SOUTH PORTLAND — In a game of runs, Justin Pollard opted to drive.

Pollard’s layup with 30 seconds to play lifted Thornton Academy to a 43-41 victory over South Portland in an SMAA boys’ basketball game Tuesday night.

“My shot’s been off lately,” said Pollard, “but I just saw an opening and I decided to go to the hole and I took it strong. I said, ‘I’m gonna finish this ball.’ “

“That was a great senior moment,” said Thornton Academy Coach Bob Davies. “Justin’s a senior, and he just made a good read and he ended up finishing the play.”

Pollard finished with 11 points, all but the last two coming on 3-pointers. But he didn’t quite finish off the Red Riots (3-1). After a timeout with 17.7 seconds left, South Portland point guard Tanner Hyland’s 3-pointer from the left wing caught the inside of the rim and rolled out.

“Everyone’s head in the gym was turning to look at it,” said Pollard, “but it came up our way and we got the rebound.”

Hyland, who led the Riots with 13 points, including five in the fourth quarter, took the miss in stride. “I’ve taken that shot probably a thousand times in my life; that one rimmed out.”

Ben Burkey scored 12 for South Portland. Jack Tolan had eight.

It was a frantic finish to a back-and-forth game. South Portland built a 17-13 lead after one quarter, but the Trojans (2-2) were pleased. It seemed they had gotten past their troubles of last Friday, when they were outscored 34-7 at the half in a 56-38 home loss to Bonny Eagle.

“We played better team defense tonight,” said Davies. “It’s a team game and it’s going to take everyone on the floor functioning as a unit defensively (to win).”

Offensively, 6-foot-6 junior forward Malcolm Dopwell made sure the Trojans put the Bonny Eagle game behind them. He scored six of his team-leading 12 points during Thornton’s 16-2 run in the quarter to give the Trojans a 10-point halftime lead. Those six points came on second and third chances as Dopwell was ferocious on the boards. Early in the third quarter he racked up three blocks to keep the Riots at bay.

“Malcolm had a great game,” Davies said. “If we can get that from him all the time, it’s going to make us a tough team to play against.”

South Portland climbed back into into the game in the third quarter, which ended with the Trojans still enjoying a 38-29 advantage.

Then came the fourth quarter, when the Riots outscored the Trojans 12-3 until Pollard’s gutsy drive. Matt DiBiase survived a blindside hit from Dopwell on a court-length pass to reach the foul line. He went 2 of 2 for his only points of the game to tie it at 41.

“I like the way our kids battled back after being down at the half,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. “We have good character guys in the locker room. We’ll get back to practice (today) and be ready for Kennebunk on Thursday night.”