Top-ranked McAuley recognized it was in a battle Monday night with No. 8 Deering in the Western Class A girls’ basketball quarterfinals, especially when the underdog Rams were leading 17-15 early in the second quarter.

“We understood it was going to be a tough game,” McAuley’s Olivia Smith said. “This game was definitely getting into the swing of the playoffs. We picked it up, and we know the atmosphere now.”

Challenged by the Rams, McAuley responded with a 15-2 run to close the second quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way in a 52-30 victory at the Portland Expo.

McAuley (18-1) will play No. 4 Portland (14-5) at 6 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Victoria Lux led McAuley, the three-time defending state champion, with 15 points. Seniors Allie Clement (14 points) and Olivia Smith (13) were right behind.

That trio scored all the points in the decisive run. Lux and Smith shared the ball between high and low post, including one brilliant touch pass from Lux to Smith. Clement knocked down a banked 3-pointer, then forced a steal for her own layup.

“Pick your poison,” Deering Coach Mike Murphy said. “You got your high-low. We’re trying to make Clement work hard and make her have to earn her minutes, and meanwhile you’ve got Smith and Lux high-lowing you. They’re obviously talented.”

For about 10 minutes, Deering (8-11) was keeping pace with its own trio of freshman point guard Tasia Titherington, and freshman post Amanda Brett and senior Lee Ann Downs. When Titherington knocked down a 3-pointer with two seconds left in the first quarter, the Rams were down only 15-12.

From that point, Deering was stymied offensively. McAuley came out more aggressively with its half-court defense.

“We’ve had a couple games where we struggled but we’ve found a way to win,” McAuley Coach Bill Goodman said. “We came out and we struggled, but we made some adjustments, changed our defense, and that kind of helped out a bit, and the girls find a way.”

McAuley put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run: Smith showing glue hands on a nice lob from Olivia Dalphonse, a Clement steal and layup, and a Lux basket from Ayla Tartre.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig