February 25, 2010

Lions clamp down in win

MIKE LOWE

— By

click image to enlarge

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: South Portland's Danielle DiBiase is fouled as she goes up for a shot as McAuley's Nicole Tucci, left, and Caitlin Cimino defend during their girl's basketball game at McAuley High School in Portland on January 7, 2010.

Tim Greenway

click image to enlarge

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: McAuley's Alexa Coulombe, left, battles for a loose ball with South Portland's Danica Gleason during their girls' basketball game at McAuley High School in Portland on January 7, 2010.

Tim Greenway

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — South Portland High's shooting touch has disappeared over the last three games. It didn't help Thursday night that the Riots were playing one of the better defensive teams in the SMAA.

With 6-foot-2 sophomore center Alexa Coulombe setting the tone, McAuley eased to a 47-31 victory, handing the Riots their third consecutive girls' basketball loss.

Coulombe led the Lions with 14 points, but it was her interior defense that spurred McAuley most. Coulombe had 13 rebounds, eight steals and five blocked shots. South Portland, which hasn't scored more than 31 points in its slump, had only nine points in the first half.

''Defense has been our one constant this year,'' said McAuley Coach Wil Smith. ''We're getting at teams defensively, we're working hard. And when you do that you always have a shot.

''There are going to be nights when the shots don't fall, and we've had a lot of nights like that this year. But if you play great defense, you still have a chance.''

Rebecca Knight, playing her second game since returning from an ankle injury, added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Lions (6-2). South Portland (5-5) had 22 turnovers.

''I like our defensive intensity but we're struggling to score, especially in the first 16 minutes,'' said Riots Coach Mike Giordano. ''Certainly we were on our heels in the first half. They were far more intense than us and it showed. We weren't doing anything.''

With McAuley leading 4-0, the Riots hit their first shot, a 3-pointer by Danielle DiBiase. And when Abby Hasson, who led the Riots with 10 points in her third game since returning from a back injury, scored inside, the Riots trailed only 7-5. But they missed 10 of their next 11 shots, committing seven turnovers during that stretch, as McAuley opened a 21-7 lead.

''Our defensive effort was great,'' said Knight. ''We're all pulling for each other.''

Coulombe blocked two shots in the first quarter and the Riots were reluctant to attack her after that. ''It's just nice to have her on the back line,'' said Smith. ''It allows us to set our defense on the perimeter.''

As Knight added, ''I know she always has my back. I can let someone go baseline on me and know that she'll be there to block the shot.

''Our defense gets a lot of steals because we deny them (the ball) up top. And we get in their face so that they can't get the ball into the post.''

After Knight and Coulombe put in offensive rebounds to give the Lions a 13-5 lead after one, McAuley really clamped down in the second quarter. South Portland scored only four points -- the first and last baskets of the period -- as the Lions took a 21-9 lead. Coulombe and Hannah Cooke each had four points in that quarter.

South Portland stayed within 12 when DiBiase hit her second 3-pointer of the game just 16 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Knight scored seven of her points in the final period to maintain the momentum.

McAuley has a big game Monday at home against Biddeford -- a game originally scheduled for Tuesday -- while South Portland looks to regroup Saturday at Thornton Academy.

''We're going to go as far as we can with our defense,'' said Giordano.

''But we still have to get to 40 (points).''

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: South Portland's Danielle DiBiase is fouled as she goes up for a shot as McAuley's Nicole Tucci, left, and Caitlin Cimino defend during their girl's basketball game at McAuley High School in Portland on January 7, 2010.

Tim Greenway

click image to enlarge

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: McAuley's Alexa Coulombe, left, battles for a loose ball with South Portland's Danica Gleason during their girls' basketball game at McAuley High School in Portland on January 7, 2010.

Tim Greenway

 


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