SANFORD – This was one that the Sanford High girls’ basketball team had to have. And it got it, by the slimmest of margins — and seconds.

The Redskins came back from four down in the final minutes to beat Gorham 42-41, going ahead on a layup by Shae Riley with 31 seconds remaining, then withstanding one final Rams shot.

Gorham got the ball with 12.1 seconds left and got off a shot that rimmed out. Samantha Adams of Sanford grabbed the rebound and held on in a scrum as the buzzer sounded to end the game.

“We absolutely needed this one,” said Redskins Coach Kristy Parent. “This is a good one for us.”

Sanford (10-3) was seeded third in Western Class A, and Gorham (9-3) was sixth. While the Rams have several Heal point-worthy games remaining in the final two weeks, Sanford has just one — at Cheverus next Saturday.

“Every game we play now is a big one,” said Riley, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. “The (Heal) points are so important, every win really matters. This was a good one to grab.”

And it was a frustrating one for the Rams to let get away.

Gorham came back from a 13-4 first-quarter deficit to take a 32-30 lead into the fourth. Mia Rapolla, as usual, led the offensive charge. After shooting 1 of 9 in the first half, she heated up and scored 11 of her 18 points in the third quarter — despite constant in-her-face defense by Taylor Flood.

Gorham’s zone defense also was much more active, taking away Sanford’s outside threats.

“We just made more of an effort to contest their 3s,” said Gorham Coach Laughn Berthiaume.

Sanford had three 3-pointers, all in the first half.

The Rams appeared to take control midway through the fourth. Jessica Rexrode hit a foul-line jumper and Kristin Ross (11 points) made two foul shots for a 38-34 lead with 4:55 left.

A Rapolla jumper one minute later made it 40-36, then Ross hit 1 of 2 foul shots for a 41-38 edge.

Riley scored inside on a nifty pass from Lindsey Nolette to bring the Redskins within a point. Gorham then turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions, leading to Riley’s winning basket.

Flood (15 points, three steals and nine rebounds) missed a jumper but outfought a Gorham defender for the rebound on the left baseline. She then flicked a pass to Riley on the right.

“I saw (Flood) go up and I was sure the shot was in,” said Riley. “She got the rebound and I was just in the block, she saw me there and got it to me.

“We’ve done that before. We trust each other.”

That’s because, Flood said, “we’ve been playing together for, like, forever.”

The Rams turned the ball over again with 15.9 seconds left on an offensive foul on a screen. But a missed Sanford foul shot led to one final attempt — a 3-pointer by Audrey Adkison that rimmed out. Adams grabbed the rebound with about two seconds left. Despite a scrum, no whistle was blown and the game ended.

“No foul, no timeout, no travel. I would have been happy with any of them,” said Berthiaume.

Despite the loss, Berthiaume said this was the type of game his players needed.

“I think all the games coming down the stretch are tournament-type games,” he said. “We need to be in close games. That way we’ll be ready when the tournament comes.”

For Sanford, the game represented a big step.

“This was a legitimate test,” said Parent. “Are we good? Can we compete in the playoffs? This win will give us confidence.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]