SOUTH PORTLAND — After a frustrating first half that featured too many turnovers and missed shots, the South Portland Red Riots tried a different approach against Thornton Academy in the second half of a Class AA South boys’ basketball game Saturday afternoon at Beal Gymnasium.

The Red Riots forced a quicker pace, and that resulted in a bevy of easy hoops and a comeback victory. South Portland erased a 33-24 halftime deficit with a 27-point third quarter, led by Gabe Galarraga and Manny Hidalgo, and went on to a 70-62 win.

Galarraga and Hidalgo combined for 25 points in the third quarter. Hidalgo finished with 24 points, Galarraga added 22, and the Red Riots improved to 6-8 with their sixth victory in nine games.

“We’re not a pressing team that can generate a lot of steals, but we wanted to speed the game up to get Manny and Gabe in space so they could score some points,” said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington.

The Golden Trojans (4-11) controlled the first half behind nine points from Wyatt Benoit and seven from Robert Eldred, but a 23-8 run by the Red Riots in the third quarter turned the game around.

“(South Portland) sped us up, and if anybody is ever going to have success in this game, you have to be fundamentally sound at a high rate of speed, and we weren’t,” said Mike Nelson, Thornton Academy’s first-year coach. “Our shot selection when they sped us up is what got us beat.”


Galarraga and Hidalgo scored right out of the break to spark the run. A Galarraga 3-pointer midway through the quarter gave the Red Riots their first lead, 41-40.

After Benoit put the Golden Trojans back in front with a basket, another Galarraga 3 gave South Portland the lead for good.

“We started making shots,” said Galarraga, a key contributor to each of the Red Riots’ past two Class AA state championship teams. “I had a really slow start to the game, but Manny got our offense going, and we played more as a team and made the easy ones.”

Hidalgo sank a long 3-pointer and a floater to make it 51-46 heading to the fourth quarter.

“Here and there, I was feeling it, and when I feel it, I’m going to shoot it,” said Hidalgo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists. “Speeding them up in the second half helped because they were out of control.”

South Portland led by as many as nine points, 61-52, in the fourth quarter before Thornton crept within four on a three-point play from Eldred with 47 seconds left.


Hidalgo then put it away at the line with four free throws.

“I think we’re close,” said Millington. “I think we can make some noise if breaks go our way.”

Benoit paced the Golden Trojans with 20 points, while Eldred finished with 15.

“It’s unbelievable how there’s no quit in those guys, which is a compliment to them,” Nelson said.

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