SACO — With Kaitlyn McCrum doing the ball handling and Olivia Shaw knocking down some big 3-pointers, Thornton Academy’s girls’ basketball team knocked Portland from the unbeaten ranks Monday, winning 51-35 in an SMAA game.

Thornton and Portland are both 5-1, and the win left Thornton Coach Eric Marston marveling at his team’s composure and execution.

“I’m about as pleased with my team as I’ve ever been in terms of the way we were able to carry out the game plan the way we wanted to,” Marston said. “We feel like we can run with anybody, but that approach wasn’t going to be our best approach to beating Portland.”

Shaw finished with 19 points, and her three 3-pointers came at key times – right before halftime for a 28-13 lead, another that stopped a mini-run by Portland early in the third quarter, and a third 3-pointer off great ball movement to give Thornton a 45-31 lead with 4:37 to play.

“When I’m open I have to shoot it. I have to take those shots,” Shaw said.

McCrum scored 14 points and was pivotal in beating Portland’s full-court press by consistently working through picks and double teams to receive inbounds passes and then get the ball over midcourt.

“Katie can beat a press all by herself,” Shaw said. “What I really like seeing is that she’s been really aggressive these first six games going to the hoop.”

It was Thornton’s fifth straight win.

“We said we wanted to be 4-2 after these first six games and we’re 5-1, so we’re doing better than we expected,” Shaw said.

Portland (5-1) had no problem getting second and third shots against the taller Thornton front line, but making those shots proved difficult.

“We made 21 percent from 2-point range and 15 percent of our 3-point shots. You’re not going to win games like that,” Portland Coach Jan Veinot said. “I think they tried to force it.”

Cierra Burnham and Brianna Holdren each scored seven points for the Bulldogs.

Portland also tried to force its defensive pressure a bit too much, resulting in Thornton shooting one-and-ones from the line less than five minutes into the game. That helped the Trojans overcome their own spotty shooting in the first quarter (2 of 9) and take an 11-8 lead.

Consecutive drives to the basket by McCrum — one down the lane, the other along the baseline — increased the lead to 15-8.

A few minutes later, McCrum set up Shaw for one of TA’s few transition baskets after a steal by Isabelle Robinson. The Trojans closed the half on a 7-0 run, capped by Shaw’s trifecta after a hard push up the court by Hannah Murphy.

“That’s all adrenaline. I’m either going to air-ball it or make it,” Shaw laughed. “I think that did send us into halftime with a huge boost of momentum.”

TA also received strong games from Abigail Strickland and Ashley Howe, who helped clog the lane defensively and make life difficult for Burnham, Holdren and Elizabeth Donato (five points).

Portland was limited in the first half by a combination of foul problems and injury at the point guard slot.

Starter Mariana Angelo picked up three quick fouls. Freshman Abi Ramirez ran into a pick set by 6-foot-1 Lauren Leskowsky and was not allowed back into the game because of a probable concussion.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: [email protected]Twitter: SteveCCraig

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