GORHAM — After splitting two down-to-the wire games with Sanford in the regular season, Gorham High forward Grant Nadeau said he knew what to expect when the Spartans visited for Wednesday’s AA South boys’ basketball quarterfinal.

“A rock fight,” Nadeau said.

No. 4 Gorham (11-8) had just enough in the frantic but mostly offensively futile final minutes to pull out a 48-45 win against No. 5 Sanford (7-12). During the season, Gorham won 61-55 in overtime at Sanford, then lost at home to Sanford, 69-68.

Gorham will play No. 1 and unbeaten South Portland (19-0) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday’s in a semifinal at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. It will be Gorham’s first trip to a regional semifinal since Maine added the AA class in 2016.

“This is exciting because it’s definitely a new experience. It will be the first time at the Civic Center (Cross Insurance Arena),” Nadeau said.

Jordan Bretton and Nadeau missed the first free throw in one-and-one situations with 27 and 23 seconds to play. But Nick Strout came up with a key steal underneath Sanford’s basket and that led Nadeau going back to the line for a second try. This time he made both with 7.7 seconds to play.

“I just knew if I took my time, stayed confident and focused I could hit them,” Nadeau said.

Sanford’s Xavier Levine dribbled through traffic to the top of the key. His under control 3-pointer caromed off, with Nadeau tracking down the final rebound.

“Honestly I think we got the looks. There was one possession where we had three or four offensive rebounds and we got three or four open looks and they just didn’t fall,” Sanford first-year coach Jacob Mills said. “Even that last shot there I thought it was going in. The shots just didn’t fall for us.”

Strout led Gorham with 14 points, 10 in the second half, and Nadeau had nine. Bode Meader added 10.

For Sanford senior Leyton Bickford it was a bittersweet night. The University of Maine commit scored his 1,000th career point early in the second half to tie the game at 26, but down the stretch he was called for a traveling on what is clearly a well-practiced spin move and then an offensive foul. He finished with 13 points. Levine scored 12.

“It’s not fun to have it be my final game,” Bickford said. “I’d love to move on. It’s great that I got the 1,000th, but I’d rather move on honestly.”

Sanford led by one after the first and third quarters. Gorham had a one-point lead at the half.  Sanford appeared ready to pull away a couple of times, especially during an 8-0 run that included six points by Bickford, including his 1,000th, to take a 30-26 lead. But Gorham, which was 7 of 23 overall on 3-point attempts, made three straight 3-pointers, the first from Mason Laskey and then two from Strout.

Overall, there were 14 lead changes. The 13th came on Bickford’s final basket for a 45-44 lead with about 2:30 to play. After a Gorham timeout, the Rams freed Meader behind the defense for a layup on the inbound play. It was the game’s final basket.

“We were hoping that this one would be a little easier but that was just not meant to be,” Gorham coach Mark Karter said. “They’re very good. Very athletic. Very talented. We played well enough to get away with a victory.”

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