McAuley Coach Bill Goodman called it a midterm.

At the midpoint of the SMAA girls’ basketball test with Thornton Academy, the Lions probably would have gotten an A on Tuesday night.

In the end they got a win. McAuley weathered a determined comeback in front of a large bipartisan crowd for a 29-25 victory where every point came with a bang, a bruise and a battle.

Both teams are 8-1 and split the season series. McAuley held Thornton to nine points in the first half.

“This was a midterm for my team,” Goodman said. “I wanted to see what we’ve got. I loved our first half. The second half not so much and we’ve still got a lot to work on.”

Thornton had beaten the four-time state champs in their past two meetings. It held McAuley to seven points in the second half and without a field goal for the final 11 minutes, 10 seconds.

“We knew that this was a big game and was going to show the rest of the league what we can do as a team,” said McAuley guard Olivia Dalphonse, the team’s only returning starter. “We know that also this isn’t the biggest game of the season. There will be playoffs. We didn’t win a trophy tonight. We won a game against a good team.”

In the first half, McAuley’s defense made even simple passes 25 feet from the basket difficult for Thornton. The Lions started with a stiff half-court man-to-man and threw in just enough zone to force the Golden Trojans to try to score from outside.

Thornton’s inside threat, Victoria Lux – the former McAuley star – struggled with shooting and picked up two quick fouls.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons on the team and we just really didn’t get it clicking tonight,” Thornton Coach Eric Marston said. “Victoria is certainly not the only one who can score.”

McAuley center Jess Willerson, who played at Cheverus last year, sank two quick baby hooks and scored 12 of her game-high 14 points in the first half.

McAuley led 22-9 at the half. When Lux got a third and fourth foul early in the third quarter, it looked bleak for Thornton.

But the Trojans also can play defense and McAuley made one basket in the second half.

Lux helped with a block to initiate Alexandra Hart’s fast-break layup early in the fourth quarter and followed with her own turnaround, cutting the lead to 25-18.

Thornton’s Kaitlin McCrum (9 points) and Dalphonse each hit a pair of free throws, leaving McAuley ahead 27-20 with 1:46 to play. Dalphonse’s 1-and-1 ended a 9:24 scoring drought.

McCrum followed with a deep 3-pointer and Hart alertly stole the ball in the backcourt. On the subsequent possession Hart drained a deep jumper, cutting the lead to 27-25 with 1:22 to play.

Thornton’s chance to tie ended with a turnover.

Sarah Clement kept the ball in her hands until she was fouled and made her 1-and-1.

“I give all the credit to McAuley and Coach Goodman. They just locked us down defensively,” Marston said. “I was very proud of the way my girls fought back. I just wish we’d had another minute.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

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