— By

Special to the Press Herald

PORTLAND — Nolan Allen is a sophomore on a senior-laden team but knows what he’s supposed to do.

”Well, Coach just tells us to get open looks, and if we have them we just have to chuck them,” said Allen.

After fifth-seeded Thornton Academy, the defending Class A state champion, sliced fourth-ranked Windham’s once-secure 16-point lead to six, Allen hit a rainbow 3-pointer, then followed with a tough left-handed leaner.

And just like that the Eagles were on solid footing again, headed toward a 59-42 victory at the Portland Expo and their first trip to the Western Class A semifinals.

Windham will play top-ranked Cheverus at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

”That (3-pointer) really changed the momentum, quieted the crowd and fired us up,” Allen said.

”He’s got a green light. He can shoot,” Windham Coach Kevin Millington said. ”All it really took was for us to make a basket. Maybe if he’d missed we might have been saying it wasn’t the best shot, but that got us going again.”

Allen led the Eagles (14-5) with 17 points. The seniors did the rest.

Adam Szklany controlled the Eagles’ offense and scored 12 points.

Garrett Clemmer was a key on the boards, scored 13 points and got Thornton’s top scorer, Andy Shaw, in foul trouble.

Reserve forward Nick Taylor, playing with a thickly wrapped right knee, banged his way to seven points in the second quarter as Windham began to build its lead.

Neither team shot well in the first half. Thornton (13-6) was 7 of 24. Windham warmed, but only after a 2-of-13 first quarter. The Eagles gained a 29-17 halftime lead with hustle plays.

”That’s been our M.O. all year long,” Millington said. ”Someone said we were under-appreciated and I think that’s true. We have seniors who are just here to win. They’re not here to get their name in the paper. And they play great team defense.”

Three times in the first half, the Eagles went to the floor to tip the ball to a teammate or maintain possession.

The third time it was Allen who scrambled after the ball and called a timeout with 1:30 left and Windham leading, 22-17. On the inbounds pass, Clemmer drew a foul on Shaw and hit both shots.

After an errant Thornton shot, Clemmer drained a 3-pointer. Moments later, Taylor gathered his own offensive rebound and powered in his third basket of the quarter.

”Windham is a senior squad that had experienced some success, they worked hard and they were fortunate enough to get to the loose balls,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies. ”It wasn’t that we didn’t want to get to them.”

Windham increased its lead to 36-20 early in the third quarter. From there, Thornton tightened its defense and rallied behind James Ek (17 points) and reserve Corbett Smith (eight points) to cut the margin to 38-31 at the end of the quarter, despite missing four straight free throws.

Once Allen got Windham’s offense back on track, those misses, plus another three straight in the fourth quarter, loomed large.

”We missed some foul shots and they made their foul shots and stretched the score a little, and then they continued to make their foul shots,” Davies said.

”We’ve got a lot of seniors,” Allen said. ”They’ve been playing varsity since their freshman year and they know how to lead.”