WINDHAM – Thornton Academy’s 37-36 win over Windham last Friday afternoon wasn’t exactly the prettiest or most attractive victory of the girls’ basketball season.

But at the end of the day, beauty doesn’t much matter. Winning does.

Despite scoring just eight points in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over numerous times and missing most of its free throws down the stretch, the Golden Trojans (3-2) did just enough to eke out a one-point victory over the Eagles (3-3) that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer sounded. Both teams had numerous opportunities to pull away as the clock wound down in a comedy-of-errors final quarter, and though they came out on top, Thornton coach Eric Marston said his team knows this wasn’t one for the highlight reel.

“We just made a lot of mental mistakes from start to finish, and as a result of that I think we put ourselves in a little bit of a situation where we had to gut it out at the end,” Marston said. “All the credit to Windham, they just played extremely hard. If a couple of shots here and there would have gone, it would have been a completely different story.

“Obviously the most important thing at this point is getting the ‘W,’ but at the same time we’ve got to learn from the many mistakes that we made and learn from some of the positive things we did as well. That’s what we’ve got to take this as, we’ve got to definitely earn from it and take it one game at a time.”

After leading for nearly the entirety of the first three quarters, but never by more than seven, Thornton took a 31-29 lead into the fourth and went up by four on a Tori Lands jumper on the first possession of the quarter. A lay-up by Windham’s Lauren Coughlin pegged it back to two before Ashley Howe hit one of two free throws to get it back to three, but a Sadie Nelson jumper for the Eagles with 6:30 to play made it a one-point game as the stage looked set for a barnburner of a finish.

But from there the scoring pretty much stopped. Windham had six opportunities to take its first lead since 4-3 early in the first quarter but instead missed four shots, including two air balls, and also turned the ball over twice.

On the other end, Thornton couldn’t do much better, also going scoreless as the game remained 34-33 until the Trojans’ Olivia Shaw hit a baseline jumper with 3:10 remaining to make it a three-point advantage.

Thornton had chances to add to the lead from the charity stripe but Shaw missed a pair of free throws and Sands missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Aurora Connolly hit one of her two free throws to make it 37-33, but Windham’s Sam Frost hit a 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds remaining to get it back to 37-36, breaking a more than six-minute scoreless draught for the Eagles.

“We obviously didn’t execute on the offensive end, but when we had to we made some stops on the defensive end of the court and I give all the credit to my team,” Marston said. “We did a better job of communicating in the fourth than we did early on and I thought we did a better job of contesting shots in the fourth than we had previously.”

Thornton again had an opportunity to add to the lead from the line and was by now in the double bonus, but Lands missed two more. Shaw got the rebound off the second miss and Connolly was fouled, but she proceeded to also miss two. However, Connolly got her own rebound, but she missed two more and Windham finally corralled the rebound with 12 seconds remaining.

“Obviously foul shooting was an issue down the stretch but at the same time we didn’t feel it should have really even have come to that,” Marston said. “We just didn’t execute throughout the entire game.”

After a timeout Frost missed a jumper that would have been the game winner, though the rebound bounced off a Trojans player and went out with 0.3 seconds left. But Windham’s desperation heave towards the basket was tipped away, and the Eagles went down to a frustrating defeat.

“I think our youth definitely showed tonight, but we were given every opportunity to win that game and we just didn’t take advantage,” said Windham coach Brody Artes, who starts three juniors and two freshmen. “We didn’t step up when we needed to. We just didn’t execute and do the things we needed to in order to pull that one out.”

Shaw and Laurent Leskowsky led the way for Thornton with 10 points apiece, while Eagles freshman Nelson finished with a game-high 12 and Haley Batchelder chipped in eight.

The Trojans will look to continue their winning ways in the New Year when they host Gorham on Wednesday (after the paper’s deadline) before heading to Scarborough on Friday, while Windham faces a tough trip to McAuley on Wednesday and another trip to the big city on Saturday to take on Portland.

Though it was a vexing day at the office for Artes and his team on Friday, the coach said he still feels good about his young squad.

“I’m positive about this group,” Artes said. “I think it’s definitely a young group but up and coming. We’re trying to get better every day whether it’s practice or a game. We’re doing all we can right now to play our best basketball and I’m proud of their effort so far.

“Today was a little bit of a setback but you’ve got to turn around and face yourself in the mirror and attack it tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.”

Windham’s Lonnie Staten battles for a rebound with Thornton Academy’s Olivia Shaw, left, and Laurent Leskowsky in the first quarter of Friday night’s 37-36 win by the Golden Trojans. Staff photo by Cameron Dunbar

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