SCARBOROUGH — In the last five years, coach Ryan Hersey and the Thornton Academy boys lacrosse team had met Scarborough on eight occasions, including three times in the playoffs. And all nine had gone exactly the same way ”“ the Red Storm scored first, and went on to win.

But on Saturday, the Golden Trojans got that first goal. Then, they put on an onslaught.

Behind a quick-breaking transition game and a stifling zone defense in front of goalie Jack Grondin, Thornton put together a nearly perfect game from start to finish, scoring the opening seven goals and never looking back as they ended Scarborough’s four-year state title reign with a convincing 13-4 victory in a Western Class A semifinal at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex.

It was the first win in program history for the third-seeded Trojans (11-3) over the second-seeded Red Storm, who had entered as the seemingly in-form team in the conference after thrashing previously unbeaten South Portland 14-8 in their regular-season finale.

But Thornton, which had lost to Scarborough 7-6 in double overtime during the regular season, put all the demons to rest in one fell swoop and will now face that top-ranked South Portland side in the regional final Wednesday night.

“Without a doubt this was our best overall performance in five years,” Hersey said. “We’d never scored first against them. That got us to believe a little more. It just kept on going.”

“It feels good to finally walk off here with a win,” said defenseman Dan Giroux, a four-year starter. “It’s great to know that we finally flipped the tables and beat up on them, because normally it’s the other way around. Once we got rolling, it kind of felt easy.”

Giroux and his fellow close defenseman Chase Conklin and Tyler LaPointe put up a wall in front of Grondin, who made 19 saves, many of them on long-range efforts as Scarborough found no room inside the Trojans’ tight zone.

That was especially the case in the crucial first quarter, when normally quick-starting Scarborough turned the ball over nine times.

“I just think the whole team came out and executed great,” Grondin said. “The defense forced them to take bad shots, and I’m thankful for that.”

“They played excellent,” Hersey said of his defense. “They were all over their hands, getting to them before they could get their arms out and get a shot. They had to hurry things, and that made a lot of their shots go off by just six inches, and that’s all we needed.”

Thornton got things rolling early, scoring first after 5:33 thanks to the kind of quick-strike transition move that Hersey said separated this year’s Trojans teams from those of the past.

After a Scarborough turnover, Ian Carrier picked up the ball and ran at the Storm cage, finding Isaac Sinclair wide open in front for an easy finish. It was only the first goal, but from a psychological standpoint, it may have been the most important of the day.

“I don’t know how the game would have gone if they’d gotten the first goal to be honest,” Thornton attackman Cody Falton said. “It could have been completely different. They’ve always scored first, and we’ve gotten down on ourselves. Today, getting that first goal really got us in a rhythm and it snowballed.”

The Trojans then got separation thanks to three goals in a span of 1:32. Zach Bryant started the run with a pair of goals, the first a backhander from close range after a pass from Charles Katz, then off a feed from Falton to finish off another fast break.

After a Scarborough penalty, Falton got in on the scoring act, finishing from the left of Storm goalie Jordan Flannery to make it 4-0 after a quarter.

Things only got worse for Scarborough as freshman Sam Neugebauer was given a three-minute non-releasable penalty to start the second period for an illegal stick, with Falton scoring twice on the man-up.

Carrier upped the advantage to 7-0 with 5:30 left in the half as he rolled around the cage and finished between the legs of Flannery. Andrew Farrington ended Scarborough’s 19:26 scoring drought as he finally found a way past Grondin, but that was the closest the Storm would get before halftime.

“What we tried to do is reset every quarter, and we won every quarter,” Hersey said. “That’s what we had to do, just play 12 minutes at a time.”

Thornton then put any comeback hopes to rest with the opening three goals after the break. C.J. Michaud made it 7-0, and Falton fed Sinclair before finishing off yet another transition move himself to increase the lead to 10-1 with 3:26 left in the third.

Christian Neelon got one back for Scarborough off the next faceoff. But Giroux then put the icing on the Trojans’ collective cake, picking up a loose ground ball and making a rare foray into the offensive zone, where he scored his first goal of the year with a bounce shot from 20 yards out to make it 11-2 heading into the fourth.

“Usually we have a five- or six-minute stretch where we’re kind of lackadaisical and things go wrong,” Giroux said. “Today, that didn’t happen. We just kind of dominated the entire time.”

Grondin made 14 of his saves in the second half ”“ including robbing Farrington from point-blank range late in the third quarter on one of Scarborough’s few chances in close ”“ to keep the game well out of Scarborough’s reach.

“He was a stone wall,” Falton said of Grondin. “Our defense was forcing them into some bad shots and Jack was letting none of them by. It was absolutely great defense, and Jack just kind of topped them off.”

Thornton’s attention will now turn to South Portland (12-1), which blew out Gorham 16-3 in Saturday’s other semifinal.

The Trojans have already visited South Portland once this season on May 13, falling 12-6. But now, they’ve shown that previous results, be it from this season, five years ago or any time in the past, mean little come the playoffs.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Grondin said. “The first game means nothing. It’s a whole new game for playoffs.”

— Staff Writer Cameron Dunbar can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]

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