Friday, December 6, 2013
By Mike Lowe email@example.com
PORTLAND — Time.
Olivia Smith of McAuley goes up for a shot in Saturday’s Class A state championship game. Smith had 15 points in the Lions’ 54-41 title victory over Cony in Portland.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
In the end, that was the most important factor in McAuley High's Class A girls' basketball championship season.
The Lions, who entered the season as the defending state champs, were regarded from Day One as the championship favorite. But with a new head coach in Bill Goodman and several new players stepping into key roles, the Lions needed time to come together.
When they did, they were almost invincible. McAuley completed a 22-0 season and captured its second consecutive Class A championship -- and fourth overall -- Saturday by beating previously unbeaten Cony 54-41 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
That game displayed all the traits that made McAuley a feared team: unyielding man-to-man defense, unselfish offense and depth.
It was a team with star power -- senior forward Alexa Coulombe is heading to Boston College, sophomore point guard Allie Clement is regarded already as one of the top 10 players in the state and sophomore center Olivia Smith showed why she is going to be one of the state's best inside players with her performances in the tournament -- but also one that relied on everyone to contribute.
"It really was Alexa and Sadie (DiPierro, the Lions' senior guard) wanting everyone to be involved," said Goodman. "They wanted to get all 15 players involved in what we did. That's the way I coach anyway, but from the first conversation I had with Alexa, it was obvious that was their vision as well.
"Even the kids who didn't play a lot had something to do with our success."
But the Lions needed time to grow. Even though they were winning in December and January, Goodman said they weren't playing championship ball. Especially on defense, which has always been a trademark for the Lions.
"You've got to remember, this team really didn't practice together until November," said Goodman, who was hired in June -- 15 days after he resigned as Greely's head coach. "They hadn't had a lot of chances to work together. And in the way we play defense, you need to trust each other, to have each other's back.
"As the season started, we played good halves, but not good games. The longer we practiced together, the better we played defensively. The whole goal was to be a lot better in February than we were in November. It took time, but eventually it clicked."
The Lions allowed just 28.2 points per game in the regular season, tops in the SMAA. In the playoffs, they allowed 35.0.
Offensively, the Lions shared the ball. They had three players score in double figures -- Clement (12.9 point per game), Coulombe (11.8) and Smith (10.2) -- and averaged 11.4 assists per game.
They got contributions from everyone.
In Saturday's state title game, guard Jackie Welch had two huge baskets in the first half, when the Lions were struggling. Molly Mack came off the bench to score four points (all on free throws in the fourth) and grab 12 rebounds. Freshman Victoria Lux had 10 points, eight in the first half, to help the Lions grab the early lead.
"It really just took this team playing together for them to come together," said Goodman. . "Everyone did their job and did it well. That was the key."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: