The three-time champs looked ready to defend their title Friday night.
With its transition game rolling, plenty of ball sharing on offense and a stiff defense, McAuley rolled to a 79-47 win against Portland High in Western A girls’ basketball.
“It starts with rebounding and I feel like the last couple weeks we’ve tried to be a better rebounding team, and when you do that it always helps your transition,” McAuley Coach Bill Goodman said.
The Lions (13-1) have won five straight, the last four in convincing fashion, after having their 56-game in-state win streak snapped at Thornton Academy.
That game was followed with a less-than-stellar effort (by McAuley’s standard) against South Portland.
“That was our tough love game,” Goodman said before Friday’s game.
After the contest he expanded on his thought.
“Yeah, it was the third bad game in a row. I gave them the weekend off and give the girls all the credit. They came back singing and dancing, and determined to change things,” he said.
“A lot of things needed to change. We weren’t playing team offense and we weren’t boxing out. Those were two big things. And they decided to fix it.”
The Lions’ three primary scorers in a 44-21 first half were Victoria Lux, Allie Clement and Jackie Welch, and they finished with 16, 16, and 14 points, respectively.
But it was often 6-foot-3 center Olivia Smith who got the fast breaks going, either with one of her six first-half blocks (8 for the game) or a brisk outlet pass.
Smith, who missed the first few games of the season due to an offseason knee injury, combined a block and outlet pass to free Lux for a layup and a 16-3 lead in the first quarter before Clement, McAuley’s leading scorer, had registered a point.
“Ever since (Smith has) come back her defense has been very, very good,” Goodman said.
Freshman Katie Johnson led the Bulldogs (10-3) with nine points off the bench. Johnson is seeing more time since Elizabeth Donato suffered a knee injury Jan. 17.
Donato said Friday night she’s hoping to return before the season is over.
Donato’s absence was most noticeable in the first quarter. Portland fell behind 21-3 and needed someone to be assertive.
“We were just back on our heels. I think that’s the first game we’ve come out tentative,” Portland Coach Jan Veinot said.
With Johnson and Brianna Holdren (8 points) hitting 3-pointers in the second quarter, Portland competed at a more even level but found it tough to cover all of McAuley’s options.
Clement hit her second 3-pointer of the game and Olivia Dalphonse followed suit. Then it was Welch with a pair of baskets and Smith finishing the half by converting a slick Dalphonse assist for a 44-21 lead.
“We’re back. We’ve been working extra, extra hard in practice and that’s the outcome of it. We’re playing great,” Lux said.
McAuley’s lead peaked at 70-33 early in the fourth quarter on a Clement fast-break layup. The play was significant because Clement had come out of the game wincing in the third quarter.
As a junior she struggled with stress fractures in her foot. After her return Clement finished layups jumping off each foot, showing no ill effects.
For Portland, pivotal Heal point games with Windham and South Portland are on the horizon as well as a rematch against city rival Deering.
“We’ve got to shoot the ball when we’re open and get back on defense after a missed shot,” Veinot said.
“And we’ve got to get the ball up the court quicker.”
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: