PORTLAND — Whatever debt Alexa Coulombe thought she owed her McAuley High teammates was paid off Wednesday night.
After struggling in a quarterfinal victory — scoring just three points — Coulombe put on a show in top-ranked McAuley’s 49-33 victory over fifth-seeded Windham in the Western Class A semifinals at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Coulombe, a 6-foot-2 senior forward/guard bound for Boston College on a scholarship, scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in what was easily her best overall performance of the year.
“That’s who Alexa is,” said Bill Goodman, the first-year coach of the Lions. “She does it all. She can pass, she can shoot, block shots, play defense. We needed a leader and she was who she was all year.”
“All I knew was that I owed it to my team because the last game I didn’t play so good,” said Coulombe. “I know there’s a lot of pressure on all of us on this team and I didn’t pull my share of the weight in the last game.”
McAuley (20-0) will play second-ranked Scarborough (19-1) in the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center. The Lions beat the Red Storm 49-37 on Jan. 20.
Coulombe combined with 6-foot-2 Olivia Smith to dominate the inside against the Eagles. Smith had 14 points, 11 in the first half.
They had a huge height advantage over the Eagles, whose tallest player was 5-10. Windham also was missing a starting forward for personal reasons.
That didn’t help defensively, but the Eagles also couldn’t cope with McAuley’s defense. The Lions focused their game plan — as did anyone who played Windham this year — on stopping Meghan Gribbin, who led the SMAA with 20.8 points per game.
Sadie DiPierro, Coulombe and Allie Clement each played Gribbin in the first half, then DiPierro was on her alone in the second. Gribbin finished with eight points and five assists.
“That’s Sadie,” said Goodman. “She doesn’t get a lot of credit but she’s one of the best defensive players I’ve ever coached.”
“They did a nice job on Meghan,” said Eagles Coach Jessie Cummings. “Kind of forced her to pick up her dribble sooner than she would have liked, took her out of her game a little bit. They did a nice job hedging. They play good defense and that’s what a championship team has got to do.”
Gribbin admitted being frustrated by the defense.
“Sadie is all over me 24-7,” said Gribbin. “We’re friends but it’s frustrating when she’s all over you 24-7.
And Alexa, every time you drive you never know, she’s so good at blocking you.”
McAuley opened an 11-point lead in the second quarter, only to see the Eagles cut it to 22-16 on a floater by Gribbin and a 3-pointer by Bebe Butts. But DiPierro swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5.1 seconds left in the half to regain the momentum for the Lions.
Windham had three 3-pointers in the third to hang around, trailing 36-25 entering the fourth.
But McAuley spread the floor out, opening up the middle for Coulombe, who had five points in the quarter, and Clement, who had four.
“They had an answer,” said Cummings. “Every time I thought the momentum was shifted to our side, they answered it with a 3 or down low with their big kids.”
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: