They may not have the same name or the same firepower of recent years, but the Maine Girls’ Academy basketball team can still get after it on defense.
The Lions, who won four straight Class A state titles from 2011-14 when they were known as McAuley, used hustling defense and scrappy rebounding against a taller Sanford team Thursday to win a Class AA South quarterfinal 40-33 at the Portland Expo.
“My girls executed the defensive game plan for (the full) 32 minutes,” said Lions Coach Bill Goodman.
No. 4 MGA (8-11) will face No. 1 and defending state champion Gorham (18-0) at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Cross Insurance Arena. Gorham has won 39 consecutive games, including a 70-42 home win against MGA on Jan. 13.
Fifth-seeded Sanford (9-10) has three players in the 6-foot range but scored only six second-chance points because MGA players like 5-foot-6 Maddy Beaulieu (6 rebounds, 4 points) held their own on the boards.
“Coach likes to remind me all the time how tiny I am in there, but I like to get in there and battle and just get rebounds. I know our team needs it,” Beaulieu said.
With both inexperienced teams displaying playoff nerves early, it took more than four minutes for either team to score.
MGA led 11-4 after one quarter.
Sanford slowly clawed back to make it 18-18 with 4:40 to play in the third quarter. MGA closed the quarter on a 9-0 run and pushed its lead to 31-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Summer Camire scored all nine of her points in the fourth quarter as Sanford was able to get within a possession, 31-28, on a basket by Paige Cote with 2:31 left.
Jill Joyce came through with the game’s biggest basket when she converted an offensive rebound as she was fouled and made the ensuing free throw to stop Sanford’s momentum.
“The shot went up and I thought, ‘I need to jump up and get it,’ ” and I put it right back in,” Joyce said. “All of us work hard and we all do our part.”
“We got it to three and then we made the mental mistake on the box-out,” said Sanford Coach Kristy Parent.
Catherine Reid, who led MGA in scoring with 10 points, made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to secure the win. Serena Mower (9 points) and Hope Olson (7 points) also contributed to the Lions’ offense.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or: