PORTLAND – The first upset of the Western Class A boys’ basketball tournament is in the books, and it was a shocker.
Seventh-seeded Thornton Academy, which lost to second-ranked Deering by 49 points in the season opener, shocked the Rams in the quarterfinals, beating the defending Class A champions 49-40 in overtime Saturday night at the Portland Expo.
The Golden Trojans (13-7) advanced to play third-seeded Bonny Eagle (16-3) — which also routed Thornton in the early season — in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Thornton outscored Deering 14-5 in overtime. Jeff Gelinas was 6 of 6 from the line in overtime and finished with 15 points.
The Rams committed six turnovers in the four-minute overtime and went scoreless for a 7:33 stretch. They led 35-28 with 4:45 to go in the fourth quarter and didn’t score again until 1:12 remained in overtime.
Thornton made 10 of 13 from the line in overtime. The Rams were 0 of 5 from the line in the fourth quarter.
After starting 2-5, Thornton has won 11 of 13.
“This is a different team than the one that began the season,” said Gelinas, a 6-foot-3 senior who will attend UMaine on a baseball scholarship as a pitcher. “We turned it around about Week 5. We learned how to play team defense. We got on a win streak, and hopefully we’ll get on one in the tournament.”
Gelinas was gimpy for most of the second half.
“I took a charge and landed funny on my back,” he said. “I’ll put some ice on it and it will be fine.”
Kevin Barrett, who scored 11 points, opened overtime with a short turnaround jumper in the lane. He also missed a bunny moments later, about which Coach Bob Davies said, “hopefully he’ll make it the next time.”
The Rams were turning the ball over and thus couldn’t get anything going. Adam Ek made a three-point play with 1:22 left for a 40-35 Thornton lead.
Labson Abwoch, who led the Rams with 17 points, ended the drought with two from the line with 1:12 to go.
Gelinas then made the first two of six straight from the line.
Ahmed Ali gave the Rams hope by sinking a long 3-pointer from the side with 39 seconds left. Ek missed two from the line, but Gelinas retrieved the rebound and Abwoch was called for his fifth foul.
Gelinas made two more from the line, then the Rams turned the ball over twice more. Thornton’s made four more at the line in the final 25 seconds.
“It was a gutsy performance,” said Davies. “The key was we didn’t turn the ball over in overtime. We maintained possession and stayed strong with the ball. We were fortunate to make our free throws. We practice them and the kids take it seriously.”
“We got better all year long. We worked on taking care of the basketball and executing specific game situations. We knew it was a work in progress when we started. One thing this team does is play hard. I don’t think these guys are satisfied.”
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: