GORHAM—The Rams and the Storm met for the third time this season in the playoff quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and they certainly didn’t look like they were gearing up to spend a romantic Valentine’s day together. Gorham hosted the meeting, but despite a quartet of double-digit performances – by Jordan Bretton, Nick Strout, Grant Nadeau and Tom Nelson – couldn’t quite wring a win from the evening: 59-54 as the Storm move onto the semis and the Rams retire till next winter.

“It just didn’t work out for us,” Gorham head coach Mark Karter said. “It was a great [No. 4 vs. No. 5] game, two evenly matched teams. It was probably a fun game to watch, but it’s a tough game to come out on the short end. It’s a tough league. Everyone, probably [No. 1 through no. 6] could win.”

“This was special,” Scarborough head coach Phil Conley said. “Gorham’s very well-coached, a very good team. To come into their house, a packed house and play like we did, I’m so proud of the kids. I credit the kids for buckling down and playing great defense.”

Stormer Nick Fiorillo led all scorers with 26 – unsurprising, as he’s easily one of Maine’s best players. Brian Austin posted the team’s second-best take, 18. Paul Kirk added eight, Alex Austin five and Tyler Gobeil two.

Both Fiorillo and Brian Austin outstripped the Rams’ top totalers, but the home team’s offense looked more diversified and more balanced: Bretton and Strout earned 11 apiece, Nadeau 10, Tom Nelson 10, Bode Meader six and Tyler Haines, Henry O’Neill and Ryan Reno two each.

The sides matched one other closely through much of the outing, trading small leads now and again: Gorham opened big on a Bretton three, but Scarborough momentarily took over on a Brian Austin free-throw and a Fiorillo three. Bretton responded with another two only for Fiorillo to knock down a three – and so the scoring went for the entire quarter. The Rams seized the advantage 10-9 on a Grant Nadeau bucket and the Storm seized it back 12-10 on a Fiorillo three-point play; Bretton pushed Gorham out front 16-14 with a pair of frees before Austin closed the quarter with a two.

“It means a lot because we started out 4-7,” Conley said of the win. “I had a good feeling coming into this game. We had a great week of practice and the kids just battled. Our practices are very intense. We push each other every day, so when we get to a game like this, we’re okay with the pressure.”

16-16 as the second got underway. Nadeau struck first, but Austin followed him up with a three-point play; the Storm then broke into a bit of a run, going up 25-20 on points by Fiorillo and Austin. Ryan Reno knocked down an inside two for the Rams to snap the streak, but after Nadeau came down with a successful defensive rebound only to totter an inch out of bounds and turn the ball over, Fiorillo nailed a three to keep his boys out front 28-22.

That’s when Nick Strout warmed up, however: Strout kicked in a pair of quick threes to usher Gorham within two at 30-28; the Rams capped the quarter with additional points to balance the board for the break: a two by Henry O’Neill and a clutch Bretton steal underneath that led to a Nadeau jumper from the paint set the score at 32-32 just before the buzzer.

Scarborough eked out a tiny lead at the start of the third, but Gorham – of course – inched back to establish their own tiny lead: Bode Meader followed a battery of crisp Rams passes with a three for the team and 37-37, and Strout pulled down another three to give them a 40-39 upper-hand. A Nadeau three-point play put them on top 43-41, another Meader three kept them there at 46-43 and a Tom Nelson two pushed the tally to 48-45.

But Gorham just couldn’t shake the Storm. Fiorillo & Co. snatched a couple more leads themselves as the fourth unfolded and the game wended toward a waning-seconds decision. Fiorillo put his boys ahead with a two for 55-54 just inside the final minute. Outstanding Scarborough defensive pressure then forced Nadeau into a desperate pass up the lane that resulted in a Gorham turnover/Storm takeaway. Tyler Haines had no choice but to foul for the Rams, stopping the clock.

“I think we put ourselves in a position to win the game late, and we had a couple shots,” Karter said, “but we just didn’t knock them down. [Scarborough’s] a really good team with a really good player and a couple guys who can knock shots down. I thought that was the difference in the game…If we made one of those shots, it might have been a different outcome, but it wasn’t to be.”

Fiorillo drained both his frees, meaning Gorham would need a three on their last possession to force OT. Meader – already with a couple threes under his belt on the night – managed to get an off-balance attempt past the Storm’s perimeter defense, but the ball sailed a bit wide of its mark. With a mere .8 seconds left to play, Gobeil went to the line and sealed things up 59-54 with two last frees.

“We had some guys really step up,” Conley said. “Tyler and [Nick], two seniors, when we needed their foul shots, they made them…I believe Nick’s the top player in the SMAA and he showed it tonight.”

Key in such a close bout: Scarborough committed nine turnovers, while Gorham committed 12. The Rams also sent the Storm to the line far more frequently than the Storm returned the favor. While Gorham went four-of-five on frees, Scarborough went 14-of-17.

“The guys did a great job all year,” Karter said. “I thought we took a lot of steps forward, but we couldn’t take that one more today. Tyler has been a great player for us; Thomas Nelson came in and did a great job for us and gave us great minutes. The seniors played hard and came all the way up through the system. These kids work hard, so hopefully we’ll go back to the drawing board. This one’s going to sting for a while though.”

Gorham, which entered the tournament ranked fourth in AA South, finishes 11-8. Scarborough moves on to face No. 1 Thornton Academy (15-4).

The Forecaster’s Mike Hoffer contributed to this story.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Tyler Haines – looking for a pass option – leans away from a Scarborough opponent.

Jordan Bretton fires off an inside fadeaway jumper.

Grant Nadeau attempts a two.

Tom Nelson volleys up a two.

Nick Strout pulls the trigger on an outside jumper.

Jordan Bretton drives inward, attacking for Gorham.

Ryan Reno throws a shot up toward the basket.

Bode Meader looks for a route around a Scarborough defender.