PAT MCDONALD/Journal Tribune Thornton Academy point guard Jack Tilley goes up for a shot as Massabesic’s Dan Amabile defends during Thursday night’s game in Saco. TA picked up a hard-fought 63-61 win.

PAT MCDONALD/Journal Tribune Thornton Academy point guard Jack Tilley goes up for a shot as Massabesic’s Dan Amabile defends during Thursday night’s game in Saco. TA picked up a hard-fought 63-61 win.

SACO — For the second time this week, the Thornton Academy boys basketball team welcomed one of the top teams in Class AA South to Saco as the Massabesic Mustangs came to town on Thursday night.

On Tuesday, the Golden Trojans dropped a heartbreaker to an undefeated Deering team. This time around, the home crowd would go away happy as the TA boys picked up a wild 63-61 win over the Mustangs in front of a packed house.

Thornton Academy’s David Keohan puts up a shot over Massabesic’s Josh Daigle during Thursday night’s game.

Thornton Academy’s David Keohan puts up a shot over Massabesic’s Josh Daigle during Thursday night’s game.

“I’m very proud of this team. They compete the whole time and that’s important. It’s good to get a win and it’s fun basketball,” said TA coach Bob Davies.

The Trojans seemed to be in control early as they took a 19-12 lead after the opening quarter and led 33-26 heading into the halftime break.

Ben Lambert and John Fogg scored eight points apiece in the opening half to help the Trojans take the early lead.

Massabesic coach Chris Binette was not happy with his team’s first-half performance, which included several self-inflicted wounds.

“We started out the game with some turnovers, unforced turnovers, and we just can’t do that. We were literally killing ourselves,” said Binette. “When we were in our offensive set, we executed, but you can’t have unforced turnovers and in the first half it killed us.”

The Mustangs would turn it around in the third quarter as they used full-court pressure and several transition scores to outscore the Trojans 22-11 in the period.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Mustangs held a 48-44 lead, and Davies had a simple message for his squad.

“Just to play defense … play defense and rebound it well. It’s a four quarter game and they know it,” said Davies.

Massabesic (9-2) would hold a slim lead until the 2:29 mark of the fourth when TA point guard Jack Tilley got a pass off a steal and scored on a fast break to put the Trojans back on top 56-55.

The Trojans (10-1) would eventually go up four – at 59-55 – when Corey Hart made one-of-two at the line with 1:22 left, but the Mustangs would not go away.

Dan Amabile cut the TA lead to two with a layup with under a minute on the clock.

With time winding down, the Mustangs had to put the Trojans on the line and Tilley would make one-of-two from the charity stripe with 37 seconds left to make it a threepoint game.

After the Mustangs missed a possible game-tying 3-pointer, Lambert would head to the line and nail both to make it a seemingly insurmountable 62-57 lead with just 15 ticks left.

Once again, the Mustangs would not back down.

This time it would be Ryan Gullikson stepping up as he nailed a 3-pointer and was fouled with just over seven seconds left. Gullikson would add the foul shot to cut the TA lead to one.

Hart would once again be sent to the line and the TA standout made one to make it a two-point contest with 6.7 seconds left.

Massabesic’s last-second 3-pointer would go wide and the Trojans collected the rebound and the victory.

“They are a great team and we struggled with their ball screen up top a little bit. Down the stretch, we made one minor adjustment and we were lucky they missed a shot,” said Davies, who thought his team hit the boards a lot better late in the game. “We rebounded the ball down the stretch a lot better than we did at the end of the third quarter and in the beginning of the fourth quarter. That helps because we got some transition points.”

TA was led by Tilley with 15 points. Hart finished the game with 14 points, while Lambert added 12 and David Keohan chipped in with 11.

Binette was disappointed with the loss, but the first-year coach also knows his team was right there at the end.

“To come into this environment, (which was) very loud … Thornton Academy played a very good game, they executed their game, but we had a chance to win and that’s all you can ask for in a tough environment. Give us a chance to win and we’ll take that every time. We had our chances, we didn’t execute and that’s what happens,” said Binette.

The Trojans felt the playoff-like environment helped them get the win.

“It was a great atmosphere. The crowd had us pumped from the start and we played awesome defense and awesome offense. It was great,” said Hart.

“It was unreal, it was awesome. Our fan section always does a great job coming out and we couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Tilley.

Amabile led Massabesic with 17 points, while Tyus Sprague-Ripley added 16 points and nine rebounds and Gullikson finished with 12 points.

The Mustangs, who are led by a large group of seniors, also got a big game from sophomore Isaac DesVergnes, who hit a pair of big 3-pointers in the second half.

“Isaac DesVergnes played incredible in this environment,” said Binette, who believes the sophomore has a big career ahead of him. “That’s just really special for things to come for him in the next two years. I have a lot of high hopes for him and I think that he can meet those.”

Binette believes his squad will continue to get every opponent’s best shot.

“Everyone’s bringing their A-game against us, which is a funny feeling for these guys. We are getting a lot of respect and that’s great,” said Binette.

Binette believes the Mustangs’ best basketball is yet to come.

“They are in uncharted waters and we’re trying to sail the ship, and some of us are pulling the sails one way and some of us are pulling the sails the other way,” said Binette, who took over a team that went 1-17 last year. “That’s a learning experience. We have to get the sails all in the same direction, and once we do, we’re going to be a tough team in the playoffs. I think we are going to be real tough.”

Massabesic will visit Class AA North power Deering (10-1) and TA will make the trip to South Portland (8-3) on Saturday.

Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @ JournalTsports.

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