PORTLAND – What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Don’t ask the McAuley Lions, whose narrowest margin of victory this season has been eight points, against Deering on Jan. 5. Otherwise, they’ve regularly beaten – obliterated, actually – their opponents by as much as 30, 40, 50 points or more.

So the No. 4 Scarborough Red Storm faced a steep uphill battle Friday night, when they challenged the tournament favorites in a Western Maine Girls Class A semifinal bout at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Scarborough has also been a formidable competitor this season, often triumphing by double digits themselves and going 16-3 prior to Friday night.

One of those losses was to McAuley, by a score of 65-42, and though the Red Storm never fell that far behind in their rematch with the Lions, they did fall behind. Once down, they were unable to make up the lost ground, ultimately succumbing 47-38.

“We pressed all year,” Scarborough head coach Ron Cote said, after the game. “We didn’t press tonight.”

McAuley, now 20-0 on the year, advances to Saturday’s Western Class A final against No. 3 Cheverus at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center. The Red Storm finish the year 16-4.

Several players contributed to McAuley’s building a first-quarter lead. Junior Olivia Smith tallied four, while teammates Molly Mack, Alexandra Clement, and Jaclyn Welch each added two. That firepower more than doubled the Red Storm’s. Scarborough’s offense in the first eight minutes came entirely from the line, with seniors Maria Philbrick and Mary Redmond dropping in two free throws a piece. At the buzzer, the Lions led 10-4.

“We had some open shots in the first half. We didn’t hit any open shots. I thought we had a lot of good looks; we just didn’t put the ball in the basket,” Cote said.

The second quarter saw McAuley pull further ahead. Smith opened the proceedings with a pair from the line, though Redmond and fellow Red Storm Taylor LeBorgne then put up four to inch their team a little closer. The Lions roared back, running for seven before LeBorgne and sophomore teammate Ashley Briggs interrupted with twos of their own. But McAuley had only been warming up, and their this-time-for-real run of seven, including a three and a two for Clement, came next. Heading to the locker rooms, the Lions stood on top, 26-12.

Scarborough gathered momentum in the third. After an early McAuley two by Clement, the Red Storm assembled an exciting, encouraging run, to which Redmond contributed a three, LeBorgne a two, and senior Courtney Alofs a pair of twos. Briggs, who then fouled Welch, may have inadvertently sapped the Red Storm’s energy, however, because the Lions scored six of the third quarter’s remaining eight points, and stalked into the fourth ahead 34-23.

The first 2:30 of the last quarter passed without a basket. McAuley then drained a pair of twos in rapid succession before LeBorgne could answer with a three, though Smith next went two for two from the line, then matched a Briggs two to keep banging out the dent Scarborough hoped to make in their deficit. Redmond executed a deft steal that Philbrick turned into two plus one from the line, and the pair shortly added five more, but between every burst of Red Storm offense was a burst of Lions offense in response. At the final buzzer, McAuley still led by nine.

“We played a number of different defenses, in the corner court,” Cote said of his squad’s strategy for the rematch. “[We] tried to confuse [McAuley]. A couple of [the defenses] did.” But those sparks of success weren’t enough for Scarborough to catch fire.

Redmond had 10 on the game, while LeBorgne had nine and Philbrick seven. For the Lions, Welch had 13, and Smith posted 10.

Scarborough senior Maria Philbrick charges up the court, followed by McAuley defender Alexandra Clement and faced by Lion Olivia Delphonse. Staff photos by Adam Birt
Scarborough senior Taylor LeBorgne surveys the field nearly from half-court.
Red Storm Maria Philbrick halts in a run up-court, looking to pass in her team’s meeting with Catherine McAuley Friday night.
Scarborough’s Mary Redmond eyeballs an approach into McAuley’s end during the teams’ matchup Friday night.
Scarborough senior Taylor LeBorgne lets loose a jumper against McAuley Friday night.
Scarborough senior Mary Redmond climbs over a McAuley defender to get her shot off in the teams’ semifinal bout Friday night.
Taylor LeBorgne of Scarborough needs somehow to pinball through McAuley’s defense.
Scarborough’s Taylor LeBorgne bounce-passes the ball out of a close McAuley defender’s reach.

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