SACO — Fourth-seeded Thornton Academy used its shut-down defense to eke out a 5-4 victory against No. 5 Gorham in a Western Class A schoolboy lacrosse quarterfinal Wednesday.

It was the first playoff victory for the Trojans since the Maine Principals’ Association began holding the tournament in 1998.

“This is definitely a big win for our program,” said Tim Grose, who scored three goals for the Trojans. “We’re definitely proud to bring this one home.”

While Grose’s goals were immense, it was the defense that made the difference for Thornton, which will play at top-seeded Kennebunk in a regional semifinal at 3 p.m. Saturday.

“This year we looked to be more offensive, but through the course of the season we’ve found we live and die by our defense,” Thornton Coach Ryan Hersey said. “We haven’t let a team score in double digits this season. We’re trying to keep (the score) as low as possible and keep ourselves in games.”

That approach worked to perfection against the Rams.

“They were the best defensive team that we’ve played so far this year,” Gorham Coach T.J. Bell said. “On the weak side, they sag in, and they play their zone very, very well. They’re good at it and they play it well.”

Defensively, the Trojans (11-2) were at their best during the first half, when they held Gorham scoreless.

“Coming into the game, we wanted to hold them to one goal a quarter, and we able to do that,” Grose said.

“We were able to get the five goals we needed to beat them so we’ll take it.”

Grose opened the scoring 26 seconds into the game by putting in a hard shot from 10 yards on the left. Less than six minutes in, he skipped in a shot from nearly 20 yards on the right side to make it 2-0.

Steve Woodcock made it 3-0 when he scored 14 seconds into the second quarter after stealing the ball.

Gorham (7-6) rallied during the third quarter. Luc Robitaille, Alex Graves and Aaron LaPorte scored as the Rams forged a 3-3 tie less than eight minutes into the second half.

Less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, Parker Roma snapped the tie by putting in a shot from the left side. About three minutes later, Grose scored his third goal from just inside the box to make it 5-3.

Elliot Gagne of Gorham turned a feed from Robitaille into a fast-break goal with 6:21 left to complete the scoring.

The Thornton defense held on as the Rams kept the ball inside the box for the final two minutes of the game.

“That wasn’t the prettiest game by far,” Hersey said. “It was kind of sloppy. But it was the hardest I’ve seen (my players) work all year.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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