SACO — If a championship-caliber performance is half effort and half execution, Thornton Academy came away half satisfied Tuesday night.
The Trojans’ defense was rock solid as they went on a 13-0 run over the second and third quarters to grind out a 37-24 victory over Windham in an SMAA girls’ basketball game at Liddell Gymnasium.
Senior forward Olivia Shaw led the Trojans (9-1) with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Katie McCrum added nine points and six rebounds, and Abby Strickland overcame a sub-par offensive night by dominating down low for a game-high 11 rebounds.
“The girls were satisfied with the effort but not necessarily the execution,” Thornton Academy Coach Eric Marston said. “Our defense was at a championship level but our offense wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”
“This was just a grind-out game,” she said. “We had to do whatever we could to score and stop them from scoring.”
Shaw had a hand in that, making her top defensive responsibility sophomore forward Sadie Nelson, who was held to 10 points.
“They’ve won eight games and a big part of that is Nelson,” Marston said. “I just can’t say enough about the defensive effort she puts in. She gives her heart and soul on every defensive possession.”
Senior guard Sam Frost added four points and four assists for the Eagles (8-3), who entered the game ranked No. 4 in the Western Class A Heal point standings.
“We’re winning because of our defense,” Strickland said. “All five of us are working as hard as we can.”
With McCrum and Hannah Murphy applying high pressure in the backcourt, and Strickland, Howe and Shaw packing the lane, it was difficult for Windham to get into a flow.
“We just didn’t do a good job of getting to the rim tonight,” Windham Coach Brody Artes said. “Give TA credit, they really didn’t allow any room inside.”
Thornton Academy, which came in No. 1 in Western Class A, got balanced scoring as five players contributed to the game-winning run, led by Shaw’s five. Strickland took a feed from McCrum and laid the ball in to make it 27-13 as the third quarter expired.
The startling part of the run? The Trojans kept the Eagles scoreless over the final 2:36 of the second quarter and all of the third.
But Windham didn’t roll over. The Eagles clawed back with a 10-0 run, led by Nelson’s five points and Lonnie Staten’s 3-of-4 shooting from the line to cut the deficit to 28-23. Equally impressive was Windham’s effort in holding the Trojans without a field goal until Shaw scored on a layup with 2:50 to play to make it 30-23. Windham’s Nelson hit a free throw, the Trojans’ Ashley Howe hit her lone field goal of the second half and Thornton Academy went 5 of 9 from the line to close out the scoring.
“That was a nice little run to close it to seven,” Artes said.