When Thornton Academy built a nine-point halftime lead and maintained it midway through the third quarter of the Class AA South boys’ basketball final, the Trojans had figured out a way to handle South Portland’s pressure.

But the Red Riots figured out a way to come back.

South Portland rallied to tie the game, then pulled away in overtime for a 71-61 win Friday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

The top-seeded Red Riots upped their defensive effort and hit clutch shots in the end.

“We weren’t rotating as well as we do,” South Portland Coach Kevin Millington said of his defense early on. “But, really, Thornton’s great … We just had to grind. That’s all.

“They’re warriors, these guys. Been that way all year.”

South Portland (17-3) will play Portland in the state championship game for the second straight year, at 9 p.m. next Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Ansel Stilley led South Portland with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Ruay Bol – the Vinall Trophy winner as the tournament’s top player – scored 18 points and Riley Hasson added 17, eight of them in overtime.

Hasson made the big play in regulation, with 1:27 left and South Portland down 58-55. He drove, spun and hit a turnaround jump shot while being fouled, and his free throw tied the game.

“Things like that, I kind of throw it up in practice, kind of as a joke,” Hasson said of the jumper. “I put it up and it went in.”

David Keohan scored 21 points for second-seeded Thornton (17-3), including seven in the first quarter.

South Portland beat Thornton during the season with a lot of pressure. The Trojans were ready this time, working the ball up for layups.

“They pressed and we handled their press,” Trojans Coach Bob Davies said.

Thornton took a 30-21 halftime lead, shooting 48 percent.

South Portland went back to a half-court defense in the second half, but Thornton guard Austin Boudreau (17 points) hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter. He didn’t score after that, as South Portland put Liam Coyne on him and made sure he had help.

The Red Riots finished the third quarter with an 11-2 run to close within 46-45. Stilley, at 6-foot-2, was huge underneath, grabbing eight rebounds in the second half.

“(Thornton) was hurting us inside and we needed that,” Millington said.

The game went back and forth in the fourth quarter. The Trojans had their chances but missed their last three free throws – including two after Hasson’s tying three-point play.

Thornton got into foul trouble. Guard Evan Christensen fouled out at the end of regulation and Keohan fouled out in overtime.

In overtime, the Red Riots went right to Hasson and he sank a 3-pointer for a 61-58 lead. Keohan made a layup but Stilley answered with a putback. Then the Trojans turned the ball over when Hasson drew a charging foul, and Hasson drove in for a layup at the other end.

“With that kid, he’s such a winner,” Millington said. “He might not be the best shooter in the world, but if you got one shot to make that’s important, he’s going to make it every time. He loves the moment.”

Moses Oreste added six points and seven rebounds, and Edward Buckley had seven points.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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