Big win for SP, tough loss for TA

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: January 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Big win for SP, tough loss for TA
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

SOUTH PORTLAND- As Saturday afternoon's Western Class A showdown at Beal Gymnasium entered the fourth period, the visiting Thornton Academy Golden Trojans had to feel pretty good about their chances.

After all, Thornton Academy had already downed Portland and Deering in overtime and was 9-0 overall.

Host South Portland, meanwhile, had lost two similar games in the past 10 days and had yet to beat a top-notch opponent.

That all changed eight minutes later, as the Red Riots earned a statement victory, knocking the Golden Trojans from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 52-49 decision.

South Portland took the lead for good on a jumper from sophomore standout Keegan Hyland 45 seconds into the fourth and held on for dear life down the stretch, improving to 8-2 in the process.

"This is a big win for our program," Red Riots' first-year coach Phil Conley said. "Thornton Academy is well coached and is very good. We had to play our best to beat them."

"We play hard for four quarters all year long," countered Thornton Academy coach Bob Davies. "It was no different tonight. We just wound up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

"(South Portland's) a great basketball team. They shoot well and play hardnosed defense like we do. They hustle. It was a fun game to be involved in. We just came up a little short."

South Portland won its first five games this winter, then suffered home losses to Deering and Scarborough in contests that came down to the wire. The Red Riots bounced back with close wins at Windham and at home over Westbrook earlier this week and entered Saturday's game confident against a Golden Trojans team that had done everything right to date.

Hyland opened the scoring with a jump shot just 35 seconds into the contest. Thornton Academy answered on a layup by senior bruiser Kory Martin. The teams would tie again at 4-4, 9-9 and 11-11 before the visitors got a layup from senior Jeff Winnie and a jumper from senior Dakota Greene to lead 15-11 after one quarter.

South Portland went up 16-15 when senior Nick Wright hit a layup and sophomore Matt Lee buried a 3-pointer, but Winnie answered with a layup after a steal. After Hyland put the Red Riots back on top with a 3-ball, Thornton Academy junior James Morse tied the score with two foul shots.

With 4:37 left in the half, Wright hit a jumper in the lane for a 21-19 lead.

Both teams then went ice-cold.

Neither squad would score again until Golden Trojans' junior John Trull hit a 3-pointer with 55.8 seconds left. That gave the visitors a 22-21 lead at the half.

The action picked up in the third quarter.

South Portland senior Will Furbush, who didn't score in the first half, hit a 3-pointer to get things started. Martin answered with a pair of layups for a 26-24 lead, but a long jumper from Hyland, a leaner in traffic by Lee and a bank shot from Hyland gave the Red Riots a 30-26 advantage.

Back came Thornton Academy.

The visitors tied the game on a pair of layups by Greene. A Wright left-handed layup put South Portland back on top 32-30, but Morse drained a jumper to tie the score again. A baseline jumper put the Red Riots back in the lead, but Winnie answered with a 3-ball to give the Golden Trojans a 35-34 advantage. That proved to be their last lead.

A rebound putback by Lee and a 3-pointer from Hyland made it 39-35. Martin made a layup in the waning seconds and the Red Riots had a 39-37 lead entering the final quarter.

That's where South Portland made its stand and earned a signature win.

Greene promptly tied the score with a rebound layup 28 seconds into the fourth, but Hyland answered with his jump shot which put the hosts ahead to stay. Thirty seconds later Hyland made a leaner while being fouled, then added the free throw for a 44-39 advantage. With 5:19 to play, Hyland added another free throw and it was 45-39.

Thornton Academy cut the deficit to two points, 45-43, after senior Austin Gregory made a layup and Morse buried two foul shots, but Furbush answered with a long jumper.

After Winnie made a foul shot and Greene hit a layup to make it a one-point game, 47-46, with 3:14 to go, neither team was able to score for almost a minute-and-a-half.

Finally, with 1:51 to play, Furbush was fouled after a steal and made both free throws. With 1:05 remaning, senior Nick Gaddar hit a layup after a steal. After Morse missed a 3-pointer, Furbush added another foul shot and it appeared as if the hosts were in good shape, up 52-46 with 51.5 seconds to go.

The Golden Trojans made one final push.

With 28.6 seconds showing, Winnie calmly drained a 3-ball to make it 52-49.

That's how the game would wind up, but there was plenty of drama remaining.

With 17.4 seconds to go, Gaddar was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Thornton Academy looked to tie the game at the other end, but Greene's 3-point bid was off the mark and Wright came up with the loose ball and was fouled with just 0.6 seconds to go. He missed the front end of his one-and-one, but time ran out and South Portland was able to celebrate its win.

"This is huge," Wright said. "This shows we're a top contender in Western Class A and that we're going for a championship.

"The Deering game was the first game against really tough competition. Against Scarborough, we lost our composure. Today, we pulled together.

"We have a will to prove ourselves. We know we have a lot of talent."

Hyland led all scorers with 22 points. Wright finished with 10. Furbush had eight, Lee seven and Gaddar added five.

"These kids have had three tremendous games this week against three very good teams," Conley said. "Hyland and Furbush hit big shots. Wright, (sophomore Connor) Hasson and Gaddar played big for us underneath. Lee did a tremendous job with rebounds and shots.

"I think you learn from experience and we've been in some tough games. They're all down to the wire. We're fortunate to have three seniors on the floor that settle everyone down. Playing tough competition got us ready for a game like this.

"There are no easy games in the SMAA. You have to bring your 'A' game every game. It's great for the league. I can't be any happier for my guys to get a reward at the end for their hard work."

The Golden Trojans were paced by 12 from Martin, 11 from Winnie, 10 from Greene and eight from Morse. Trull finished with six points and Gregory added two.

Thornton Academy will look to bounce back Friday when it hosts Noble. The Golden Trojans still have a huge showdown looming at Cheverus on Jan. 29.

Rest assured, we haven't heard that last of Thornton Academy.

"I'm not disappointed in how the kids played," Davies said. "We'll continue."

South Portland goes to Noble Tuesday, then hosts Bonny Eagle Friday. The Red Riots will enjoy this win for a very short time, then will return to work.

"We'll celebrate it tonight," Wright said. "We know we have to come back next week. We don't take any game for granted."

"It won't get any easier," Conley added. "In our stretch run we play Cheverus a couple times, Portland twice, Deering again. Those are all quality teams."