Brooke Howard and the rest of the McAuley High girls’ basketball team knew they were facing a potentially talented offensive team in Class AA game Friday at Deering

Coach Bill Goodman felt his team met the challenge. Howard did her part by keeping Tasia Titherington under wraps until the game was well in hand, and the AA South Lions improved to 11-2 with a 52-43 win.

After a disappointing loss at South Portland, which was followed by a second loss, albeit with a better effort against Gorham, McAuley has tightened up in the defensive end.

“It started with the Gorham game, and then we just wanted to fine tune defense and we worked on that, and for us to execute against a team that has a lot of offensive power, I can’t be any more proud of my girls,” Goodman said.

Howard spent most of the game fighting through screens to stay with Titherington, a three-year starter who combines a rugged ability to score in the paint with one of the top 3-point shots in the SMAA. Only two of Titherington’s nine points through three quarters came when Howard was on the court. To her credit, Titherington continued to work and crash the boards to the end but eight of her game-high 17 points came after a Howard fast-break basket off a long inbound pass from Eva Mazur made the score 45-30 with around five minutes to play.

“Howard, she got through those screens, and she played amazing defense,” Goodman said.

Howard also scored 13 points.

“(Titherington) is a very good player, very fast,” Howard said. “I pretty much face-guarded her the whole game and just kept my feet moving and got in her face when she got the ball. Just never stop moving my feet was the key.”

McAuley senior center Jess Willerson scored 15 and is eight points shy of 1,000.

The Cornell-bound Willerson missed her first five shots, all good looks set up by the crisp passing of teammates and the complementary low-post game of Emily Weisser (7 points)

“Coach has been keeping track of it for me and told me I was pretty close to a milestone,” Willerson said. “I mean it was like there was a cup on the basket because none of my shots were going in but Coach said I had good form and they’d go in and they did.”

McAuley hosts Portland in a makeup game at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Sarah Clement added 10 points, while Eva Mazur had five points and eight steals – six in the first half, when McAuley sprinted to leads of 10-2 and 25-10. The latter margin came when Clement and Howard hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap an 11-2 spree to open the second quarter.

Deering, in AA North, is 8-5 and has lost three of its last four games.

“It doesn’t matter who we play right now the way we are playing – it’s just poor execution, poor effort as a whole to open up some games,” Deering Coach Mike Murphy said. “The last four or five games there’s no sense of urgency, as much as we talked about it. I don’t get it.”