Going scoreless for over six minutes isn’t the recipe for protecting a 10-point lead in the second half, so Maine Girls’ Academy turned to defense to hold off Thornton Academy for a 44-34 victory in an SMAA girls’ basketball game Monday night.

The Lions (11-2) built an 11-point lead in the third quarter, then went cold and the Golden Trojans (5-9) got as close as four late in the game. But clutch play from Jill Joyce and Catherine Reid helped Maine Girls’ Academy hold on.

“We’ve worked on half-court defense and our defense stepped up,” said Lions Coach Billy Goodman. “I’m proud of them.”

A basket by Amanda Bogardus pulled Thornton within 36-32 with 2:10 to go, but Maine Girls’ Academy only allowed two points the rest of the way. Four quick points by Joyce helped decide it.

“It was nerve-racking but we always find a way to get it done,” Joyce said.

“Defense is a mindset. If we work hard on defense the offense will come.”

Maine Girls’ Academy struggled to score early and Thornton opened leads of 4-0 and 6-3, but an 8-0 run, sparked by six points from Reid, gave the Lions the lead for good.

They led 11-8 after the first quarter.

“Coach tells me to ignore the basket and be strong,” Reid said.

Serena Mower opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and, behind the inside dominance of Katie Fitzpatrick, Maine Girls’ Academy went on a 10-2 run; Fitzpatrick had seven points in the stretch.

Alex Hart kept Thornton in the game with seven points in the quarter but the Lions took a 28-17 lead to halftime.

“It was frustrating considering we worked on (stopping Hart) and it didn’t show,” Goodman said.

“She’s a special player, a top player in the state.”

The Lions only turned the ball over twice in the first half, but in the third quarter gave it away five times and also went cold from the floor, but the Golden Trojans weren’t able to take full advantage.

Maine Girls’ Academy didn’t score for more than three minutes, but Thornton never got closer than nine points, and a late free throw by Fitzpatrick extended the lead to 36-26 heading to the final quarter.

There, the Lions couldn’t put it away, committing eight more turnovers, and the Golden Trojans pulled within four before Maine Girls’ Academy hit six free throws and got a Joyce layup down the stretch to close it out.

Reid finished with a game-high 15 points and Joyce added 12 for the Lions.

Thornton Academy was paced by 18 points and nine rebounds from Hart.

“Every time we’d do positive things, we’d do some negative things too,” said Golden Trojans Coach Eric Marston.

“We turned the ball over and it felt like they beat us to every 50-50 ball, and it seemed like they outrebounded us by a lot. We had a couple chances but we didn’t capitalize.”