SACO — Bangor High’s Damien Vance knew Thornton Academy would focus on stopping Matt Fleming with the score tied and the game clock under 45 seconds.

So Vance found a spot in the left corner, his teammates got him the ball, and his 3-pointer was true with 37 seconds to play, paving the way for a 53-49 win over previously unbeaten Thornton.

“Everyone knows that Matt is one of the top players in the state, so everyone we’ve played against double-teams him and we always focus on the kicks. We just have to be ready to shoot and knock them down,” said Vance, who made four 3s and scored a game-high 18 points.

Vance sewed up the win by making both two throws with 6.8 seconds left.

Bangor (7-1), ranked No. 1 in Class AA North, bounced back from a loss at Oxford Hills. After hitting just 4 of their first 21 3-point shots, the Rams made five of their final six.

“We left some shooters open and they clawed back, and we’ve got to be able to finish the game,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies.

Thornton (5-1) entered as the No. 3 team in the Class AA South Heal point standings, despite being the only undefeated team. The Golden Trojans led 24-14 in the first half, aided by points inside from starting forwards Robert Gawronski and Will Chapman and burly 6-foot-4 sophomore reserve Dylan Griffin. Each finished with eight points, and combined for 16 in the first half.

Each team had a series of short runs in the third quarter, capitalizing on steals and second chances.

When Thornton scored seven straight, capped by a 3-pointer from Payton Jones (15 points), it led 37-29 and appeared ready to weather the Rams’ comeback bid.

That’s when Bangor’s Henry Westrich got loose for some slightly more open looks and scored all 13 of his points in less than five minutes. His 3-pointer from the right corner 30 seconds into the fourth quarter tied the game at 39, and a 3 from the opposite corner put Bangor ahead 43-40.

“That’s what’s great about this team,” said Bangor Coach Brad Libby. “It’s a different guy every night, so Henry stepped up tonight.”

Bangor didn’t trail again, though a pair of Jones layups tied the game at 48 with 1:07 to play. The first came when he poked the ball away for a steal and finished in transition. The second layup was also in transition after Kobe Gaudette started a fast break with a tough defensive rebound and quick outlet pass to Jones.

The 6-foot Gaudette used quickness and tenacity to hold the Fleming (6-6), who has signed a national letter of intent to play for Army, to 13 points.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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