Central Maine basketball fans got to see what has been one of the best Maine high school teams in recent years in their own backyard Tuesday night. In fact, the Deering boys could still be considered one of the best.

Coach Todd Wing won’t accept anything less.

“We’re playing OK right now. I’m not satisfied because I think our ceiling is much higher,” he said. “Could we be there? Absolutely.”

The Rams certainly looked the part at the Capital City Hoops Classic, toppling Bangor, 65-49, at the Augusta Civic Center. Deering got 21 points from Ben Onek, and saw its record improve to 4-1 in a competitive AA North field.

As strong as Deering is now, their recent stretch is just as sparkling. Deering won the state championship in 2012 and has been a title contender each year since, reaching the AA North final last year before losing to eventual state champ Portland.

“When you coach at Deering, when you play at Deering, there’s always expectations because of the history,” Wing said. “Deering is expected to be good every year. We have hungry players that are looking to make a statement of their own, but we always remind them of the guys that came before them. It’s their job to continue that legacy.”

Deering looked like a team that could be on its way. Deering never led by fewer than six points after grabbing a 37-25 halftime lead, and put the game away with a 9-0 run early in the third quarter that made the score 61-46. Raffaele Salamone joined Onek in double figures with 12 points, while Machar Nguany had 10.

“Our identity is our pressure, our athleticism,” said Wing, whose team hurt Bangor often with quick-strike baskets in transition. “One of the things we talked about is advancing the ball with the pass. Guys run the floor harder when they know they’re going to get the ball.”

Wing wanted his team’s visit to Augusta to be a productive one. After all, the city will host the AA North final, and if the Rams continue to look like their predecessors, they’ll be a good bet for a return trip to the Civic Center hardwood.

“It started last year, playing two games here,” he said. “The building now is familiar, just like any other venue. You’ve got to put the ball in the hoop, and that’s what it comes down to.”

• • •

There’s no mystery as to why Page Brown and Faith Blethen get along so well on the floor. Even when the Boothbay stars leave the court, they’re still close.

“We’re next-door neighbors. Our parents play basketball together,” Brown said. “We know each other really well. We know our strengths, we know our weaknesses and we make sure to play off each other.”

The dynamic was on full display Tuesday, as Blethen scored 30 points and Brown added 24 as the Seahawks routed Mt. Abram, 75-29.

The win upped Boothbay’s record to 7-0, which is hardly a surprise. When the 6-foot-1 Blethen and 5-11 Brown are working together, few teams have an answer.

“It helps when you’ve played with her since the third grade,” Blethen said. “I know when she can keep it inside, and she knows when she needs to kick it outside. … I don’t even know how to describe it, it just happens.”

The two have opposite but equally effective offensive skill sets. On defense, both are tenacious rebounders that know how to use their size and length to win battles for the ball. But on the other end of the court, Blethen is a dangerous shooter, while Brown is a superb and hard-nosed finisher underneath.

“When those two are on, they’re pretty tough,” coach Tanner Grover said. “Especially when they’re looking for each other in transition.”

The players’ abilities stood out during a stretch that iced the game at the start of the third quarter. The Seahawks scored 14 straight points with their two stars scoring each one, Blethen hitting two of her six 3-pointers and Brown notching eight points. By the end of the run, Boothbay was up 50-21 and on cruise control once again.

“It’s not like we have two guards out there trying to battle,” Brown said. “We have a strong, tall guard player and we have myself inside. Just being able to work off each other is awesome.”

• • •

The Boothbay girls were putting the finishing touches on another blowout victory. But there was still time for some drama.

With 58 seconds to go and the Seahawks up 72-27, the Boothbay players were chewing time when one of them saw Elisabeth Wright in the left corner. The ball zipped over, Wright took the shot, banked it in and, in the final minute of what became a 46-point landslide, the Augusta Civic Center crowd went wild.

Wright is a senior and special needs player, playing her first year on the varsity team. And teammates and fans alike didn’t miss it when she got her moment on one of the biggest stages in Maine high school basketball.

“Any chance that she gets an opportunity to step on the floor, and then to make a shot on top of that, especially in this atmosphere, is definitely a special moment for her,” Grover said.

It wasn’t Wright’s first time on the scoresheet. She buried a shot earlier in the season, and made sure to remind her teammates that another highlight was coming.

On Tuesday, she proved herself right.

“She actually hit her first three at one of our home games this year, and she’s been re-watching the film saying she’s going to hit another one,” Brown said, laughing. “She hit it in the Augusta Civic Center. What better place to hit a 3-pointer?”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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