Top-seeded South Portland started fast in the first quarter, closed strong at the end of the third and cruised home in the fourth for a 56-39 win against rival Thornton Academy in a Class AA South boys’ basketball final Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was a rematch of the 2020 regional final won by Thornton in overtime. Plus, second-seeded Thornton had beaten South Portland in one of two regular-season meetings.

“I think most people knew this was the game everyone was looking forward to, most people had it circled in their calendar,” said South Portland senior Owen Maloney. “We left two years ago with a pit in our stomach and we knew we didn’t want that feeling again, and we played all 32 minutes today.”

South Portland (20-1) will play North champion Oxford Hills in the state final at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the CIA. Oxford Hills knocked off North No. 1 and 2020 state champion Edward Little, 48-47, in overtime. Maine did not hold postseason tournaments in 2021.

South Portland last won a state title in 1992 in Class A. Since the creation of Class AA prior to the 2015-16 season, the Red Riots have been constant factors in the largest-school league. They lost the first two state championship games to Portland in 2016 and 2017 and lost in the regional final in 2018 and 2020.

“We’re aware of the history, but we’re also aware of the recent history,” said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington. “We’ve gone twice and we’ve been in a lot of regional finals and we’ve sat and watched other teams collect trophies.”


Unlike the regular-season games when Thornton got the quick jump, South Portland gained early control, shutting out Thornton in the first quarter while building an 11-0 lead. Thornton rallied in the second quarter behind 13 points from William Davies, who scored on a variety of shots near the basket and went 5 for 5 at the free throw line, to cut the lead to 25-20 at the half.

“Will Davies is so good and we were just trying to keep him out of the paint,” Millington said. “He got in the paint in the second quarter, and I thought we did a little better job in the third quarter.”

The margin was still five points until South Portland closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run – punctuated by back-to-back 3-pointers from Maloney and Jaelen Jackson – to take a 43-26 lead into the fourth quarter. Maloney’s basket came after a crisp cross-court pass from 6-foot-10 center JP Estrella. Jackson’s was a deep pull-up in transition.

“I’ve been talking to (Millington) all year and he likes that shot when it’s a dagger and we’re on a run, so I think it was a good time to take it and I ended up knocking it down,” Jackson said.

Jackson finished with a game-high 17 points – 15 in the second half after picking up three fouls in the first half. Estrella, named the regional tournament’s outstanding player, had 13 points and Maloney scored 12.

“It feels good to get this one out of the way, but now we have a tough one against Oxford Hills,” Estrella said. “It’s going to be a dogfight. It’s going to be a great game and we’re all pumped for it already.”


Gabe Galarraga added eight points for South Portland, and his 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter maxed the lead at 48-28.

Thornton ran off eight straight points to cut the lead to 12 with about four minutes to play before Jackson scored six straight.

Davies, the son of Thornton Coach Bob Davies, led Thornton with 15 points. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

“We were just sitting him down and giving him a break. There was no specific reason,” Bob Davies said. “We were going to give him a couple minute break, and then when it got out of hand, you gotta let other kids play.”

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