Catherine McAuley overpowers Bangor to claim third straight girls Class A basketball title

Posted March 02, 2013, at 5:46 p.m.
Last modified March 03, 2013, at 2:21 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Bangor girls basketball team had plenty of height and speed to match up with two-time defending Class A state champion Catherine McAuley on Saturday.

But the Portland-based Lions had too much star power, too much physicality and too much experience for the Rams.

Olivia Smith and Victoria Lux pounded their way to 31 combined points as the Lions won their 48th straight game and third straight gold ball with a 60-45 triumph at the Augusta Civic Center.

Coach Bill Goodman’s club also made history by becoming only the third team to win three consecutive Class A state crowns, joining Westbrook (1978-81) and Lawrence of Fairfield (1991-94). Those Westbrook and Lawrence teams both went on to post four straight state titles.

Bangor, appearing in its first state final in over three decades (1982), finishes 17-5.

With former Lawrence and University of Maine star and current University of Rhode Island assistant coach Cindy Blodgett sitting courtside, the Lions joined Blodgett’s Bulldogs in the history books, but they had to overcome a Rams’ team that came out of the gates flying.

Senior guard Denae Johnson hit a pullup jumper on the Rams’ first possession and closed the opening quarter with a 25-foot buzzer beater as coach Katie Herbine’s club was down just 13-10 after the first eight minutes.

But McAuley used its big-game experience and strength inside to forge ahead, as the Lions answered two Cordelia Stewart layups with nine straight points of their own.

“Bangor is a very good team, they’re tough. it starts with their big girls,” said Goodman, referring to the Rams’ post duo of Stewart and Mary Butler, both sophomores. “They brought it, they should be proud of themselves, they’re a good team.”

Smith (20 points) and Lux (11 points, 19 rebounds) raised their level of play consistently higher as the game wore on, and Smith had eight second-quarter points as the Lions started to establish themselves inside in the second quarter in taking a 34-23 halftime lead.

“We knew they would come out really strong because they wanted it too,” said Smith.

Bangor didn’t have many answers for the physicality of Lux, who was a force on the glass.

“The thing that really was a little bit different was just how physical the game was,” said Herbine. “ I did not prepare them well I guess for how physical it would be inside. That’s a team that’s played 21 games of real physical, good basketball.”

If McAuley’s inside duo wasn’t enough, guard Allie Clement chipped in with 13 points, and keyed a 7-0 McAuley run to start the third with a perimeter shot. Bangor never got closer than nine in the final 16 minutes.

“Those two big girls they’re real talented players,” Lux said. “We just had to come tonight and own those boards.”

Stewart scored eight third-quarter points in trying to keep the Rams in the game, but for every run Bangor made, McAuley was quick to respond.

Bangor had closed to within nine by the end of the third, but the Lions opened the fourth with eight straight points while holding the Rams without a field goal for nearly four straight minutes.

“We made a couple of runs but we never had quite enough to get to that next level and cut it down,” Herbine said.

Goodman consistently rotated fresh bodies to keep up with Stewart and Butler, with Molly Mack and Laura Holman spelling Lux and Smith defensively.

“All four of them did a great job,” said Goodman. “Stewart and Butler, they’re awesome. They’re good players. We had to make sure we were fresh to be able to keep up with them.”

Clement finished with 13 points for McAuley while Stewart had 17 and Butler 10 for Bangor.

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