year.”
Deering,, meanwhile has two games against Falmouth next week, then closes with two versus Portland.
“This year is a chance to work hard and get better for next year,” said Chikuta.
“We were hoping for a state title this year, but God has other plans for us,” Semuhoza said. “We’re going to keep practicing hard and hopefully keep our win streak going.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Wing added. “The progress has been more than I thought it would be. We’ve been blessed with consistency the past three weeks. Guys trust each other and are establishing roles. We know what we’re good it now and we’re playing off that. Our goal is to enjoy the time we have together. We got a lot of shots up yesterday to rest legs. I said, ‘We won’t remember the score of tomorrow’s game later on in our lives, but we’ll remember being in the gym together.’ We’re still not out of the woods. You get a positive case and go into quarantine and it’s the end of your season. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, I just want the rest of the season for these kids.”