PORTLAND—One game after making 3-pointers at a record-threatening, jawdropping rate, Scarborough’s boys’ basketball team came crashing back to reality Saturday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena.

The second-ranked Red Storm hoped to shoot their way past top-seeded Gorham, but instead, the teams’ highly anticipated Class AA South Final turned into a defensive struggle.

Until some offense finally showed up in the second half.

But unfortunately for Scarborough, it was the Rams figuring things out and as a result, the Red Storm’s best season in six years has come to a close.

While Gorham is on the brink of its first Gold Ball in over two decades.

When senior standout Ashton Leclerc, a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist, made a late 3, the Rams enjoyed an 11-6 lead after one quarter.


But Scarborough heated up in the second period, drew even on a 3-point shot from senior Liam Jefferds, then took the lead for the first time on a layup from sophomore Carter Blanche, but a 3 from Gorham sophomore Atticus Whitten with 13 seconds remaining forged an 18-18 halftime tie.

The Rams then dominated the third quarter, 14-3, and five late points from Leclerc made it 32-21 heading to the fourth.

There, Gorham slowly pulled away and went on to a 46-33 victory, as the Rams won a regional championship for the first time since capturing the Western B title way back in 2005.

Leclerc led the way with 17 points, junior Griffin Gammon added 10 and Gorham improved to 18-2, advanced to take on Windham (18-2) in the Class AA state final next Saturday at 8:45 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena, and in the process, ended Scarborough’s fine season at 16-5.

“We just fell short tonight,” said Red Storm coach Phil Conley. “We didn’t hit the shots that we normally make and that was the difference. It was a combination of we missed some shots and (Gorham) played pretty good defense tonight against us. We didn’t get many easy looks.”

Feast to famine


Scarborough earned a program-changing upset win at Gorham in last year’s quarterfinals, which jump-started this season’s surge.

The Red Storm came into 2023-24 senior-laden and confident they could play with anyone, confidence which was borne out during a 14-4 campaign, marred only by a pair of losses to Gorham and one apiece to Sanford and Windham (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

As the No. 2 seed in Class AA South, Scarborough defeated No. 7 Bonny Eagle (73-54) in the quarterfinals, then shot lights out in a 73-55 win over No. 6 Thornton Academy in Thursday’s semifinals, a game which saw the Red Storm hit 9-of-10 3-point attempts in the first half.

Gorham, coached this winter by Ryan Deschenes, has been one of the state’s top teams from start to finish, losing only at Cheverus and at Deering.

The Rams earned a bye into the semifinals and Thursday, came alive in the second half to knock off No. 5 Deering, 61-52.

Gorham beat visiting Scarborough, 58-51, Jan. 6, then won at the Red Storm, 54-51, in the regular season finale Feb. 8. In the first meeting, senior Gabe Michaud went off for 25 points and Leclerc added 23, negating 17 points from Jefferds. In the rematch, Michaud had 26 points and Leclerc finished with 23, while Blanche (15 points) and sophomore Spencer Booth (14 points) paced Scarborough.


The teams had split six prior playoff meetings (see sidebar), with Scarborough’s 59-58 victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.

Saturday, the Red Storm just couldn’t get their offense going and the Rams took advantage.

Gorham struck first on a driving bank shot from Gammon, then Michaud set up junior Jack Karlonas for a layup.

The Red Storm’s first points came from senior Blake Harris, who banked home a floater, but Michaud countered with a contested leaner to make it 6-2.

Scarborough then got a spinner off the glass from senior Liam Garriepy and a Garriepy layup to tie the score, but the next five points went to the Rams, as Gammon put back a missed shot before Leclerc scored his lone points of the first half, a 3-pointer.

Booth, who had emphatically blocked a shot at the defensive end, then made a layup to pull the Red Storm within three, 11-8, heading to the second period.


And there, Scarborough jumped ahead.

After Jefferds hit a 3 to tie the score, Gorham went back in front on a driving finger roll from senior Caden Smith, but Booth banked home a contested shot and with 4:17 to go in the half, Jefferds set up Blanche for a layup and the lead.

After Booth added a foul shot, Gammon made a hook shot.

With 54 seconds to go in the half, Booth scored on another contested leaner, but a 3-ball from Whitten sent the game to the break deadlocked at 18-18.

Booth led all first half scorers with seven points, while Gammon paced the Rams with six points and five rebounds.

Gorham then seized control in the third quarter.


As they did to start the first half, the Rams came out strong in the second half as well, as Leclerc drove for a left-handed layup and a lead Gorham wouldn’t relinquish and Smith followed with a jumper.

“We knew they’d throw that (3-2 zone) against us after Deering had some success against us,” said Deschenes. “They took us out of our rhythm a little bit, but we found seams and trusted what we did. It’s about going fast with a purpose. Getting three guys to the baseline right away. Getting the ball in Gabe’s hands. Having him make a decision and get a numbers advantage. That’s what we did in the third quarter. The biggest thing was our pace picked up and that’s when we got advantage shots.”

After Booth made a free throw, Smith hit a 3, then after a Michaud steal, Smith raced in and made a layup to stretch the lead to 27-19, forcing Conley to call timeout.

It helped, momentarily, as Harris drove and finished with his left hand, but Gammon found Leclerc for a 3, then, after a pretty crossover dribble, Leclerc knocked down a jumper to make it 32-21, forcing Conley to call timeout again.

Neither team scored the rest of the third period, or for the first 1:42 of the fourth before Smith set up Karlonas for a layup.

After Scarborough snapped a nearly five minute drought with two Booth free throws, Harris drove for a layup, but after Booth and Harris both missed at the rim, Karlonas fed Gammon for a dagger of a dunk with 4:23 remaining, making it 36-25.


The next time down, Gammon scored again, this time on a layup, from Michaud, and after Garriepy answered with a layup, the free throw parade began, as Leclerc made one-of-two, sank one-of-two again and after a steal, Leclerc sank both attempts for a 42-27 lead with 1:01 to go.

Down the stretch, senior Nate Glidden and Blanche sandwiched layups around a pair of Leclerc foul shots and Leclerc and freshman Colton Jewett each added a free throw before Scarborough senior Nolan Kelley drove for a layup, but it was much too little, too late and at 10:10 p.m., the Rams celebrated their 46-33 victory.

“It means everything,” Leclerc said. “We’ve been working all four years to do this. We kept our heads and pulled through. I think the game started out close, back-and-forth, both teams throwing punches. Come the third quarter, we had a nice run and eventually we knocked them out. At halftime, Coach told us to push the pace and try to beat the zone down the court. We came together.”

“It’s a special group,” said Deschenes, whose previous team, Gray-New Gloucester, will also play for a state title next week, in Class A. “Super-nice kids who want to be coached and want to win. I just didn’t want to mess it up. It’s the first championship team I’ve been a part of.”

Leclerc had a game-high 17 points. Gammon added 10 points and six rebounds, while Smith had nine points (and four rebounds), Karlonas four (to go with nine rebounds), Whitten three, Michaud two (as well as five rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Jewett one.

Gorham enjoyed a 31-22 rebounding advantage, only turned the ball over 12 times, hit 8-of-13 free throws and completely shut down the Scarborough attack.


“We came into the game knowing their shooters are catch-and-shoot and that we couldn’t over-help,” Leclerc said. “We always had a hand up and rebounded the ball well, so there were no second chances. Coach came up with a great scouting report and we came out and executed it.”

“We just played fantastic defense tonight,” said Deschenes. “Our biggest thing was play tough. We knew Spencer would get some points. He’s really good inside, but we didn’t want to double him unless it was Griff. The guys did a great job knowing who to help off and who not to help off. ”

Looking ahead to next weekend, Gorham and Windham met back on Jan. 15 where the host Rams pulled away to a 67-40 victory.

Gorham is seeking its first Gold Ball since 2000.

“I can’t wait for next week,” said Leclerc. “This is the best floor I’ve ever played on. I love the bright lights. I’m ready for the big crowd. We have to play like we did tonight on the defensive end and push the pace more. It was a close game in the regular season before we went on a run. They’re a great team and we have to come out ready.”

“We still have one more game to get it done for 32 minutes,” said Deschenes. “I love Windham and how they play. It’s going to be a super matchup. Last time, we had a fantastic second half and shot lights out. We’ll have to win a different way for sure.”


Quite a ride

Scarborough got 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks from Booth. Garriepy (five rebounds) and Harris each added six points, while Blanche had four, Jefferds three (as well as four rebounds) and Glidden and Kelley two apiece.

The Red Storm made 4-of-6 free throws, committed 13 turnovers and made just 1-of-15 3-point attempts.

“This was our lowest total scoring all year, but the guys left it all on the floor tonight,” Conley said. “I thought our defense was fine. To hold them to 46 points, we’ll take that. If we didn’t give our best effort tonight, I would have been disappointed, but we gave everything and as a coach, that’s all I can ask.”

Scarborough will have to part with Garriepy, Glidden, Harris, Jefferds and Kelley, as well as Brayden Couture, Matt Lemelin and James Russell.

“I have a special group of young men in that locker room that are upset, but they gave me and this community everything they had,” Conley said. “They brought so much to the table for four years. I’ll miss them, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m so proud of them. We’ll celebrate a successful season.”

Next winter, the Red Storm will be led by Blanche and Booth and you can rest assured that some unfamiliar names will step to the fore and keep Scarborough in contention.

“There will be some opportunities for some younger kids in our program,” Conley said. “They’ll be hungry to work hard. We have two very good players in Carter and Spencer and we will be back.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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