SACO — There is no easy way to defend the Thornton Academy girls’ basketball team.

“They have four players who can score,” said South Portland Coach Lynne Hasson. “Each night, you look at their box score and they’ve got two or three different kids up there scoring. They’re tough.”

Wednesday night, it was Jess Dow and Mikenzie Melendez leading the way for the Trojans. Dow scored 22 points and Melendez had 13, including a half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first half, as third-seeded Thornton Academy held off sixth-seeded South Portland, 53-46, in a Class AA South quarterfinal at Linnell Gymnasium.

Dow scored 16 points in the second half, including 7 of 8 foul shots in the fourth, as the Trojans broke away from a 20-20 halftime tie.

The Trojans (14-5) will play second-seeded Scarborough at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at Cross Insurance Arena.

“This feels great,” said Melendez, a senior guard. “I’ve been wanting to do it since my freshman year. We’ve got (knocked) out by SoPo every single year we had playoffs. Finally beat them.”


South Portland finished 5-14.

Thornton turned this game around with its defense – a trapping zone in the third quarter that resulted in 12 South Portland turnovers in the second half after just five in the first and pushed the tempo in its favor.

“I do think we played a good game,” said Hasson. “But for a short period of time in the third, we let the game get away from us and we couldn’t come back.”

Dow also took over in the second half. At halftime, Thornton Coach Eric Marston told her she needed to drive inside, so she did. And if she wasn’t scoring, she was making assists (four) or blocking shots (two).

“You know from watching other sports, she’s an absolute gamer,” said Marston. “When the team needs a bucket, she’s there.”

It was 22-22 after South Portland’s Ruth Boles (15 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) scored inside early in the third. Then Thornton went on a 10-o run. Dow scored the first seven and set up Melendez for a 3-pointer that made it 32-22 with 3:51 left in the third.


After Boles scored again, Melendez hit another 3 and Dow scored inside again. It was 39-25 entering the fourth.

Thornton built the lead to 15 before the Red Riots pulled within six behind some clutch 3-point shooting by Neveah Bello (11 points) and Emma Travis (nine). But Dow kept hitting her foul shots to keep the Trojans ahead.

“Even in practice, I take my foul shots seriously,” said Dow. “And I know when it comes to these, that’s all that counts.”

Dow said the Trojans weren’t worried about a slow first half.

“We all believe in each other,” she said, noting that Melendez’s half-court shot was a spark the team needed.

With just over two seconds remaining in the half, Melendez took a couple of dribbles and heaved the ball from about midcourt. The ball hit the backboard, then rattled off the rim and rolled – in seemingly slow motion – going around the rim twice before dropping in to tie it 20-20.

“I was stunned,” said Melendez. “I don’t know how that went in.”

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