SCARBOROUGH — In its Class A South boys’ lacrosse semifinal against Gorham, Scarborough almost fell victim to an upset because it didn’t adjust when Gorham focused its defense on the Red Storm’s top scorer, Sam Neugebauer.

Scarborough Coach Joe Hezlep made changes for the regional final, anticipating the same strategy from Thornton Academy.

The adjustments paid off, as Marco Manfra pumped in a career-high nine goals to power top-seeded Scarborough to a 20-16 win and earn a return trip to the state championship game as the Red Storm try to win back-to-back titles.

Scarborough plays last year’s runner-up, Brunswick, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

“Marco was really ready (today),” said Hezlep. “(Thornton) shut down (Neugebauer), like Gorham did. Against Gorham, we didn’t handle it very well. We made some adjustments and had some guys really step up and make some plays early. It got us off to a lead we absolutely needed.

“Marco, he’s kinda like our do-it-all guy. He doesn’t score a ton. He’s more of a distributor. But when (Neugebauer) isn’t able to throw the ball in the net, someone has to step up.”

Manfra, a junior attack, scored six times as the Red Storm (12-2) raced to a 7-0 advantage just 11:07 into the game. Four of the goals were in transition when Manfra was left open in front of the net.

Manfra left the game for 91/2 minutes in the third quarter because of a lower-body injury but came back at the start of the fourth.

“Man, we came out firing (in the first quarter),” said Manfra, who also recorded two assists. “We were really revved up to go and we were really ready for this game.”

Hezlep warned his team during a timeout with 4:50 left in the first quarter and the Red Storm leading 6-0 that the Trojans (13-2) would not give in easily. The regular-season meeting between the teams wound up an 18-17 Scarborough win.

Thornton cut the lead to 8-5 by the end of the first quarter and stayed within reach by outscoring the home team 3-0 in the third quarter for a 15-12 deficit. But a two-minute, locked-in penalty on Thornton helped give the momentum back to Scarborough.

Cam Thibault (three goals, one assist) and Neugebauer (two goals, one assist) scored in an 11-second span during the man advantage – the second goal coming with one second left on the penalty. That started a four-goal barrage in the first 2:12 of the fourth quarter as Scarborough pushed its lead to 19-12.

“We certainly didn’t get too many man-up looks today and we almost completely squandered that one,” said Hezlep. “But the guys wanted to get out there and get after it and make plays.”

Manfra capped the four-goal spurt and then added his ninth tally a little more than two minutes later for Scarborough’s biggest lead, 20-12, with 6:47 left.

“They killed us the whole first half in transition,” said Thornton Coach Ryan Hersey, whose team was trying to make it to its first state championship game. “We didn’t get back fast enough and we were leaving Marco wide open in front of the net. He had a field day there.”

“Eric Murray and (Reece Lagerquist) were doing a good job getting the ball up field and dumping it off to me and letting me do what I do best,” Manfra said. “They were doing their job and it was just clicking.”

Marc Guerette finished with four goals and two assists for Scarborough.

Wyatt LeBlanc (two goals, two assists), Noah Edborg (three goals, one assist), John Giroux (two goals, two assists) and C.J. LaBreck (three goals) led the Trojans.