Jan. 18—Will Davies put his many basketball skills on full display Tuesday night.
That's good for Thornton Academy; tough for its opponents as defending Class AA state champion South Portland found out.
Thornton's 6-foot-3 senior started the game running the point on a lethal fast break, whipping passes into the corners for 3-point looks or layups at the rim. After a quarter, Davies had just two points but his five assists led to a 21-13 lead en route to a convincing 82-61 win.
In the middle quarters, Davies showed his scoring skills against a parade of South Portland defenders. Against 6-foot-6 junior Gabe Galarraga, Davies had his teammates spread the floor, took Galarraga off the dribble and converted at the rim while being fouled.
In the third quarter, South Portland tried using smaller guards to stick with and hopefully deny the ball to Davies. With a height advantage, Davies went to work in the post. He scored on a classic post move, an offensive rebound and a mid-range left elbow jumper. After that three-basket display pushed Thornton's lead to 27, Davies kicked out a perfect pass from the left block to sophomore Trey Eldred in the opposite corner that Eldred buried.
When he sat down after 27 minutes and 29 seconds of constant motion, Davies had 26 points and 11 assists and Thornton led by 25.
It was both an exceptional effort and a relatively normal game for Davies, a returning Varsity Maine All-State selection. Thornton is 10-1. With two wins against South Portland, the Trojans have established themselves as the team to beat in AA South. Davies, who scored 30 in a 69-60 win at South Portland, is averaging over 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game.
"We're definitely playing pretty well right now, just trying to keep it going. We're pretty good," Davies said.
Davies said he believes Thornton is a deeper team than last year's squad that went 13-7 and lost to South Portland in the regional final.
"We have a lot of options this year. A lot more than last year," Davies said.
Sophomores Trey Eldred and Wyatt Benoit have stepped into leading roles. Eldred is 6-3 with strength and is starting down low with senior Aleesio Marcus. Benoit, typically the first player off the bench, has a similar offensive game to Davies.
"Both those kids, they can flat-out play. They're definitely going to be good. They're only kids realistically. They definitely have a huge upside," Davies said.
Davies' father, Bob Davies, is Thornton's coach. What the coach especially liked Tuesday was the way he saw his team adapt to what South Portland was trying to do on defense.
"I think this team did a really good job of making some good decisions on what they see and they trust each other. It's not like we say, 'we're doing this.'" Bob Davies said. "We know that (Will Davies) can play (near the basket) if he's got a smaller guy. His teammates trust him. And he'll kick from out of there and some of our big guys will step out and shoot the ball."
ELSEWHERE IN AA SOUTH, Noble boys' basketball has turned some heads this year. After a winless 2021-22 season, Noble is 4-6 with vastly improved competitiveness. Through the Knights' first eight games, sophomore guards Jamier Rose and Bryce Guitard were both averaging 20 points a game. Those averages did take a hit in Tuesday's 59-38 loss to Bonny Eagle but second-year coach John Morgan has Noble moving in a better direction.
Thornton beat Noble 78-63 last Friday. Noble was within three points late in the second quarter and 10 points early in the fourth.
"They're organized and their coach is doing a really good job and they play well together and they all like each other. They're a fun team to watch really," Bob Davies said.
WESTBROOK WAS expected to be a factor in a deeper Class A South and so far that prediction looks accurate. Entering Wednesday's home game with Marshwood, the Blue Blazes were 9-2 and fourth in the division behind Marshwood (7-2), Falmouth (8-2) and Gray-New Gloucester (9-2).
"We don't have just one or two guys contributing a lot. We're coming at them with five guys who can score at the same time," said Westbrook Coach Bryan Hoy, a 2000 Westbrook grad.
Westbrook's losses were against Class AA squads Cheverus (8-3) and Bonny Eagle (6-5). After Wednesday's game, Westbrook will play home-and-away games with Falmouth and at Marshwood.
"We play them both on the road the last week of the season," Hoy said. "There's a lot of (Heal) points, a lot of big games left."
With big, physical senior guards Kolbyn Dunphe and Kelson Custodio, along with 6-5 junior Aiden Taylor, Westbrook prefers to pound the ball inside.
"We've found a lot of success just bullying teams," Hoy said.
THE CLASS A AND B South regional finals will be at the Portland Expo on Friday, Feb. 24. In the past, South regional finals have been at the Cross Insurance Arena. Last year a Friday snowstorm forced the regional finals to be played a day later. With the AA games booked for the CIA, the games were moved to the Expo.
The decision to purposely switch the regional finals to the Expo was "based on the experience that teams have had. They prefer to play at the Expo," said Mike Burnham, the executive director of the MPA.