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Thornton Academy sophomore Payton Jones defends Scarborough junior Brian Austin during the Golden Trojans’ 67-40 victory in Tuesday’s Class AA South Final.
Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Scarborough’s defending regional champion boys’ basketball team more than met its match in the form of top-ranked Thornton Academy in Tuesday evening’s Class AA South semifinal at the Cross Insurance Arena.
The fifth-seeded Red Storm couldn’t hit shots and couldn’t stop the Golden Trojans’ offensive onslaught, as Thornton Academy’s balanced attack gradually opened up an insurmountable lead and produced a 67-40 victory.
The Golden Trojans got a dozen points from senior Anthony Bracamonte, best known for his football dominance, and got at least two points from 10 players overall as they improved to 16-4, advanced to meet second-seeded Bonny Eagle (17-3) in the Class AA South Final Friday at 8 p.m., at CIA and in the process, ended Scarborough’s up-and-down campaign at 11-9.
“TA played very well offensively and defensively,” said Red Storm coach Phil Conley. “We didn’t shoot well and credit to them, they shot it well.”
Scarborough dropped seven of its first 11 games, but was at its best at the end of year, winning six of seven to wind up fifth in the region. Last Wednesday, the Red Storm made the big plays in the final minute to knock off fourth-seeded Gorham on the Rams’ home floor, 59-54.
Thornton Academy, meanwhile, put together a strong regular season to earn the top seed. Included in the win column was a 49-43 home triumph over Scarborough Feb. 5.
The teams had never before met in the playoffs, but made some memories Tuesday in the finale of a long day and night of playoff basketball.
Red Storm senior standout Nick Fiorillo got things started with two free throws and after senior Will Chapman made a reverse layup for the Golden Trojans, Fiorillo sank two more foul shots.
The next seven points went to Thornton Academy, as Chapman hit a short jumper, Bracamonte made his first 3 and Chapman scored on a layup with 4:35 left in the first quarter for a 9-4 lead.
After Fiorillo countered with a 3 (his final points of the first half), Chapman took a pass from Robert Gawronski and made a layup.
Junior Brian Austin rallied the Red Storm with a jumper and a leaner, but at the horn, senior Ben Ham fed junior Kobe Gaudette for a layup and a 13-11 Golden Trojans’ lead.
Thornton Academy then extended its advantage in the second period.
Just 17 seconds in, Golden Trojans sophomore Dylan Griffin converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw).
Scarborough rallied within a point on a putback from senior Alex Austin and a driving bank shot from Brian Austin, but Gawronski sank two free throws and Gawronski hit a short jumper.
After Brian Austin made a floater for the Red Storm, junior Jack Pyzynski hit a 3-ball for Thornton Academy and Bracamonte followed by driving for a layup.
In the waning seconds, senior Paul Kirk banked home a shot for Scarborough, but just before the horn, Bracamonte buried a 3 and the Golden Trojans had a 28-19 halftime advantage.
“We were going well, but that shot really got us going,” Bracamonte said.
“I was surprised (Bracamonte) hit those shots,” Conley said. “He didn’t hit them last time. Tip your cap to him. He had a good night.”
Thornton Academy then began creating offense off its defense in the third period and pulled away.
Sophomore Payton Jones opened the second half with two free throws, then Gaudette scored a layup on the fastbreak, Jones made a layup and with 5:48 remaining in the frame, Jones made a layup after a steal to push the lead to 36-19.
Fourteen seconds later, Alex Austin’s 3 ended the 11-0 Golden Trojans’ run. Junior Ethan Curtis added a 3 to pull Scarborough within 11, but Pyzynski made a jump shot for a 38-25 lead.
After Curtis hit a jump shot, Bracamonte made a jumper, Jones threw a behind the back pass in transition to Pyzynski for a layup, then Pyzynski sank a 3 to make it 45-27.
“Our team is so athletic and once we get running the court and get rebounds and have outlet (passes), I don’t think anyone can run with us,” Bracamonte said. “That’s when we pull away.”
“We were trying to crash the glass and get second chance opportunities and when you gamble a little bit, that’s what happens,” Conley said.
With 1:10 to go in the third, Fiorillo scored his first point since the first quarter, a free throw. Fiorillo added two more foul shots before Thornton Academy senior Ben Ham and Fiorillo traded free throws to make it 46-31 Golden Trojans heading for the fourth period.
There, Thornton Academy never let the Red Storm entertain any hopes of a comeback.
After Fiorillo knocked down a jumper, Ham converted a three-point play, Jones made a free throw, Ham made a layup, then Ham and Gaudette each sank free throws for a 54-33 lead with 5:05 left.
Fiorillo countered with a 3, but Jones made a foul shot, Griffin made a layup and a bank shot and Ham’s free throw pushed the advantage to 60-36.
After Alex Austin and Chapman traded free throws, Bracamonte scored his final points, on a layup, junior Colby Lands added two foul shots and sophomore Daniel Tarbox’s jumper accounted for the Golden Trojans’ final points before a 3 from Scarborough junior Luke Stovall brought the curtain down on Thornton Academy’s 67-40 triumph.
“I’m glad we played well collectively,” Bracamonte said. “We wanted to come out firing and that’s what we did. We have depth and we share the ball well.”
“The second time you play somebody, you know them better,” said Golden Trojans coach Bob Davies. “We were familiar with what they wanted to do. In the third quarter, we had some easy breakaways. We sped the game up and got ahead of the basketball.”
Bracamonte paced a balanced attack with 12 points, six assists and four rebounds.
“Since I was little, Scarborough’s always been a rival and I always want to play my best against them,” Bracamonte said. “I take just as much pride in basketball as football. I want to win for my teammates, coaches and family. I want to put on a show for the fans who come out.”
“(Anthony’s) a great person and no matter what he plays, since he’s such a great person, he’ll be successful no matter what,” Davies said. “He’s one of the best people I’ve ever coached.”
Pyzynski had 10 points, Chapman had nine (to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots), Ham and Jones (three steals) finished with eight apiece, Griffin had seven, Gaudette five, Gawronski four and Lands and Tarbox two each.
The Golden Trojans overcame 14 turnovers and hit 15 of 27 free throws.
Thornton Academy downed visiting Bonny Eagle, 70-62, Jan. 10 in the teams’ lone regular season meeting.
The Scots, who are coached by former Golden Trojans standout John Trull, rallied to stun No. 3 South Portland, 55-50, in their semifinal Tuesday and figure to pose some matchup problems with elusive junior Zach Maturo running the show.
“We can’t let Zach into the paint,” Bracamonte said. “We’ll have to play good help defense. That will lead to offense. I won in lacrosse and football, so I’d love to win basketball too.”
“(Bonny Eagle’s) really good,” Davies said. “Johnny has done a great job with those guys. It should be a great game. Hopefully we’ll get another good performance.”
Scarborough was paced by 16 points and five rebounds from Fiorillo in his swan song.
“It was joy to be around Nick,” said Conley. “He’s a very coachable young man. He’s team-first. He had a great career. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Brian Austin added eight points, Alex Austin had six, Curtis five, Stovall three and Kirk two.
The Red Storm had a 32-31 rebounding edge, but made just 9 of 15 free throws and turned the ball over 18 times.
“A lot of teams who started 4-7 would have caved, but we have tough kids, high-character kids,” Conley said. “We won seven of our last nine games. We beat a tough Gorham team on the road in a hostile environment in the quarterfinals. It’s a great group of seniors. They’ve been to the Final Four three years and won the first ever regional title at Scarborough. They bought into what I was teaching. They’re just great kids. I’ll really miss each and every one of them.
“We’ll have a new look next year. Our eighth grade class was undefeated, so we have good young kids coming up. The younger kids will work hard because we want to get back here. That’s always the goal.”
Thornton Academy senior Anthony Bracamonte handles the ball in traffic.
Scarborough junior Ethan Curtis defends Thornton Academy senior Ben Ham.
Thornton Academy sophomore Payton Jones drives past Scarborough senior Alex Austin.