SCARBOROUGH—Scarborough’s boys’ basketball team entered the week with six victories, but the Red Storm was clinging to the 12th spot in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, meaning that if the playoffs began today, it would be the last team in.
So Monday evening, Scarborough went out and got a key victory, having its way with visiting Thornton Academy virtually from start to finish, and began to climb its way up the standings.
In a crisp but entertaining 67 minutes, the Red Storm put on an up-tempo display which resulted in a lot of easy shots and Scarborough’s top-ranked offense came through time and again, knocking them down.
A 14-0 first quarter run, keyed by eight points in 63 seconds from junior Nate Wessel, opened things up. By halftime, the Red Storm was ahead, 40-26, and while it didn’t put the Golden Trojans away in the third period, it never let the visitors make a run either. Scarborough then ended all doubt by allowing Thornton Academy to score just two fourth quarter points and went on to a 70-46 victory.
Wessel had 20 points and 14 rebounds, junior Sam Freeman put on a shooting show with four 3-pointers and 22 points and senior Matt Hartl made it all go with 11 points and seven assists as the Red Storm improved to 7-4 and dropped the Golden Trojans to 4-5 in the process.
“It’s a nice win because TA is a quality team,” said Scarborough coach Tony DiBiase. “If we knock down our shots, we can compete with anybody. We play up-tempo and fast. The key is whether or not we make our shots. When we do, we’re very competitive. We’ll give up easy baskets, but that tempo gets us going.”
With Monday’s game being a rescheduled contest from a weather-affected Jan. 3 and with no other local games on the docket, there was quite a bit of attention paid to this one.
The new-look Red Storm, a quarterfinalist in 2012-13, losing to Bonny Eagle, has been able to tread water this winter despite a ton of turnover on the roster. Scarborough opened with wins over visiting Biddeford (86-32), host Westbrook (64-50) and visiting Windham (84-82, in overtime), before losing at home to Noble (74-72, in overtime). After holding on for a 75-70 win at Massabesic, falling at Gorham (59-45) and to Windham, in a countable game played at the Red Claws Christmas Tournament, 72-63, Scarborough got back in the win column with a 69-46 victory at Biddeford, then lost at defending Western A champion South Portland, 66-53, before getting back on track Friday with a 77-62 home win over Marshwood.
Thornton Academy, which reached the Western A semifinals last winter before also losing to Bonny Eagle, has been up and down this season. The Golden Trojans opened with losses at Deering (77-55) and Cheverus (63-44), then downed visiting South Portland (65-49) and Sanford (65-47), before losing at Portland, 73-36, and at home against Bonny Eagle, 68-61. Thornton Academy righted its ship with a 68-51 home win over Noble, then held off visiting Cheverus Saturday, 48-39.
The teams started playing in the 2003-04 season and heading into Monday night, Thornton Academy led the series, 10-8 (please see sidebar, below).
Last winter, Scarborough won both meetings, 81-74, in Saco, then 43-40 at home.
The Golden Trojans last beat the Red Storm, 56-55, Feb. 7, 2012, in Saco.
Monday, Scarborough made it three in a row over its neighbor and earned a big dose of confidence in the process.
It did take the Red Storm a few minutes to kick into gear, but once it did, there was no looking back.
Thornton Academy scored first, 54 seconds in, as senior Quinn Richardson-Newton fed junior Kevin Barrett for a layup. The hosts got on the board as junior Milani Hicks set up Hartl for a fastbreak layup. Wessel put Scarborough on top with a free throw, but the Golden Trojans answered as Richardson-Newton made a layup. After a backdoor layup from Hicks, Thornton Academy took its final lead, 6-5, as Barrett made a layup.
With 4:15 to play in the opening quarter, the Red Storm went on top to stay as Hartl sank two foul shots.
That sparked a 14-0 run which turned the game for good.
After Hicks made a layup after a steal, Wessel took a pass from Hartl and finished with a layup. That was just the beginning for him, as he banked home a shot, made a layup after a steal and hit a baseline jumper all in a 63-second span to push the lead to 17-6.
“I grew up being taught to play down low,” said Wessel, who brings a big man’s mentality to the court, even though he stands only 6 feet. “It’s just natural for me to play down there. I’ve played with Sam and Milani my whole life and they know how to find me in the post. I was finishing shots people were missing. I give the credit to my teammates. It wasn’t just me.”
After a Hartl steal, Hicks made a layup to cap the surge and make the score 19-6.
With 44.5 seconds left in the quarter, senior Reuben Moses made a layup for the Golden Trojans to snap a 4 minute, 6 second drought, but a layup after a steal by Hartl put Scarborough up, 21-8, after one period.
In the frame, the Red Storm got nine points from Wessel and was bolstered by nine turnovers from Thornton Academy.
To their credit, the Golden Trojans hung around in the second quarter.
A 3-pointer from sophomore Corey Hart and a Richardson-Newton foul shot pulled the visitors within 21-12. Wessel countered with a jumper, but Richardson-Newton scored on a driving layup to cut the deficit back to nine. Hicks made a 3, but Moses put back his own miss and after Wessel hit a long jumper, Hart sank a 3 to make it 28-19.
Scarborough then got a putback from senior Dan LeClair and after a Richardson-Newton free throw, Freeman scored his first points, on a layup off a no-look pass from Hartl on a fastbreak and LeClair sank a long jumper, after a Freeman steal, to push the lead back to 14, 34-20.
A Richardson-Newton layup and a putback from Barrett cut the deficit to 10, but Freeman knocked down his first 3 and after a Richardson-Newton jumper, Wessel scored on a putback while being fouled and made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 40-26 advantage at halftime.
Wessel had 16 points, eight boards and a pair of steals for good measure in the first 16 minutes. Hicks added nine points, four assists and three rebounds, while Hartl had six points, four assists and three steals.
Thornton Academy, which committed 16 turnovers, was able to hang around in large part due to 10 points from Richardson-Newton.
The Red Storm hoped to put it away in the third quarter, but couldn’t do so.
A Wessel jumper to start the second half was countered by a driving layup from Barrett. Freeman then scored on a driving layup, but Richardson-Newton hit a floater. Freeman then set up Hartl for a layup, but Richardson-Newton made two foul shots. After Hartl set up LeClair for a layup and a 48-32 lead, the Golden Trojans got a bank shot from Richardson-Newton, a free throw from Hart and a pair of foul shots from senior Evan Wright to pull within 11.
Freeman momentarily stemmed the tide with a layup, but Wright went coast-to-coast after a rebound to counter with a layup. Freeman hit a 3, but Wright made two foul shots and after a Hartl free throw, Richardson-Newton made a jumper and Barrett hit a free throw to pull Thornton Academy within 10, 54-44, heading for the final stanza.
There, Scarborough quickly ended any remaining doubt.
A minute in, Wessel hit a leaner. Freeman added two free throws and just like that, the lead was up to 14.
With 6:32 to play, Richardson-Newton made two foul shots, but the visitors wouldn’t score again.
Twenty-four seconds later, after Wessel kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, he dished the ball out to Freeman, who knocked down a dagger of a 3-pointer.
With 4:44 left, Hartl set up Freeman for another 3.
“(Matt’s) a great player,” said Freeman. “He’s a leader, a captain. He always finds me and the open man.”
Hartl and Freeman added layups and in the final minute, sophomore Jacob Gardner made a layup to bring down the curtain on the Red Storm’s 70-46 victory.
“We did what we had to do to win,” DiBiase said. “We try to get between 60 and 70 shots a game and shoot 20 3s at least. It we do that, we have a good chance to be in games. We can shoot them, but we have to make them too.”
Freeman had 17 points in the second half and wound up with a game-high 22. He also had three assists and three steals.
“I was struggling at the beginning of the year,” Freeman said. “I hadn’t gotten into a rhythm. I couldn’t find my shot. I was on in warmups and tonight, I was on fire. It was a good night.”
“I thought Sam played tremendous,” DiBiase said. “He gives us that extra guy. He made shots.”
Wessel, who entered the game as the fourth leading scorer and the fourth leading rebounder in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association, was the horse from start to finish, scoring 20 points, adding 14 rebounds and three steals.
“Wessel played tremendous tonight,” said DiBiase. “He plays hard. He goes and gets it. He’s aggressive.”
Hartl, third in the league in scoring and 11th in assists, had 11 points, but more importantly had seven assists and three steals.
“(Matt’s) taken the reins as a senior,” DiBiase said. “He had a great summer and wants to be the leader. He wants the ball in his hands. He’s a quality guard who does it on both ends of the floor. He made some really nice passes tonight.”
Hicks, sixth in the league in scoring, added nine points (to go with six boards and a pair of steals), LeClair had six and Gardner finished with two.
Scarborough hung tough on the glass, finishing with 28 rebounds, one less than the much taller Golden Trojans.
“I thought we did a decent job on the glass tonight,” DiBiase said. “We have to jump. Some nights we don’t jump and it kills us. When we’ve lost, we didn’t shoot well and bigger teams gave us trouble.”
The Red Storm had 14 steals, sank 7 of 9 free throws and only turned the ball over eight times.
Thornton Academy was paced by 20 points and six rebounds from Richardson-Newton. Barrett had nine points, Hart seven, Wright six and Moses four.
The Golden Trojans shot 12 of 16 from the free throw line, but turned the ball over 21 times.
The teams meet again Feb. 4 in Saco, but that’s a long way off.
Thornton Academy (now sixth in the Western A Heals) is right back in action Tuesday night at Windham. The Golden Trojans are back home Friday to face Biddeford. Gorham pays a visit Monday.
Scarborough still has work to do to make the playoffs. The Red Storm (which sits 11th in the region at press time) hosts Bonny Eagle and its star, senior Dustin Cole, Friday and plays at Portland and at home against Deering in a brutal sequence next week. Trips to Cheverus and Thornton Academy and home games versus Sanford and South Portland also loom.
“I think we can scare a few teams,” said Freeman. “We have a tough one Friday. I think we have a shot to stop them if we stop Cole. If we practice hard, anything can happen.”
“I like our chances,” Wessel said. “Bonny Eagle will be a tough one. I’d like to avenge last year’s game. We lost players like Brendan Hall and Sam Terry, but we have guys like Sam and Milani who can shoot the same way they did. I feel like we can put up a fight.”
“We’ll see what happens,” DiBiase said. “We have eight games left. Some tough games coming up.”
Scarborough junior Ian Corey looks to drive.
Scarborough senior Matt Hartl meets some opposition in the form of Thornton Academy junior Demel Ruff en route to the hoop. Hartl had a terrific game, finishing with 11 points and seven key assists.
Scarborough junior Milani Hicks plays tough defense.
Scarborough senior Dan LeClair lines up a shot.
Scarborough junior Nate Wessel wrestles Thornton Academy sophomore Ben Lambert for possession.
Scarborough 81 @ TA 74
@ Scarborough 43 TA 40
@ Scarborough 49 TA 44
@ TA 56 Scarborough 55
@ TA 61 Scarborough 56
TA 33 @ Scarborough 31
TA 51 @ Scarborough 38
Scarborough 66 @ TA 63 (2 OT)
@ TA 64 Scarborough 39
TA 68 @ Scarborough 46
TA 58 @ Scarborough 44
Scarborough 47 @ TA 40
@ TA 65 Scarborough 56
@ Scarborough 63 TA 56
@ Scarborough 51 TA 49
@ TA 52 Scarborough 36
@ TA 61 Scarborough 47
@ Scarborough 54 TA 25
Scarborough junior Nate Wessel goes to the basket for two of his 20 points during Monday’s 70-46 home win over Thornton Academy.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
TA- 8 18 18 2- 46
S- 21 19 14 16- 70
TA- Richardson-Newton 7-6-20, Barrett 4-1-9, Hart 2-1-7, Wright 1-4-6, Moses 2-0-4
S- Freeman 8-2-22, Wessel 9-2-20, Hartl 4-3-11, Hicks 4-0-9, LeClair 3-0-6, Gardner 1-0-2
TA (2) Hart 2
S (5) Freeman 4, Hicks 1
TA (29) Richardson-Newton, Ruff 6, Barrett 4, Hart, Moses, Lambert, Wright 3, Michaud 1
S (28) Wessel 14, Hicks 6, Hartl 3, Corey, Freeman 2, LeClair 1
TA (5) Barrett 2, Hart, Moses, Richardson-Newton 1
S (14) Freeman, Hartl, Wessel 3, Hicks, LeClair 2, Corey 1
TA (3) Hart, Richardson-Newton, Ruff 1