Austin Brown got his Edward Little team going in the second half with a trio of 3-pointers. Then the senior guard produced the winning points in the Class AA boys’ basketball state championship game by making a 3-pointer with 25 seconds to play.

“That’s every kid’s dream and I’m just so happy that I could do it with this group of guys,” Brown said.

Thornton Academy had three shots in the final 12 seconds that did not drop. When an under-duress 3-pointer by Costa Gikas bounced out, the Red Eddies stormed the court and piled on top of each other at center court, celebrating a 54-53 win Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

After Brown’s fifth 3-pointer, Thornton got the ball to its big man, Dylan Griffin, who scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Griffin missed a tough shot on a move to the hoop, then couldn’t convert a tip-in. The ball went out of bounds, off Edward Little, with 7.5 seconds to play.

With Thornton’s top threats covered, top scorer Payton Jones on the bench after fouling out and the Golden Trojans out of timeouts, Kobe Gaudette inbounded the ball to Gikas, whose shot missed off the right side of the rim.

“We got a good shot. It just came up a little short,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies. “The design was actually for Jack Pyzynski, and if he wasn’t there, then Costa if he was open. Costa was open, he just came up short.”

Edward Little (20-2) won its second state title in three years, having beaten Scarborough in the 2018 final.

Thornton (18-4) was playing in its first championship game since 2009, when it defeated Edward Little.

After Edward Little took its first lead of the game with a strong close to the third quarter, the Red Eddies pushed the advantage to 47-40 early in the fourth. Thornton responded with a 9-2 run, with Griffin scoring seven points to tie the game, 49-49.

“We played basketball the way we’ve played all year long,” Davies said. “We played good defense. We rebounded the ball. We made shots.”

Colby Lands, an unsung senior, put Thornton ahead 51-49 with two free throws with 2:51 remaining. Lands scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers, helping fill the void with Jones being held to four points by a combination of Brown’s defense and foul trouble, and with Pyzynski limited to nine points.

“He’s a good shooter, he shot well for us all year,” Davies said of Lands.

Two Cam Yorke free throws tied it before Griffin put Thornton ahead for the final time with two free throws with 42 seconds to play.

Thornton led throughout the first half after Lands (eight first-quarter points) knocked down a 3-pointer on his team’s first shot.

Thornton had multiple leads of six points or more, including 15-4 early, but took just a 28-25 lead to the locker room.

“Basically in the first half, we were just trying to stay with them,” Brown said.

Edward Little closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run, capped by a long-range 3 by Max Creaser that banked in at the horn.

In the second quarter, the teams traded small runs. Thornton opened leads of six, seven and six points, aided by seven points from Gaudette, only to have EL close it back to three each time.

In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Brown made three straight 3-pointers, but Thornton responded with 3s from Pyzynski and Lands.

After Brown loosened Thornton’s defense, EL shifted gears and pounded the ball inside to John Shea, a burly 6-3 sophomore. The Red Eddies scored their final eight points of the third quarter right at the rim. A drive by Yorke off an inbounds play gave EL its first lead at 40-39, and Creaser (10 points) added a putback with three seconds to play.

“We won the battle of the paint. Austin Brown stepped up and made big shots, and we took care of the ball better,” said EL Coach Mike Adams.

“Thornton’s a great team. They kicked our butts earlier in the year (66-49 in Saco) for a reason, because they’re really, really good.”

Shea (16 points) and Griffin, a junior, are two big-bodied, skilled post players who played essentially to a draw.

“Going into the game, my only thing was I had to stop him because when we played them earlier in the season at their place, he dominated,” Shea said. “So I just had to step and do what I needed to do to help my team win this game.”

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