AUGUSTA — Alexa Coulombe smiled when told she and her McAuley teammates had set a record for fewest points allowed in a Class A girls’ basketball state final.

“That’s exciting,” she said. “I think that’s probably the best way to end it.

“We’ve been a defensive-oriented team all season, so for us to end not allowing a lot of points kind of summarizes us.”

So does this: The Lions are state champs.

Coulombe continued her masterful play in the postseason, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking seven shots, and the Lions shut down Hampden Academy’s 3-point shooters in a 39-23 victory Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center that gave McAuley its first state championship since 2003.

“Defense has led us all year,” said Amy Vachon, McAuley’s first-year coach, who joined her father Paul as a state champion coach. “It’s what’s been our rock all year. We’ve had stretches when we haven’t been able to score, but we can play defense.

“The girls love to play defense. They get after it. And it’s fun when you have a group of girls who love to play defense.”

The Lions (20-2) held Hampden (19-3) to two points in the first quarter and none in the fourth. McAuley also set a record for fewest points scored by the winner in a Class A final, but that mattered little.

After watching Hampden hit nine 3-pointers in the Eastern final, Vachon told her perimeter defenders to stay put.

“If they got penetration to the basket, I didn’t want our perimeter people to help,” said Vachon. “I told them to let (Coulombe) take care of it.”

And Coulombe did. The Broncos were reluctant to shoot inside and were cold from the outside. They missed their first nine shots while falling behind 6-0, as McAuley freshman Allie Clement scored on three layups.

McAuley led 13-2 after one quarter before the Broncos started shooting a little better and pulled within 21-13 at halftime.

When Michaela Stephenson hit her third 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the third quarter, the Broncos were within four.

“You start thinking, ‘We got a chance, we got a chance if we can just rattle some off,’” said Hampden Coach Chad Bradbury. “But they just come back down and pound it into the bigs and we had no answer. Great show by those guys.”

Hampden couldn’t stop Coulombe, a 6-foot-2 junior center, and Rebecca Knight, a 5-10 senior forward.

“We had to compose ourselves and get back to what worked for us in the first half,” Vachon said.

That meant defense and working their high-low offense, with one big player at the foul line and the other down low. Coulombe took a lob pass from Knight (10 points, five assists, 10 rebounds) and scored to make it 25-19. After a Hampden miss, Knight took a pass from Coulombe in the lane and hit a short jumper, and it was 27-19.

Hampden’s next three possessions resulted in a miss and two turnovers. Then Coulombe took a lob from Knight, was fouled and hit both free throws for a 29-19 lead.

“That high-low was huge for us,” said Knight. “Alexa has great hands. She can catch any pass.”

After Hampden’s Courtney Doyon made two foul shots, Knight and Coulombe connected on another lob, resulting in a Coulombe layup. Clement (10 points) then stole the ball, was fouled, and hit both free throws.

Knight said McAuley’s defense was determined not to let this one slip away. After the Broncos cut it to four, they made just one more basket. They missed eight 3-pointers in the fourth, each one contested by the Lions’ hands-up defense.

“We just said no more shots,” said Knight. “We talked, we picked up our defense. We came together as a team and did it.

“I thought winning Westerns was the best feeling, but holding the (Gold) Ball up was the best feeling ever.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]


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