SACO — The Thornton Academy student section was doing its part at Linnell Gymnasium, getting loud in hopes that Portland’s Jeissey Khamis would brick the front end of a one-and-one and give the Golden Trojans the chance to complete a comeback win and remain unbeaten.

“I took my time and shot free throws. Just block out the noise,” Khamis said.

Khamis’ first attempt went smoothly through the net, as did his second, giving Portland a four-point lead with 14.3 seconds to play. Then Khamis secured the defensive rebound and was fouled again with a second to play. He made two more free throws for good measure as the Bulldogs handed Thornton its first loss, 57-51, on Tuesday night.

Thornton (8-1 in Class AA South) had averaged 71.5 points per game coming into the contest. Portland, now 8-2 in AA North, won for the eighth time in nine games.

Remijo Wani led Portland with 20 points. Pitia Donato (11 points), Khamis (10), and Pepito Girumugisha (9) all contributed at different points.

Wani scored 12 points in the second quarter, 15 in the first half as he made all three of his 3-point attempts. As a team, Portland made 5-of-10 3-pointers and rolled to a 34-22 halftime lead. Thornton, despite getting several good looks from behind the arc in transition made only 3 of its 16 first-half 3-pointers.


Thornton was able to cut into Portland’s lead quickly in the third quarter as high-scorer Will Davies (22 points) ignited the crowd with a bucket over Donato in the paint, a 3-pointer and then an assist that set up Braden Camire for a three-point play in transition.

But as would happen repeatedly, Portland found a way to answer and keep Thornton at bay. Donato secured an offensive rebound and put in a bucket. Wani hit a 3-pointer just before the third quarter ended.

Then in the fourth quarter, when Thornton twice created a single-possession game, it was Khamis and then Wani who scored out of timeouts by going to the basket.

“Jeissey’s hoop, a layup, gave us that lead (five-point) lead again so the kids hung in there,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo. “They made some mistakes but they made up for it.”

Wani’s bucket with under a minute came on the heels of a tough three-point play by Davies that had cut the lead to 51-49.

“That play is designed to kind of isolate the top of the key. (Coach Joe Russo) called my number and I was the guy to hit the shot,” Wani said.


Thornton sophomores Wyatt Benoit (nine points) and Trey Eldred (12 points) scored seven and four points, respectively, in the fourth quarter as Portland worked hard to slow Davies with constant double-teaming.

“We missed some open looks early but that’s a good team that plays hard all the time and it was a battle,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies. “We won the second half. The first half they kicked our rear end.”

The flow of the game, from Portland’s perspective, was similar to its 48-47 loss to AA North leader Oxford Hills. In the home loss to the Vikings, Portland also shot well in the first half, built a lead but was done in by being loose with the ball and committing too many turnovers. Against Thornton, Portland again struggled with its shooting in the second half (1 of 7 on 3-point attempts) but had just one fourth-quarter turnover.

“I could see it in their eyes at the end, the way they were going to the ball, moving to the ball that we’re getting better at handling the ball and protecting the ball in close games,” Russo said.

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