Few teams were able to contain Bangor High School’s big three of Henry Westrich, Sam Martin and Andrew Szwez this winter.
But given a third chance, the Deering Rams discovered the magic formula and sent the defending state champions home with a 57-51 victory over Bangor in a Class AA North boys basketball semifinal at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Wednesday afternoon.
Senior guard Askar Houssein scored 29 points — including five deep 3-pointers — to provide the offensive punch for No. 3 Deering of Portland, which had averaged 46 points per game in two regular-season losses to second-seeded Bangor.
“We wanted to force him to put it on the ground,” Bangor coach Brad Libby said, “but when you’re shooting from 3 feet beyond the 3-point line we’re usually pretty happy with that. He played extremely well.”
Darryl Germain added 17 points for Deering, 15 in the second half as he contributed three of Deering’s nine 3-pointers for the game.
“We always kind of pack the paint with Sam in there but they definitely stepped up and with this bigger court they were able to spread us out a little bit more,” Westrich said. “They were taking deeper shots and making them, so complete props to them.”
An even bigger story was the Deering defense, primarily a triangle-and-two combination that kept Bangor’s high-powered frontcourt tandem of the 6-foot-8 Martin, the 6-5 Szwez and the 6-4 Westrich to a combined 26 points — 20 points less than their collective average for the regular season.
“There’s no mistaking who they were, those big three carried them,” said coach Todd Wing of Deering, whose team will play either No. 1 Edward Little of Auburn or No. 4 Windham in Saturday’s regional final.
“We went in with a game plan to start with a triangle-and-two to stop their two perimeter players, and the triangle just happened to be around [Martin] so on paper it looked like a really good game plan going in and the guys executed it.”
Westrich led 16-4 Bangor with 11 points, while Martin and Quinn Richards scored eight points apiece and Keegan Cyr and Szwez each added seven.
Deering took the lead for good with nine unanswered points midway through the final quarter to erase Bangor’s 40-39 lead.
First Houssein hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to give Deering the lead, then he added one free throw and Germain made two from the line to make it 45-40.
After a timeout, Germain struck from 3-point land to give Deering an eight-point advantage with 2:19 left.
Cyr finally answered with a 3-pointer for Bangor, and the Rams later got a four-point play with Szwez making a basket and Westrich adding two free throws after being fouled while the shot was in the air to narrow the deficit to 50-47 with 1:23 left.
Houssein answered with two of his five fourth-quarter free throws, and Bangor got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“[Houssein] led that team,” Libby said. “I think he had the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time and he made some big threes that were deep.
“On our end it came down to missing shots that we usually make.”
Bangor led 13-12 at the end of the opening quarter, then scored the first seven points of the second period on a Cyr free throw, a scoop shot from Max Clark, a low-post move by Martin and a fast-break slam dunk by Westrich that gave the Rams their largest lead at 20-12 with 4:48 left until intermission.
But Bangor managed just one Westrich free throw in the rest of the half, and while Deering couldn’t fully capitalize Houssein went coast to coast for a layup and then buried an NBA-range 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to cap off a 15-point opening half that kept his team within 21-17 at the break.