PORTLAND — The matchup lived up to expectations and then some.
In the Western Class A girls’ basketball final between top-ranked, undefeated and two-time defending Class A state champion McAuley and surging No. 3 seed Cheverus, the Lions never trailed, but didn’t lock up their third straight regional title until the final seconds.
McAuley raced to a 10-0 lead and was up, 18-4, late in the first half before the Stags got a measure of confidence late in the half with five straight points to pull within nine, 18-9, at the break.
In the third period, the Lions went up by as many as 13 points, but Cheverus never gave up and when senior Victoria Nappi made a 3 with 2:03 to play, the Stags trailed by just four, 37-33. McAuley hit eight consecutive free throws with the game on the line, however, and held on to advance, 47-36.
The Lions won their 47th straight game over three seasons, improved to 20-0 and advanced to meet Bangor in the Class A state final next Saturday at 4 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.
Junior standout Allie Clement, named the regional tournament MVP, led McAuley with 15 points. Sophomore Victoria Lux added 12 points and eight rebounds.
Cheverus, which was exceptionally valiant during its tournament run and especially in the second half Saturday, finished a program-best 18-3. The Stags were led by 16 points from senior Brooke Flaherty in her swan song. Nappi added 11.