PORTLAND – A raucous, costumed crowd packed Keegan Gymnasium on Tuesday night. This was, after all, the annual showdown between Cheverus and McAuley, two of the better girls’ basketball teams in the SMAA.
Cheverus had on its side a pope, a cowboy, a bearded nun and a shepherd, among others. But the Stags were missing what they needed most: a hot shooter.
McAuley, meanwhile, had Allie Clement, Olivia Smith and a crushing defense, all of which added up to a 51-30 victory in an intense and physical SMAA girls’ basketball game.
“We knew this would be a battle,” McAuley Coach Billy Goodman said. “We ratcheted up the intensity in practice and the girls we wanted to step up stepped up tonight. Olivia (Smith) and (Victoria Lux) have been playing well in the post, but not consistently. Tonight they both brought it.”
Clement scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the first half for the defending state Class A champion Lions (11-0), who extended their overall unbeaten streak to 33 games, and their all-time record against the Stags to 18-0.
“The McAuley-Cheverus game is always an event,” Clement said. “It’s easy to psych yourself out and get too excited, but we’re a close team and that helps keep us from going off the handle.”
Six-foot-1 freshman Jess Wilkerson had 11 points, including 5-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line, to lead the Stags (9-2), ranked No. 2 in Western Class A in the Heal points. It was the end of a rugged stretch for Cheverus, which began with a 58-57 triple-overtime win at No. 3 Scarborough, followed by a 60-56 loss to No. 1 Deering. McAuley entered the game ranked No. 4.
“It was a very physical game inside, for sure,” Smith said. “There was a lot of pressure, being our biggest rival. We call it ‘the Holy War.’ Movement was a big part of (our success). We wanted to keep moving, high-low, and our motion was definitely working, coming off the screen.”
Cheverus’ 6-foot senior Brooke Flaherty had five points while drawing the task of defending the 6-2 Smith. Georgia Ford had two points, four rebounds and two steals.
The game opened in back-and-forth fashion, with the teams tied at 9 entering the final minute of the first quarter. Then Lux (six points, nine rebounds) hit two free throws and Clement finished off a steal with a drive for four straight points and 13-9 lead.
The Lions broke away in the second quarter. Smith hit two from the line, then banked a turnaround jumper to start a 15-5 run. Olivia Delphonse poured in seven of her nine points as McAuley ran out to a 30-18 halftime lead.
“We just couldn’t score,” Cheverus Coach Richie Ashley said. “For whatever reason, we just didn’t knock them down, and that’s going to happen sometimes. Their scorers scored in that second quarter and ours didn’t. That was the difference.”
The third quarter dragged as Flaherty had the wind knocked from her in a pileup and had to be helped from the floor. Twenty seconds into the restart, Cheverus sparkplug Sadie Lyons was carried off with a knee injury. Play was stopped a third time to resolve a scoreboard issue. By the end of the quarter McAuley led, 41-24.
Even late in the game, bodies repeatedly hit the floor over loose balls, notably Kylie Libby (four points, five rebounds), Mikayla Mayberry, Ford and Victoria Nappi for the Stags. Smith, Jackie Welch, Lux, Delphonse and Molly Mack shined for the Lions.
“We didn’t shoot our best but we played hard,” Libby said. “There’s plenty to improve on but we put it all out there, so we’re happy with that.”