PORTLAND – The pain began almost as soon as the girls’ basketball season did. Every time Allie Clement, the junior guard for unbeaten McAuley High, took a step, her right foot screamed.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” said Clement. “I just figured with basketball you also have pains and injuries, so I figured it would go away and I would be fine a couple of weeks later.”
Instead the pain got worse and for a player like Clement, who relies so much on speed and acceleration, that was bad. Over time, Clement would try acupuncture therapy, physical therapy, even magnetic therapy. Eventually the pain was so bad she went to an orthopedist, who recommended rest — not really an option in her eyes — and put her in a walking boot.
She has worn it for about six weeks whenever she’s off the court. Clement participates little in practice, saving her efforts — and pain — for games.
And while Coach Bill Goodman may be resting her more often now, her game hasn’t suffered. After leading McAuley to a third straight Western Class A title last weekend, Clement was honored as the regional tournament’s top player/sportsperson.
The two-time defending Class A state champion Lions will bring a 47-game winning streak into Saturday’s state title game against Bangor at 4 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
“She’s a champion, a winner,” said Goodman. “She will do whatever it takes to win. She’s been in pain for a while but that hasn’t affected her. I try to gauge how much pain she’s in, to see if she’s in a little pain or a lot of pain, but her expression never changes.”
Neither has her game. When she sees a gap in the defense, she will speed through for a layup. When the defense attacks her on the break, she will pull up — putting pressure and pain on the foot — to take a jump shot. She averages 17.2 points, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals — all team highs — for the Lions.
“To her credit, I haven’t noticed any difference,” said South Portland Coach Mike Giordano. “She doesn’t use it as an excuse. That kid brings it every time, at both ends of the floor.”
Brian Clement, her father, believes Allie first suffered the injury two years ago at the AAU nationals. She took a hard fall and suffered a high ankle sprain. She couldn’t walk for two days but returned for the Final Four because, she said, “there was no way I was going to miss it.”
Clement, who is being recruited by about a dozen Division I colleges, got through her sophomore year with a sprained ankle but no major pain. This year, however, has been one long hurt.
She didn’t let any of her teammates know about the injury, at least until she showed up at school one day with the plastic boot on her foot.
“Yeah, one day she just came with the boot,” said forward Molly Mack. “We were all so scared. We didn’t think she’d be able to play.”
But she never stopped, except for practice. She sometimes participates in shooting drills, often rides the stationary bike. But she does no running. “We know it kills her to watch us,” said guard Jaclyn Welch. “With Allie, she never milks anything. If she’s injured she’s truly injured. We know if she could be out there with us, doing the dirty work and running, she would.”
The pain has been manageable, at least until the quarterfinals against Gorham. Clement played very little in the second half and afterward was crying. “I was miserable, the pain was so terrible,” said Clement. “I didn’t know if I could make the rest of the games. But I knew I had to do it for the team. There was no way I was giving up.”
The Lions truly believe their team is a family. And they are not going to let anyone down.
“It’s very important to us,” said Mack. “You don’t win games if you’re not a close team. We’re a bunch of goofballs off the court. When it comes on the court, we have each other’s backs. It’s like we have one heart.”
Goodman admits that a lot of what McAuley does these days is dependent on how Clement feels. The Lions aren’t pressing full-court as much as they normally do because that puts a strain on her with the turning and pushing off. But he said that’s opened up other options, such as Victoria Lux and Olivia Smith inside, or Welch, Olivia Delphonse or Sarah Clement — Allie’s freshman sister — on the perimeter.
“Each game is different,” said Goodman. “We’ve tried to manage it the best we can.”
Clement had an X-ray a couple weeks back. It didn’t show any break. She will have an MRI as soon as she can next week. She didn’t have one earlier, she said, “because we really didn’t want to know what’s wrong. We wanted to wait until after the season to find out. There was no way I was going to stop halfway through the season.”
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: