The Windham Eagles had, even as time evaporated, a chance to pull ahead, a chance to come from behind Friday night. Tenacious, they chewed through a deficit that in the late third stretched to 14 and in the early fourth still intimidated at nine. But Gorham’s Nick Thibeault said no way, punched a two to retake the lead and hashed a pair of free-throws to secure a 45-41 Rams W with the clock nearing zero.

“Give Windham credit,” Gorham head coach Mark Karter said. “They’re very well coached. They came back and played hard. We’re just happy we could eke this one out at the end.”

The homecourt triumph pushes Gorham to 8-8 on the year; they’re ranked seventh in A West, just behind Sanford. Windham slips to 6-10, and lingers in A West’s 11th slot, sandwiched between another pair of rivals, South Portland and Scarborough. Twelve teams make the playoffs.

Neither team’s aim seemed on all night. The first quarter progressed slowly: low-scoring and back-and-forth, it finished with Thibeault winking at the future, draining a three near the buzzer to edge his squad ahead 9-6. He combined with Sam Kilborn to make it 12-6 at the start of the second, and quickly propelled the Rams to an 18-8 advantage midway through.

Eagle Ryan Gorman’s pair of Q2 baskets – a three and a follow-up two – then slashed Windham’s shortfall in half, but Kilborn arranged from the line for the scoreboard to read 20-13 going into the break.

The teams seesawed some more to begin the third, before Kilborn and teammate Cody Elliot swelled Gorham’s lead to 34-20. The latter turned a particularly crowd-pleasing play when he jumped between an Eagles’ inbounds-pass and its would-be receiver, raced away with the ball and converted for two.

But though the Rams appeared solidly in control, Windham begged to differ. They opened the final eight minutes with a quick succession of buckets: a Kevin Weisser three, a Troy Davis three and a Gorman two. Suddenly, both teams found the game much tighter, at 34-30.

“We need to do a much better job down the stretch kind of taking care of the ball,” Karter said. “We had a chance to kind of stretch it out in the third quarter.”

Soon, Weisser and Gorman assembled another run, a seven-pointer, to shave all but one off the Rams’ advantage, 40-39. Weisser then drew a foul; he stepped to the line with an opportunity to put the Eagles atop the scoreboard – but went one for two. 40 all.

Well inside the final minute, Thibeault leapt back into the spotlight, simultaneously punching a two and drawing a foul. He missed the ensuing free-throw, however, and with 27.4 seconds to play, Windham called time-out.

42-40.

Time-in, and Windham whipped off a three-point attempt ASAP, but it failed to fall and Elliot picked up the rebound for Gorham. Fouled to stop the clock, he landed at the line, going one-for-two and putting the Rams out front, at 43-40, by more than a quick lay-up or easy inside-jumper.

Davis, though, gained back a point of ground for the Eagles, also from the line. Seconds to play, maybe 10 seconds, and Windham needed to come up with possession, somehow. They could not, however; instead the ball whirled into Thibeault’s capable fingers. The Eagles fouled.

Thibeault could seal it, the oft-sought, hard-fought rivals-victory. He stepped to the line, dropped in his first free, giving Gorham a 44-41 lead. Should he sink his second as well, his squad would seize a two-possession advantage. With less than three seconds to play, two possessions is victory.

He sank it.

Karter had praise for several of his players. “I thought Thibeault played well; I thought Corey Nadeau did a nice job, and we’ve got some size inside with Sam Kilborn. I thought our defense was pretty good; we just struggled a little bit offensively.”

“We did a lot of the things we wanted to do, we just didn’t make shots.”

Thibeault finished with 15, as did Kilborn. Nadeau netted eight and Elliot seven. Gorman had 13 for Windham and Weisser 10.

Windham travels to Bonny Eagle on Friday the 7th for 7 p.m. Gorham hosts Westbrook at 7 p.m. on the 7th.

Gorham’s Sam Kilborn and Windham’s Greg Gledhill vie at the opening tip-off of their teams’ Friday night matchup at Gorham. The Rams won a nailbitten victory, 45-41.Ram Tyler Bernaiche plays keep-away with determined Eagle Troy Davis.Billy Ruby scoots upcourt on offense for the Rams at home Friday night.Six-foot-6 Gorham tower Nick Thibeault releases a jumper. Thibeault later gave his team a two-possession lead from the line in the final seconds, essentially sealing their victory.Eagle CJ Berthiaume eyeballs a falling free-throw in Windham’s Friday-night bout at Gorham.Windham’s Ryan Gorman looks to circumvent defending Ram Cody Elliot.Windham and Gorham basketball action.Kevin Weisser ties it up.Nick Thibeault scores deal-sealing free-throws.


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