PORTLAND — There were a couple of minutes early in the second half of Saturday’s Class A state championship game when Cony made a run at Western Maine champ McAuley.

The Rams opened the third quarter with a 7-1 run to draw within two points, but the taller Lions went back to what they do most effectively — get the ball inside. Sophomore Olivia Smith scored on a short jumper in the lane and hit two free throws following an offensive rebound.

The game was never quite the same again as the defending state champs pulled away to a 54-41 victory at the Cumberland County Civic Center. McAuley completes an unbeaten season at 22-0 while Cony finishes at 21-1.

The Lions have plenty of skill and depth, but it’s their size that separates them from most of their opponents. Not only did they start Alexa Coulombe and Smith, both 6-foot-2, but they brought 6-foot Victoria Lux and 5-11 Molly Mack off the bench.

“We have a huge height advantage over a lot of teams and this is one of them,” senior guard Sadie Dipierro said.

Smith finished with 15 points, while Lux added nine points, Coulombe seven and Mack grabbed 10 rebounds. The size was just as effective on defense where the Lions forced 23 turnovers.

“When we got the job, the No. 1 thing was defense,” first-year McAuley coach Billy Goodman said. “That’s what we focus on.”

Cony opened the game by bombing away from the outside, taking just one shot from inside the 3-point arc on their first nine attempts. Before they know it, they were trailing 13-2.

“I think sometimes when you’re coming into a new gym it takes some time for the girls to settle in,” Cony coach Karen Magnusson said. “They were trying to make something happen.”

Julie Arbour hit Cony’s first 3 early in the second quarter but the Rams only made three in the game. They got back into the game in the second quarter, though, as Mia Diplock (10 points) scored five points and Melanie Guzman (14 points, 10 rebounds) went 4-for-4 from the line. Cony trailed 25-17 but opened the third quarter with a 7-1 run.

Bethany Elwell connected on a 3-pointer from the left side, then Guzman followed with a putback and two free throws. Suddenly it was 26-24 and McAuley called timeout.

“Every team’s going to give us their best shot,” Smith said. “We just need to remember to focus on the next play and not get down on the last one.”

Sophomore Allie Clement (11 points) hit a 3-pointer for the Lions and Smith canned another jumper in the lane as McAuley took a 35-26 lead into the fourth quarter. McAuley also applied an effective zone press in the second half that took the Rams out of their rhythm and forced 11 turnovers.

“We had gone over it,” Magnusson said. “But their length in it really shrunk the court. It was hard to find open spots and they did a good job forcing us to sidelines rather than the middle.”

The Lions took charge of the game with a 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter highlighted by Clement’s three-point play. Their defense did an effective job in holding Diplock and Josie Lee to a combined 17 points. Lee, who led the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division in rebounding this season, did finished with a game-high 11 boards.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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