Thornton Academy Coach Bob Davies speaks to his team during a timeout in the Trojans’ Class AA South semifinal win against Bonny Eagle at Cross Insurance Arena on Wednesday night. Glenn Jordan photo

The semifinal test came early for South Portland and late for Thornton Academy on Wednesday evening at Cross Insurance Arena.

Each passed with aplomb, meaning they have a date in the Class AA South boys’ basketball final Saturday night.

During the regular season, the second-seeded Golden Trojans (17-3) came closest to spoiling South Portland’s perfect record, falling in overtime early in January. They met again in Saco later in the month, and on that occasion South Portland (20-0) didn’t need a Cade Carr 3-pointer at the end of regulation. Instead, the Red Riots won by 10.

“We really believe that we split with them this year,” South Portland Coach Kevin Millington said after his team finally pulled away Wednesday night from a pesky Gorham squad for a 51-37 win. “We kind of stole the first game. They outplayed us, but we caught a break at the end.

“We outplayed them the second game, so this is a grudge match.”

Tipoff on Saturday is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

The Golden Trojans are trying to return to the state final for the first time since winning the school’s only title in 2009. Earlier Wednesday night, they raced to a 23-point lead against No. 3 Bonny Eagle, only to see the Scots pull within four early in the fourth quarter.

“We did a good job of keeping the lead, of making free throws down the stretch at the end of the game,” said Thornton junior guard Payton Jones, who scored 23 points before fouling out. “No matter what happened, energy was always good and positive.”

Bonny Eagle ended Thornton’s season in last year’s regional final, so the Trojans were happy to return the favor. Center Dylan Griffin led Thornton with 27 points, a total that included four free throws in the final minute, after the Scots had cut the margin to five.

Bonny Eagle’s Zach Maturo finished with 29 points. Nate Ferris chipped in with 17 and Jacob Humphrey added 16.

It was enough to fuel a comeback, but not enough to overcome a deep Thornton team.

“TA has good players all over the floor, so it’ll be a good matchup,” said Gorham Coach Mark Karter, whose fourth-seeded Rams led South Portland 8-6 after one quarter and 18-16 until Owen Maloney drained a 3-pointer just before intermission to put the Red Riots ahead for good.

In a testament to South Portland’s depth, Maloney’s 11 points represented the team’s high-water mark. Gerik Bialorucki and Pamba Pamba each had nine. Ryan Boles scored seven, Geremi Baez had six and Cade Carr five. It’s the whack-a-mole theory of offense.

“I think that’s how you win games,” Karter said. “Not by having somebody getting 24 and nobody else scoring.”

Millington is not figuring on a blowout Saturday.

“They are really, really good,” he said of the Trojans. “Payton Jones is the best player in the state, in my opinion, and the big kid (Griffin) is tremendous. They have length, and they have shooters, and they have an incredible coaching staff with a lot of experience.”

“I certainly think that those are the two best teams,” Gorham’s Karter said. “It should be a fun one to watch.”

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