PORTLAND — A rough-and-tumble state championship game swung on Austin Brown’s feathery touch.

Brown’s 3-pointer off a pass from R.J. Nichols with 25 seconds left gave Edward Little a 54-53 win over Thornton Academy in the Class AA state championship game Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

“They trusted me and I was able to knock it down,” said Brown, the lone remaining starter from the Edward Little team that ended a 72-year state title drought in 2018.

“I’d have to say this one’s a little bit more special, just being it’s my senior year and stuff,” Brown said. “It’s a good last (game).”

Brown’s shot didn’t become the difference until the Red Eddies (20-2) stopped three Thornton attempts at regaining the lead. Dylan Griffin missed two shots from underneath, but the Trojans secured retained possession and called a timeout with 7.5 seconds remaining.

The Eddies overplayed Griffin on the ensuing inbounds play and didn’t leave the Trojans an opening except to reserve junior forward Costa Gikas at the top of the key.

“He’s a very good shooter,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said of Gikas, “so your heart’s in your throat when he’s going for that because you’re like, ‘This kid hits a shot every single game.’ Thankfully we closed out and didn’t give him a great look. We took away the first options and it turned into a scramble situation.”

“(Adams) said it was going to (Griffin), and it would have if we didn’t have Crease (Creaser) stepping up for me and helping me out there,” Shea said. “Then the ball went to the top.”

Gikas faked left, dribbled right, double-clutched, then fired up a shot with roughly five seconds left that hit the front of the rim. Brown tipped the rebound to Cam Yorke, who dribbled until as the horn sounded, signaling the Red Eddies’ second state title in three years.

 

John Shea led the Red Eddies with 16 points. Brown added 15, 12 in the second half, on five 3-pointers, and Max Creaser chipped in 10 points. Colby Lands led the Trojans (15-4) with 17 points, while Griffin finished with 14.

“I was on the team two years ago, but I was just watching from the bench,” said Creaser, one of six Edward Little seniors. “It was really special then, but being out there on the court with my family, it’s a brotherhood, it’s just way more special to win it with them.”

The Red Eddies trailed throughout what was a street brawl until Yorke produced their first lead with a strong drive to the hoop to make it 40-39 with 1:20 left in the third. A Creaser put-back extended it to 42-39 at the end of three.

Griffin’s three-point play tied the game at 49 and turned out to be Thornton’s final field goal with 3:59 to go. Although Golden Trojans senior point guard Payton Jones (four points, five assists) fouled out 18 seconds later, Thornton took the lead again, on a pair of Lands free throws that made it 51-49.

“There’s no question (Jones) is one of the best players in the state,” Adams said. “Him fouling out, that took an offensive weapon away from them.”

Yorke answered with two free throws to tie it for the final time with 2:36 left. After a flurry of turnovers and misses, Griffin sank two from the charity stripe with 42.8 seconds remaining to give Thornton a 53-51 lead. That set up the game-winner, Edward Little’s only field goal in the final 4:40, as Nichols fired a pass from left of the lane to an open Brown in the opposite corner.

“After the first quarter, it looked like it was going to be (the second game of the season) when they killed us by 17,” Adams said. “They were making everything and we were kind out of sorts offensively. But it showed incredible toughness by our kids to just keep doing what we did.”

Thornton jumped out to a 12-2 lead after a drive to the basket by Lands. Jones, the Golden Trojans’ leading scorer, picked up his second foul, though, and the Eddies responded with a 10-3 run to close the first quarter that was capped by Creaser’s 3-pointer off the window at the buzzer to make it 15-12.

“It happened to go in and give us a little bit of momentum for the second quarter,” Creaser said.

The Trojans, who made six of 10 3-pointers in the first half but were 4-for-12 inside the arc, opened the margin back to six points on a Jones 3-pointer and again on a trey by Kobe Gaudette. But the Eddies kept the paint closed off and got a three-point play from Shea at the other end to close to within 28-25 by halftime.


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