After a low-scoring half, the Vikings wanted to change things up. Oxford Hills opted to push the ball with urgency in the second and pushed its way to a 44-37 win over Deering.

“At halftime, we really preached about trying to get more fast break points because our halfcourt offense was kind of stalled,” Pelletier said. “We were able to do that.”

It was a significant win for the Vikings (9-3), bouncing the team up to second place in the Class AA North standings. Deering (8-4) is now fourth. The top two teams in the final seedings get a bye in the first round of the tourney.

“It’s a big win,” Pelletier said. “Deering is a very good team. Thirteen-to-thirteen at the half showed you how it was going to go for the day.”

Both teams had struggled to find consistency on the offensive end in the first half. The Vikings had pushed the ball in transition from the start but didn’t produce many fast break points. That changed in the second half.

“They weren’t getting back very well,” said sophomore Maighread Laliberte. “We’re always looking to get deep outlets and push the ball. I guess we executed that pretty well.”

Laliberte and Tianna Sugars finished with 14 points each. Erin Morton added seven. All three accounted for all the scoring in a third quarter.

“Maighread had a huge game for us,” Pelletier said. “Her quickness, that sort of thing, is what we’ve been looking for from her all year. I think she’s finally come into the zone. That’s what she should be doing a lot more of.”

Deering got 17 from Tasia Titherington, including four 3’s. Amanda Brett had nine.

“She was on fire,” Pelletier said of Titherington, who had 10 points in the second half to keep the Rams close. “We focused on her as much as we possibly could, but she always found a way to get open and drain a 3.”

Brett and playmaker Abby Ramirez each picked up their third fouls in the third quarter. That halted some early momentum Deering was able to build to start the third. Down 17-14, Morton hit a free throw and Sugars had a three-point play in the post. Brett, who had eight points in the third, gave Deering the lead back at 19-17. After two free throws by Sugars tied it, the Vikings started to get the running game going. The Rams, going with a bigger lineup, couldn’t keep pace.

“Once we got one or two, the whole gym started getting excited,” Laliberte said. “Once we did it a couple of times, we always knew somebody was going to be running.”

Sugars was key on the defensive boards, but the Vikings executed the fast break well. Morton scored to give Oxford Hills a lead. Brett answered with a basket inside. Then Laliberte scored in transition off a Morton feed and then raced down court for another hoop and 25-21 lead. A Titherington 3 got Deering within 25-24, but Morton scored on a break. Brett scored again in the post to end the third with the Vikings up 27-26.

Deering tried to adjust to the transition game, but the Vikings were able to execute effectively in the halfcourt to open up the lead. After Sugars scored in the paint to open the fourth, Morton scored off a Sugars outlet pass. After a Titherington 3, Jadah Adams scored in the post and Laliberte scored on a fast break for a 35-29 lead with 5:42 left.

“We got a little lead and then we shot more confidently,” Laliberte said. “We were able to get it inside a little more.”

Titherington kept the Rams close. Her 3 with 5:06 left made it 35-32, but the Vikings padded the lead with free throws the rest of the way. Allyssa Hanley hit a crucial pair that opened a 38-33 lead with 1:23 left, after a couple of Vikings misses at the line gave life to the Rams. Then Sugars hit a pair for a 40-33 advantage. Laliberte and Sugars sealed it in the final minute from the line. The Vikings sank nine from the foul line in the fourth.

“It all starts with rebounding,” Pelletier said. “We were able to rebound the ball. Tianna does a great job outletting the ball long. We talked about getting deeper outlets. She was able to throw direct passes. Teams that are going to double-team our rebounders, we have to make them pay. We were able to do that today.”

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