From the moment girls’ basketball teams stepped onto the court for their first practices back in November, this is the game everyone anticipated.

Top-seeded McAuley High (19-1) will play No. 2 Thornton Academy (18-2) for the Western Class A championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

And if McAuley is going to win its fifth consecutive regional title, it will have to do so without standout junior shooting guard Sarah Clement.

MRI results Friday confirmed what Clement feared after she suffered an injury in McAuley’s semifinal win Wednesday. She has again torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and will have surgery Feb. 27.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Clement, who missed her sophomore season while rehabbing from the same injury. “I had just gotten to full strength again.”

Clement said she knew immediately she had re-torn the ACL.

“It was a very simply move, I didn’t get hit or anything. I literally jump-stopped and it tore.

“There’s nothing I can do about it except remain positive,” said Clement, who has verbally committed to play at the University of New Hampshire. “I’m lucky to have my team, my family and my school behind me.

“I know what to expect with the recovery; I know it will be worse. The doctor said the second time is a slower recovery.”

Clement, who also tore the meniscus ligament in her right knee, will attend Saturday’s game and act as another assistant coach for Bill Goodman. She had hoped to play but was told by doctors it could lead to permanent damage to the knee.

Goodman said losing Clement is a big blow to the four-time defending Class A state champions. But he said he has rotated 10 players in all season and each must be ready.

“We’re going against one of the best defensive teams in the state, one of the most talented teams in the state,” he said. “With or without Sarah, it’s going to be the hardest game we play this year. Either my whole team shows up or we don’t.

“It is a bad break but every team has bad breaks. We will have no excuses. One player is not going to make or break us.”

Clement’s injury is just the latest subplot to this game.

Thornton Academy is attempting to win its first regional title while making its first appearance in a final in 30 years.

 Victoria Lux, the Trojans’ senior center and a semifinalist for Miss Maine Basketball, played her first three high school years at McAuley and was a pivotal figure in the last three state titles.

 The teams split in the regular season, each winning at home (Thornton, 37-34 on Dec. 5; McAuley, 29-25 on Jan. 6).

 The Trojans are the only team to beat McAuley over the last four seasons.

“This will be like our home opener back in December,” said Thornton Coach Eric Marston of the Dec. 5 game. “But now everything’s even bigger.”

After Lux transferred last fall, the Trojans were regarded as the team to beat in Western Class A. Thornton returned three starters to join her. And McAuley lost four starters.

That the Lions have won 19 consecutive games since that opening-night loss in Saco is astounding.

“I’ve been telling the girls we played the hardest schedule in the SMAA this year – Thornton twice, Deering twice, Cheverus twice,” said Goodman, who has an 84-2 record in four seasons at McAuley (135-13 overall, including three seasons at Greely).

As Goodman cited, defense is likely to rule this game. Thornton Academy led the SMAA by allowing just 27.6 points per game this season; McAuley was second at 32.6. Neither team broke 40 points in the two games they played against each other. They both pressure shooters and ballhandlers relentlessly.

“Both teams are better offensively now than when we played,” said Marston. “But I still expect points to be at a premium.”