SOUTH PORTLAND – About the last thing the Thornton Academy girls’ basketball team needed Tuesday night was an up-tempo game. About seven minutes in, that’s just what South Portland gave them.
Danica Gleason scored eight of her 23 points in the second quarter as the Red Riots ran past the short-handed Golden Trojans 57-37 in an SMAA girls’ basketball game at Beal Gymnasium.
Holly Block finished with eight points and seven rebounds for South Portland (4-0). Meaghan Doyle finished with two points and eight rebounds.
Tori Lands led the Trojans (1-2) with 10 points and five rebounds. Emily Richard had seven points and five rebounds. Olivia Shaw added six rebounds, a block and three steals.
“They’re small and quick, we’re big and strong,” said Thornton Coach Eric Marston. “We wanted to play our tempo, they wanted to play theirs. In the first quarter, for the most part, we played our tempo. Then, for whatever reason, we abandoned our game plan. Give credit to South Portland. They forced us into an up-tempo game with their pressure.”
“This was our first measuring stick as to where we belong in the league,” South Portland Coach Mike Giordano said. “I told the girls, if they keep winning, you’ll get people to come and want to watch you play. We beat a good, well-coached team by 20.”
The Trojans controlled play in the early going, running their half-court game to take an 8-3 lead through the opening five minutes. Then South Portland’s press, led by Gleason and point guard Maddie Hasson, found its legs, and Gleason hit two baskets to lead the Riots on a 9-3 run to close the quarter with a 12-11 lead.
South Portland’s depth played a pivotal role, particularly the play of reserve Jenna Wing, who came on at point guard to score eight points and cause havoc with her quickness.
“Brianne (Maloney) never got in flow because of foul trouble, and Maddie struggled with turnovers on the point,” Giordano said. “That happens. I’m really proud of the girls coming off the bench. We tell the kids to be ready for their opportunity. Jenna was ready tonight.”
“I just fed off the energy of the players around me,” Wing said. “Danica was hitting shots, we were getting rebounds and everyone contributed.”
Gleason scored three quick baskets to close out a 12-3 run for a 30-18 halftime lead.
“We started off slow but we got into the game, got the tempo going and just took over in the second half,” Gleason said. “We wanted to keep the tempo fast to force them to rush shots and give them less of a chance to take advantage of their size.”
Fouls played a factor: South Portland entered halftime with eight fouls to Thornton’s 11, including three on Lands, who scored her 10 in the first half.
“We made errors time and again, and that led to big shots for them,” Marston said. “(Gleason) is playing as well as anyone in the league right now. There wasn’t a whole lot we could do to guard her.”
Particularly with players expected to contribute to the backcourt out with knee injuries. The big blow was point guard Kaitlyn McCrum, who will be out 4 to 6 weeks after surgery Tuesday.
“We stopped running our offense, that was our biggest downfall,” Lands said. “It’s hard without (McCrum) and the other girls, but we’re learning to adjust. We need to be confident and focus on what we can do.”