McAuley returns to form, has its way with Massabesic

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McAuley senior Sarah Clement leans in for a shot as Massabesic freshman Skylar Renaud defends during the Lions’ 81-49 victory Monday afternoon. Clement had 12 points to help McAuley prevail.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

McAuley 81 Massabesic 49

Mass- 14 10 19 6- 49
Mc- 22 20 17 22- 81

Mass- Ouellette 6-1-18, Drain 3-0-6, Pike 3-0-6, Desrochers 1-2-5, Bearse 1-2-4, Guimond 1-2-4, Renaud 2-0-4, Baert 1-0-2

Mc- Willerson 8-4-20, Clement 3-3-12, Reid 4-0-12, Howard 4-0-9, Legassey 3-0-9, Mazur 3-2-8, Joyce 2-0-4, Weisser 2-0-4, Rairdon 1-1-3

3-pointers:
Mass (6) Ouellette 5, Desrochers 1
Ma (11) Reid 4, Clement, Legassey 3, Howard 1

Turnovers:
Mass- 21
Mc- 12

FTs
Mass: 7-12
Mc: 10-16

PORTLAND—This was more like it.

McAuley’s girls’ basketball team happily put last week’s rare losing streak in its rearview mirror when it welcomed Massabesic Monday afternoon.

After falling against South Portland and Gorham for the program’s first skid in six years, the Lions returned to form, playing their trademark brand of strong defense, displaying tremendous balance and getting several solid performances in a terrific 32-minute effort.

McAuley couldn’t have asked for a better start, as senior Sarah Clement knocked down a 3 to put the Lions on top to stay, and they grabbed a 14-1 lead before the Mustangs got comfortable. 

McAuley went up, 22-14, after one quarter and never relented in the second, taking a 42-24 advantage into the break, as senior Jess Willerson led the way with 13 points.

In the third period, a 10-0 Lions’ run, sparked by a pair of steals from sophomore Eva Mazur, ended all doubt and McAuley’s reserves were every bit as impressive as the starters as they pulled away in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touches on an 81-49 victory.

Willerson led all scorers with 20 points, Clement and freshman sharpshooter Catherine Reid added 12 apiece and the Lions put nine players in the scoring column, made 11 3-point shots and improved to 10-2, dropping Massabesic to 1-11 in the process.

“The girls have been really great since the South Portland game,” said McAuley coach Billy Goodman. “The teamwork, cheering for each other, it’s been really fun. They’ve been awesome and energetic.”

Recovery

McAuley opened with a 46-37 home victory over South Portland, then won at Massabesic (48-34), Bonny Eagle (59-38) and Noble (71-29), avenged last year’s playoff loss by downing Thornton Academy, 41-31, then closed 2015 with a 63-44 victory at Scarborough. The Lions kicked off 2016 by rallying to beat host Cheverus, 56-44, then downed host Marshwood (49-41) and visiting Windham (61-52), but the road got rocky last week, as McAuley lost to host South Portland for the first time in nearly eight years, 57-45, then suffered consecutive losses (with a 53-48 home setback against Gorham) for the first time since January, 2010.

Massabesic entered the year considered a contender in Class AA South, but its first four games came against McAuley, Thornton Academy, Gorham and South Portland and the Mustangs dropped them all. After edging host Kennebunk, Massabesic lost to Marshwood, Deering, Bonny Eagle, Edward Little, Windham and Biddeford.

Entering play Monday, the Lions hadn’t lost to the Mustangs since dropping a 59-52 decision in the 2008 Western A preliminary round.

McAuley, which took last year’s contest, 66-20, and got 22 points from Willerson in the earlier win over Massabesic this winter, quickly took care of business in this meeting, making it nine in a row in the series and avoiding its first three-game regular season losing streak this century.

Clement set the tone 29 seconds in, taking a pass from Willerson and draining a 3 from the right corner to put the Lions on top for good.

After Clement took a charge at the other end, she set up Willerson for a fastbreak layup.

After Willerson made a free throw, Clement fed Mazur for a transition jumper and an 8-0 lead.

“A good start is always key, but honestly, I was just responding to the losses and want to finish the season well,” Clement said. “It’s my last one and I want to do well and share these moments with my teammates.”

Massabesic got on the board thanks to a free throw from sophomore Jacklyn Bearse, but Clement set up Willerson for a layup, Willerson fed senior Brooke Howard for a layup and with 3:13 to go in the frame, Howard passed to sophomore Emily Weisser for a layup and a commanding 14-1 lead.

To their credit, the Mustangs didn’t buckle.

Massabesic got a leaner from sophomore Madi Drain for their first field goal, 5 minutes, 4 seconds into the game, and after Reid made a 3 seconds after entering the game, Drain scored on a bank shot. After a steal, freshman McKenzy Ouellette made a 3 to cut the deficit to single digits, 17-8.

Lions freshman Jill Joyce stemmed the tide with a jumper and after a layup from Bearse, sophomore Madison Legassey sank her first 3 to make it 22-10.

The Mustangs then got putbacks from Ouellette and sophomore Morgan Pike to pull within 22-14 after one quarter.

McAuley’s offense stayed red-hot in the second period and the Lions gradually pulled away.

Howard started the new frame with a 3 and after the visitors answered on a bank shot from sophomore Devon Baert, Clement made a free throw, then hit a 3 to make it 29-16.

Massabesic got a layup from senior Sarah Guimond, but Legassey sank a 3 from the corner to push the lead to 14.

After Bearse made a free throw, Willerson took over, scoring on a putback, taking a pass from Mazur and making a layup, then scoring on a putback for a 38-19 lead.

The Mustangs got a jumper from Pike, but after a pretty spin move, Howard made a layup and after being fouled on an offensive rebound, Willerson hit two free throws. A last-second 3 from Ouellette cut McAuley’s lead to 42-24 at halftime.

In the first half, the Lions were paced by 13 points (and seven rebounds) from Willerson, seven points apiece from Clement (four rebounds, four assists) and Howard and six from Legassey.

McAuley didn’t let up in the third period.

Ouellette opened the new half with a step-back 3, but Mazur fed Weisser for a layup and Weisser passed to Willerson for a layup and a 46-27 lead.

Drain countered with a driving layup, but the Lions got the next 10 points, as Clement made two free throws, Willerson scored on a putback, Mazur made two foul shots, Mazur made a layup after a steal and Howard added a layup to make it 56-29.

Two Guimond foul shots stemmed the tide, Ouellette added a 3 and after freshman Skylar Renaud scored on a bank shot, Massabesic was within 20, 56-36.

After Clement made her final 3, the Mustangs ran off seven straight points to close the frame, as Renaud scored on a bank shot, junior Emma Desrochers made two free throws and Desrochers buried a 3 to make it 59-43 with eight minutes to play.

McAuley slammed the door in the fourth period.

After Ouellette made a free throw, Mazur made a layup after a steal, but Ouellette drained a 3 from the corner with 5:49 left to make it a 14-point game, 61-47.

Massabesic would draw no closer, as Reid countered with a 3 and after Pike sank a short jumper for the Mustangs’ final points, Reid hit another 3, senior Chelsea Rairdon set up Willerson for a layup and Willerson, who was fouled on the play, added a free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play.

Reid followed with yet another 3, Legassey drained a 3, Joyce finished a feed from Rairdon and made a layup, Rairdon made a free throw and Rairdon finished a pass from Legassey and made a layup to account for the 81-49 final score.

“The two losses we’ve had have really motivated us to play better and work harder,” Clement said.

“(The last week’s) been tough, but the adversity made us work harder in practice and made us come out with the attitude that, ‘We’re McAuley and we’re going to show you that we can recover,'” Rairdon said. “Our ball movement was exceptional today. That helped us get assists. Our team defense is really good. We have a really good mentality to stop the other team from scoring.” 

Balance was the theme Monday, as everyone who saw the floor contributed.

Willerson led the way with 20 points. She also had nine rebounds and four steals.

Clement had 12 points, but that was just the start of her story in her best showing since the opening moments of last year’s Western A semifinal. Clement also had six rebounds and four assists.

“I’ve focused more lately on rebounding and defense,” Clement said. “I think if I’m focused on other things, then the scoring will come easier.”

“Sarah’s shooting the ball well and she’s playing confident,” Goodman said. “She’s doing a lot of things on the floor, rebounds and assists.”

Reid made four 3s, good for 12 points, Howard and Legassey had nine points apiece, Mazur (five steals, three assists, three rebounds) added eight points, Joyce and Weisser had four points apiece and Rairdon wound up with three.

McAuley’s non-starters accounted for 28 points.

“The mentality is to come out and continue what the starters have been doing and do the job Coach asks us to do,” Rairdon said.

“I’ve noticed in the JV games that some of those girls have done a good job,” Goodman said. “I wanted to get more playing time for those girls at our level. They’ve earned it and I’m very proud of them.”

The Lions had assists on 20 of their 30 field goals, only turned the ball over 12 times, forced 21 Mustangs’ miscues, enjoyed a 29-27 rebounding advantage and sank 10 of 16 free throws.

Massabesic was paced by a stellar game from the sharpshooting Ouellette, who had five 3s and led the Mustangs with 18 points. Drain (five rebounds) and Pike had six points each, Desrochers (five boards) had five, Bearse (four steals), Guimond and Renaud added four apiece and Baert had two.

The Mustangs made 7 of 12 free throws.

Resurgence

Massabesic (now seventh in the Heal Points standings, six teams make the playoffs) is back in action Friday at Scarborough.

McAuley (third behind Gorham and South Portland in Class AA South) has a big test at Deering Friday, hosts Portland in a makeup game Saturday, then plays host to Scarborough and Sanford next week before closing at Portland and home against Cheverus.

“We need to take it one game at a time,” Clement said. “We need to focus on our defense and working hard.”

“We’ve worked on defense and it’s starting to show,” Goodman said. “It’s all about heart and hustle. I know we can do it. It’s all about consistency. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

McAuley sophomore Eva Mazur goes up over Massabesic freshman McKenzy Ouellette for a layup.

McAuley senior Jess Willerson grabs a rebound over Massabesic senior Sarah Guimond.

McAuley senior Chelsea Rairdon battles for a rebound.

McAuley sophomore Eva Mazur blows past Massabesic freshman McKenzy Ouellette.

McAuley senior Brooke Howard defends Massabesic senior Sarah Guimond.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.