PORTLAND – The Western Maine Class A tournament is careening toward a spectacular conclusion, if Wednesday night’s semifinal matchups are any indication. No.3 Bonny Eagle met No. 7 Thornton Academy in the early bout, a 54-38 victory for the well-oiled Scots.

The Trojans finish their season 13-8, while Bonny Eagle improves to 18-3. They advance to the final Saturday night at 9 p.m. against top-ranked South Portland at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“We have the utmost respect for TA,” Bonny Eagle head coach Phil Bourassa said after the game. “They beat [Deering,] a very good team, so they must be a very good team. We knew who they had, and we played really well defensively.”

The first three minutes unfolded slowly, with the Scots managing to post only three points, and the Trojans merely two. The teams’ offenses picked up speed as play progressed, however. Thornton Academy senior Jeff Gelinas drained a two around the five-minute mark, and a minute after that, Bonny Eagle dynamo Dustin Cole waved hello from the line, going 2 for 2. Scots senior CJ Autry followed up with a three, giving his team the early lead, but Trojan Quinn Richardson-Newton sank a pair of twos to tie the game at eight a piece. Autry and Gelinas next traded threes, keeping the score even, but Bonny Eagle got the last word of the quarter, or the last five words, rather: a three from sophomore Zach Dubiel and two more from Cole at the line. After one, the Scots were up 16-11.

That lead looked in danger at the beginning of the second. Gelinas and teammate Reuben Moses both knocked down threes in the first minute to put Thornton on top, 17-16. Just 25 seconds later, however, Autry tallied a three, initiating a Bonny Eagle run of nine, including a two by senior Jon Thomas on assists by Autry and Cole, a two by sophomore Ben Malloy (also on an assist by Cole), and two from the line by none other than Dustin Cole. The Trojans called timeout, after which Gelinas added an encouraging 3-pointer, but in the last minute, Autry also threw a three, then played pass with Cole, who hashed his first actual basket of the night. Heading the locker rooms, the Scots stood atop Thornton, 33-22.

Cole accumulated 11 in the first half alone, nine of which were free throws, suggesting something about the Trojans’ strategy for containing him but also something about his ability to pressure defenses and his nimbleness in drawing fouls. In the end, he had a tournament-record 18 points from the line, breaking the previous record by four. Cole also set the Western Class A tournament record at 28.

“[Dustin] puts a lot of pressure on defenders when they’re guarding the ball,” Bourassa said. “He’s tough, you know. [He can draw a foul.] They were all legit. I thought he got fouled even more than what he got. He just knows how to play the game, and getting to the line’s important.”

Cole logged four more in two trips to the line to start the third. Richardson-Newton interrupted with a two, but Cole matched, then went back to the line, adding two more. Malloy took a turn, sinking a two, before Cole did the same. He would visit the line one more time, pushing Bonny Eagle two points further ahead, 48-25, before the buzzer that ended the third.

Richardson-Newton sank a two early in the fourth, before Cole found himself at the line again. He went 2 for 2, and on the ensuing Thornton possession, Thomas stole and added two himself. Moses and Gelinas countered with a pair of twos, but the Trojans need to do more than counter; they needed to catch fire. They couldn’t, though, and were down by double digits as the end of the game arrived.

Cole led the Scots with 24, while Autry followed with 12. Gelinas was the top scorer for the Trojans with 15.

“We only allowed three points in the third quarter,” Bourassa said. “That’s one of our best defensive quarters all year. The kids played hard, bought in and played together. It was great to see.”

Bonny Eagle’s Dustin Cole dodges around Trojan Evan Wright on his way to the basket Wednesday night. Staff photos by Adam Birt
Thornton Academy’s Jeff Gelinas and Bonny Eagle’s CJ Autry watch Gelinas’s shot to see if it will fall. Dustin Cole lies on the deck.
Thornton’s Adam Ek charges up court with the ball vs Bonny Eagle Wednesday night.
Golden Trojan Quinn Richardson-Newton leaps over Bonny Eagle’s CJ Autry at the Cumberland County Civic Center Wednesday night.
Scot CJ Autry guards Trojan Jeff Gelinas in the their teams’ semifinal matchup at the Cumberland County Civic Center Wednesday night.
Thornton junior Evan Wright fights toward the basket against Bonny Eagle Wednesday night.
Trojan Evan Wright guards Bonny Eagle’s CJ Autry in the first of two Western Maine Class A semifinal bouts held at the Cumberland County Civic Center Wednesday night.
Bonny Eagle’s Zach Dubiel preps to launch a three against Thornton Academy Wednesday night.
Bonny Eagle’s Dustin Cole barrels forward in his team’s semifinal clash with Thornton Academy Wednesday night.
Scot senior Jon Thomas breaks free of the pack and ascends toward the net, ball in hand.

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