Before the brilliance came some anxious moments, which made McAuley’s fourth straight Class A girls’ basketball championship even sweeter.
The Lions trailed early against Oxford Hills and had their three leading scorers on the bench, each with two fouls. But with key contributions from unsung players, McAuley clawed its way to a slim halftime lead, then overwhelmed the Vikings in the second half en route to a 67-41 victory Saturday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
McAuley became the third school to win four straight Class A girls’ basketball titles, joining Westbrook (1978-81) and Lawrence (1991-94).
“This was the best one,” said Coach Bill Goodman, “because the whole team helped. The whole team. Everyone.”
McAuley (21-1) not only trailed early by scores of 9-2 and 12-4, but Allie Clement, Victoria Lux and Olivia Smith each picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
But sparked by hustle plays from its bench, particularly Mary Furlong, McAuley crept back into the game.
It was Furlong who tied up Shannon Kriger of Oxford Hills when Kriger appeared to have control of an offensive rebound with 7.6 seconds left in the half. With the possession arrow pointing in McAuley’s direction, Goodman rushed Clement back onto the court. Clement took the inbounds pass from Furlong, dribbled down the court as defender Mikayla Morin ran into a bone-crushing pick set by Margaret Hatch, and drilled a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 25-20 halftime lead.
“Any little thing I can do to help, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Furlong.
Oxford Hills (17-5) was still in position to pull an upset – until the second half started. The Lions scored the first 11 points and 18 of the first 20, and led 50-30 after three quarters.
“We wanted to get it to be a 16-minute game and I felt like we did that,” Oxford Hills Coach Nate Pelletier said. “In the second half they came out and played really hard-nosed, half-court man defense, and we turned it over a couple times.”
Clement and Olivia Dalphonse each stole the ball from Morin in the opening minute and streaked in for layups. Smith hit a hook shot, and Jackie Welch scored off another Dalphonse steal. Lux then raced ahead for a three-point play off a second Clement steal.
“When they start running, that’s hard to control,” said Anna Winslow, who scored 17 points for Oxford Hills. “They’re monsters sometimes that can’t be tamed.”
Lux said she couldn’t stop smiling, her team was playing so well.
McAuley outscored Oxford Hills 25-10 in the third quarter, didn’t commit a turnover, forced five turnovers and made 11 of 21 shots. Clement was 4 of 4 with a pair of 3-pointers.
“It was kind of like the compilation of every single thing we’ve worked for the past year,” Smith said. “Even the past four years, for us six seniors. We could feel that spark that was lighting us.”
Clement finished her stellar career with 17 points, making four 3-pointers.
“The third quarter has always been our favorite quarter,” Clement said. “We just wanted to come out with a bang the first three minutes and put some points on the board, and play some good defense, and I think we did that and changed the momentum of the game.”
Lux ran the court and powered inside for 19 points. Welch finished with 11.
McAuley’s lead peaked at 60-33 on a Welch layup after a Clement steal and assist.
“This fourth one, for me, is to celebrate all the other ones,” said Welch, a three-year starter who had her best offensive game of the tournament. “This is, of my four, this is my favorite. I was anxious in the first quarter. I think everyone was.”
Clement and Welch have been a part of all four.
“I know that no matter what, winning the fourth was the goal, but playing so well and having one of our best games is going to make it even more memorable,” Clement said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: