SACO — With a chance to end McAuley High’s 56-game win streak, Kaitlyn McCrum of Thornton Academy had the ball in her hands and several thoughts in her mind.
Game tied with 1.3 seconds left and McCrum came out of a timeout needing to make a free throw for the win Tuesday night. She sank it, Allie Clement’s three-quarter heave wasn’t close and a large crowd swarmed the Linnell Gymnasium floor celebrating Thornton’s 50-49 win.
“I was just thinking about how long I’ve been waiting for this moment, for (McAuley) to lose the winning streak, and we deserved it this year. We worked really hard,” McCrum said.
McCrum, a senior, recalled a similar situation as a freshman when she made the first, missed the second and Thornton lost in overtime. She also thought of teammate Lauren Leskowsky on the bench, holding crutches after a first-half knee injury that appeared serious.
That McCrum or any player would have a chance to snap the Lions’ streak in regular-season and playoff games seemed silly with four minutes left in the third quarter and McAuley leading 34-19.
To that point the game had played out almost identically to the season opener won by McAuley, 51-36: A sluuggish first half for both offenses resulting in a narrow McAuley lead, then a half-opening run by the Lions, the three-time Class A champs who began their streak in their 2011 title run.
“It really did seem eerily similar to the first game,” Thornton Coach Eric Marston said. “We called timeout, sat down and said, â€˜don’t look at the scoreboard. Forget about 15 points.’ “
McCrum (14 points) and Olivia Shaw (13 points) had already chipped eight points off the lead when freshman Isabella Robinson entered the picture.
Robinson (14 points) hit a deep 3-pointer from the left side that cut the lead to 34-30.
Robinson hit her next four shots, contributing 11 points in a mammoth 27-4 run.
“I know she’s capable of doing that but obviously a phenomenal game. Tonight she hit shot after shot,” Marston said.
Shaw’s 3-pointer just before the third quarter ended gave Thornton (7-1) its first lead since the first quarter.
“You have to believe at that point that anything can happen and tonight it did happen,” Shaw said. “You can’t be afraid of (McAuley). Even though they are a terrific team, I thought we handled them very well tonight.”
Robinson knocked down three more jumpers early in the fourth quarter. Hannah Murphy capped the spree with a drive through the lane resulting in a three-point play and 46-38 lead with 3:31 left.
McAuley (8-1) had already escaped upset bids by Gorham and Cheverus. Could the end of the streak be a good thing?
“I don’t believe in that stuff. With the streak, we never talked about it,” McAuley Coach Bill Goodman said. “This loss is on me. We didn’t take good shots when we had a big lead and that’s my fault.”
McAuley’s usual go-to players struggled to score. Allie Clement, guarded down the stretch by Robinson, finished with 14 points but was held without a 3-pointer. Center Olivia Smith (10 points) kept working for good looks only to have her shots roll out. Victoria Lux attempted one shot in the second half.
But Olivia Dalphonse did step up, knocking down a 3-pointer and a deuce, and creating multiple turnovers.
“We’re not used to pressure like that,” Dalphonse said. “It’s good to be in games like this and I think it will definitley help us in the future.”
Two free throws by Smith made it 47-47. After Robinson made 1 of 2 from the line, Ayla Tartre of McAuley made two free throws with 16.7 seconds left for a 49-48 lead.
On the next possession, the 5-foot-4 Murphy again tried to drive the lane. Smith, at 6-3, forcibly rejected the shot only to have McCrum swoop in for the loose ball, creating the foul and game-winning chance.
“I just knew I needed that ball right now if I wanted to win,” McCrum said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: SteveCCraig