Press Herald: Boys’ basketball: Windham wins it all for the first time, beats Gorham in overtime, 62-58

In front of a packed house at Cross Insurance Arena, the Eagles claim the Class AA championship.

PostedMarch 2

UpdatedMarch 3

Steve CraigPress Herald

3 min read

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Windham players kiss the Gold Ball after beating Gorham, 62-58 in overtime, to win the Class AA boys’ basketball state championship game on Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe

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First it came down to the final seconds of regulation between neighboring towns desperate for a state championship. Then it went to overtime.

In front of a nearly sold-out, very loud crowd at Cross Insurance Arena, Windham High won its first boys’ basketball state championship, beating rival Gorham, 62-58 in overtime, in the Class AA final.

It was Windham’s first appearance in a state championship boys’ basketball game. Coach Chad Pulkkinen, a lifelong resident of Windham and 2002 graduate, said he saw the stands full of former Eagles who, like him, loved basketball but had not been able to experience the ultimate win.

“It just means the world to me,” Pulkkinen said. “This town’s a basketball town, we just had to win. They all came out in droves. There’s a ton of alumni that came up short. Obviously me as well. To have this group come through and beat a team like (Gorham), it’s storybook stuff.”

Windham (19-2), the No. 1 seed from the North, wrapped it up with six straight free throws by its sophomore duo – four by Tyrie James and then two clinchers from AJ Moody with eight seconds to play. Gorham (18-3), the South’s No. 1 team, was looking for its first state title since winning Class B in 2000.

Blake McPherson, a senior who had scored just four points through regulation after leading Windham with 16 in its regional final win against Portland, hit probably the biggest shot of overtime with a no, no, YES 3-pointer for a 53-51 lead.

“I had a little bit of space, his hand was down and we needed a bucket, so I was like, ‘I’m shooting this,’­ ” McPherson said. “All of us think that. Not just me. It’s not just a one-man game.”

Gorham’s Gabe Michaud, who led all scorers with 27 points, tied it one last time with a crossover dribble move to get to the basket. But James answered, driving right back at Michaud, who was playing with four fouls.

With 49 seconds left in overtime, Michaud fouled out. Windham’s free-throw shooting offset a bucket from Colton Jewett and a late 3-pointer by Caden Smith (nine points).

Gorham was already been playing without Ashton Leclerc, the Rams’ leading scorer at 21 points per night. Leclerc (four points) fouled out with 2:21 left in regulation, with Gorham leading 49-44.

Windham tied the game with a power move by McPherson, one free throw from James (who was 11 of 13 at the line) and then a Creighty Dickson reverse layup with just under a minute to play. During that stretch, Michaud took two quick shots at the rim. They were similar to many of his buckets, where his quickness off the dribble and long reach got him past Windham defenders and to the basket.

“I loved the looks that Gabe got, but at the same time, I’ve got to manage that better, too,” said Gorham Coach Ryan Deschenes.

Dickson said the atmosphere helped carry Windham.

“The energy was amazing. The nerves, the energy, it just boosts you,” Dickson said. “So many fans. It is really amazing. First Windham title ever. I pictured it, but I didn’t know it could come true.”

James led Windham with 17 points, six in overtime. Moody (12), Dickson (12) and Quinton Lindsay (10) also scored in double figures.

Griffin Gammon supported Michaud with 13 points.

Both teams won one quarter in the first half by a large margin.

Windham appeared ready to blow the game wide open when it led 23-7 after the first quarter, with five players scoring and Lindsay knocking down two 3-pointers. Gorham hurt itself with five turnovers.

The second quarter was all Gorham – and mostly Michaud. The senior point guard was able to get down the center of the lane for layups and also made a pair of 3-pointers. After hitting 7 of 11 shots in the first quarter, Windham was just 1 of 9 in the second and got careless with the ball, committing four turnovers.

From there, the game was nip-and-tuck. Both teams scored 11 points in the third quarter. Gorham won the fourth, 12-11.

“Fantastic year for the guys,” Deschenes said of his Gorham team. “They met every challenge. Props to Windham. It’s a great story. Those guys won the Gold Ball and we fell a little bit short, but we’re super proud of our guys.”

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