WESTBROOK—Victories aren’t coming as emphatically as in past seasons, but McAuley’s girls’ basketball team once again finds itself atop the Western Class A heap.
Even if it isn’t always a thing of beauty.
Monday, in a holiday matinee at Westbrook, it took the Lions five minutes to score their first field goal and they only managed six first quarter points, but thanks to their-always excellent defense, they had a two-point lead.
The offense started to come around in the second period, as freshman Emily Weisser came off to bench to spark a 9-0 run.
McAuley only led by four, 21-17, at halftime and clung to just a six-point, 30-24, advantage midway through the third quarter, but a 6-0 run in less than a minute opened it up and the Lions pulled away in the fourth to prevail, 55-31.
Junior Jess Willerson led the way with 17 points, senior Ayla Tartre had nine, junior Sarah Clement eight and Weisser added seven as McAuley increased its win streak to 12, improved to 12-1, dropped Westbrook to 6-7 and in the process, leapfrogged Thornton Academy for the top spot in the Western Class A Heal Points standings.
“Our team hasn’t been consistently great on offense and we’re aware of that, but we rely on our defense and when our offense is there, we take it,” said Lions coach Billy Goodman.
McAuley opened with a 37-34 loss at Thornton Academy, then won at Massabesic (66-20), beat visiting Gorham (54-43) and host Deering (in a 49-48 thriller), dominated visiting Noble (65-16), stayed perfect all-time in the “Holy War” with a 57-46 victory at Cheverus, then rolled over host Windham (52-15) and Biddeford (57-19) before holding on for dear life to edge visiting Thornton Academy, 29-25. Victories at South Portland (45-36) and at home over Scarborough (48-21) and Sanford (58-28) stretched the win streak to 11.
Westbrook, meanwhile, opened with a 45-23 win at Sanford, then lost at home to South Portland (74-29). After a 52-24 home victory over Biddeford and a 41-39 home win over Scarborough, the Blue Blazes fell at Westbrook (47-39) and at Deering (49-35). Home victories over Massabesic (46-24), Windham (56-49) and Portland (57-40) followed, but Westbrook then lost at home to Gorham (49-42), at Cheverus (53-52) and at Marshwood (46-39).
McAuley has dominated Westbrook this century, handling the Blue Blazes in the regular season, as well as in the 2007 and the 2012 quarterfinals. Last year, the Lions romped at home, 65-28.
Monday, McAuley pulled away to do it again.
There appeared to be a lid on both baskets for much of the first period.
After Willerson made a free throw 21 seconds into the game, neither team scored for almost four minutes before Blue Blazes senior Marissa Martel made a foul shot.
With 3 minutes left in the first, Weisser hit a jumper. After senior Lexi Redmond made a free throw, Westbrook got its first field goal when sophomore standout Alisha Aube made a leaner with 2:12 to go, but with 31 seconds remaining, Willerson took a pass from freshman sensation Eva Mazur and made a layup while being fouled and added a free throw for a 6-4 advantage.
Neither team scored in the first minute of the second period, but both eventually got things going.
Mazur made a free throw, but Blue Blazes sophomore Danasia Fennie answered with a bank shot and with 6:14 to go in the half, junior Madi Mullett hit a jumper to give Westbrook its final lead, 8-7.
Mazur countered by taking a pass from senior captain Olivia Dalphonse and hitting a jumper. Aube tied the score with a free throw, but Weisser sparked a 9-0 run by feeding Willerson for a layup, then scoring on a putback. Tartre buried a 3 and Willerson hit two foul shots to open up an 18-9 advantage.
Fennie ended the run with a free throw, then scored on a putback, but Tartre’s baseline jumper made it 20-12.
Aube hit a foul shot, but Tartre countered with one. After Fennie hit a turnaround jumper, Mullett hit a free throw and the Blue Blazes were only down four, 21-17, at halftime.
McAuley couldn’t shake Westbrook for much of the third period, then finally turned it up.
Dalphonse reminded everyone how dangerous an offensive weapon she can be when she stepped back and knocked down a 3 just 10 seconds into the second half.
“They were leaving me open, so I took it and drained it,” Dalphonse said.
Willerson added two free throws, but Fennie drove for a layup. After Clement hit a baseline jumper, Martel countered with a jump shot. Dalphonse then set up Willerson for a layup, but Aube scored on a putback, then made a free throw to cut the deficit to 30-24 with 5:02 to go in the third.
The hosts would get no closer, however.
Again, it was Weisser providing the spark, as she hit a baseline jumper. Dalphonse then showed off her nonpareil defensive ability with a steal and a layup and Dalphonse set up senior Mary Furlong for a layup and a 36-24 lead.
The Blue Blazes ended the 6-0 run when Aube made two free throws, but a foul shot from Weisser gave the Lions a 37-26 advantage heading for the fourth quarter.
Where McAuley ended all doubt.
First, Dalphonse got out on the run and fed Willerson for a layup. Clement then drove, was fouled while banking home a shot and hit the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and a 42-26 lead.
Aube answered with a 3, but Willerson made a free throw. After Aube hit a baseline leaner for Westbrook’s final points with 5:23 to go, Dalphonse spotted Tartre open in the corner and Tartre knocked down a 3-ball. Moments later, Clement was fouled while shooting a 3 and she buried all three free throws to make it 49-31.
Willerson and junior Brooke Howard both hit two foul shots and sophomore Ally Tillotson made a layup in the waning moments and that capped a 12-0 surge and accounted for the 55-31 final score.
“This year, we’re more of a blue collar team that’s working hard,” Goodman said. “In four quarters, we find a way to get it done. We have a lot of new kids this year. They’re all finding a way to do what they’re told. I have girls who can do it on offense, they’re just not consistent.”
Willerson had a game-high 17 points and added seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.
Tartre had nine points and did a nice job on the defensive end, holding Aube somewhat at bay.
Clement finished with eight points and eight boards.
Weisser made the most of her limited minutes, scoring seven points, while also grabbing four rebounds.
“Everyone has a specific job to help the team out and mine is defense,” Weisser said. “If it’s open I shoot it, but most of the time I pass to the shooters.”
“Emily’s been doing really well,” Dalphonse said. “We’re happy she’s stepped up. She’s worked very hard in practice. She’s stepped it up and hit shots on offense and plays great defense on some of the best players in the league.”
“She a freshman learning what to do, but I think she’s a quick learner,” Goodman added.
Dalphonse had five points (to go with six assists, three steals and three boards), Mazur finished with three (to go with six boards, four steals and two assists) and Furlong, Howard and Tillotson all had two.
McAuley enjoyed a 35-22 rebounding advantage, made 18 of 26 free throws and only turned the ball over 12 times.
The Blue Blazes got 15 points and four rebounds from Aube.
“(Aube’s) a great player,” Goodman said. “I thought we did a good job on her, but she still scored.”
Fennie (five rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal) added nine, while Martel (four rebounds) and Mullett each finished with three and Redmond had one.
Westbrook turned the ball over 17 times and made just 10 of 20 free throws.
Westbrook (eighth in Western A) is back in action Friday at Noble. The Blue Blazes then host Thornton Academy Tuesday of next week.
McAuley wants to wind up first in the standings for the fourth straight season, but to do so, the Lions will probably have to win out and that won’t be easy. McAuley is back in action Friday at home versus Portland, in a playoff rematch. Home games versus Bonny Eagle, Deering (which will be pivotal) and Cheverus and a trip to Marshwood also remain.
“I’m actually kind of glad we lost the TA game because that gave us motivation to get to where we are now,” Weisser said. “We’re ready for the challenge. It’s still a work in progress.”
“I knew opening night would give us a shove and show us what we needed to do,” Dalphonse said. “We’ve been progressing. We still have a long way to go, but we just focus on the next game.”
“We started off slow and I asked the girls to get a little better every day and I think we have,” Goodman added. “We’re not overconfident going into any game.”
McAuley junior Sarah Clement gets Westbrook sophomore Danasia Fennie to bite on her pump fake.
Westbrook sophomore standout Alisha Aube shoots over McAuley senior Ayla Tartre. Aube had 15 points.
McAuley senior captain Olivia Dalphonse eludes a defender.
Westbrook sophomore Danasia Fennie soars past McAuley junior Jess Willerson and makes a layup.
McAuley freshman Eva Mazur and Westbrook junior Madi Mullett go to the floor to battle for the ball.
McAuley freshman Eva Mazur gets a step on Westbrook junior Jennilee Witham.
McAuley senior Ayla Tartre drives to the basket.
McAuley freshman Emily Weisser knocks down a jumper. Weisser had another stellar game off the bench, scoring seven points.
McAuley junior Jess Willerson blocks a shot by Westbrook sophomore Danasia Fennie.
Westbrook junior Jennilee Witham drives past McAuley freshman Eva Mazur.
@ McAuley 65 Westbrook 28
McAuley 67 @ Westbrook 37
@ McAuley 64 Westbrook 34
Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 41 Westbrook 23
McAuley 58 @ Westbrook 20
@ McAuley 47 Westbrook 22
@ McAuley 53 Westbrook 46
McAuley 44 @ Westbrook 22
McAuley 41 @ Westbrook 32
Western A quarterfinals
McAuley 48 Westbrook 30
@ McAuley 80 @ Westbrook 37
@ McAuley 75 Westbrook 25
McAuley 70 @ Westbrook 57
McAuley freshman Eva Mazur takes a charge on Westbrook sophomore Alisha Aube during the Lions’ 55-31 win Monday afternoon.
More photos below.
M- 6 15 16 18- 55
W- 4 13 9 5- 31
M- Willerson 4-9-17, Tartre 3-1-9, Clement 2-4-8, Weisser 3-1-7, Dalphonse 2-0-5, Mazur 1-1-3, Furlong 1-0-2 , Howard 0-2-2, Tillotson 1-0-2
W- Aube 4-6-15, Fennie 4-1-9, Martel 1-1-3, Mullett 1-1-3, Redmond 0-1-1
M (3) Tartre 2, Dalphonse 1
W (1) Aube 1