WATERVILLE — As the No. 3 team in Class D South and a team on a roll, the Temple Academy girls basketball team was looking for a challenge.

It received one Friday night, and while the score may have been too close for comfort, the Bereans walked away with a 41-40 victory over Highview Christian.

The win keeps Temple (8-2) one of the top teams in D South at the midway point of the regular season.

“I think we’re just coming together as a team better this year,” said senior forward Kiara Carr, who led the Bereans offensively with 18 points.

Though Temple held the lead throughout the entire contest, the Knights (2-8) did not make it easy. Down 34-23 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Highview went on an 8-0 run, followed by a 5-0 run after Temple’s next bucket.

The Knights pulled within a point with three minutes remaining in the game, thanks to a 3-pointer by Kelsi Upham. But Daphne Labbe and Deleyni Carr followed with consecutive layups for the Bereans, giving them a 41-36 lead with just under two minutes left.

Highview fought back to the buzzer. Cassidy Burns hit a shot that cut the Temple lead to 41-38 with 1:40 remaining, and the Knights held the last possession of the game with seven seconds to go. They were able to move the ball down low to forward Cassidy Lessner, who banked the layup near the buzzer to bring the score to 41-40, a point shy of a tie and a trip to overtime.

Temple cruised offensively in the first half, building a 30-13 halftime lead. Carr scored 16 of her 18 points in the first half alone. But the Bereans struggled offensively in the second half and were outscored 27-11. Still, Temple — playing like a team that has postseason plans — made the shots that they ultimately needed to in the second half to come away with the victory.

“I was just telling (the team, during timeouts) to slow down the offense, move the ball, we’re still ahead,” Temple head coach Michael Gorman said. “Just take the best shot. We were taking some shots that were not good shots. We do a lot better if we’re patient, move the ball, things will open up inside. But that’s a difficult thing to do.”

It was the first win this season for the Bereans involving a difference of less than 15 points. Temple averaged a lead of 26 points or more in its seven previous victories before Friday night.

Gorman said aside from Friday and a Jan. 11 loss to Rangeley, the offense has been Temple’s biggest strength, while defense was the focal point of Temple’s improvement.

“Our philosophy is defense first,” Gorman said. “Defense fuels your offense. We try to play good defense. We used two different defenses tonight — we used man and we used the 2-2-1 press. Our defense is coming along. It’s not where we want it, but it’s coming along.”

“I think we need to work on our communication and defense (going forward),” Carr said.

Aside from Carr’s 18 points, Selam Heinrich chipped with seven points for the Bereans. Labbe and Veronica Rossignol each added six points.

Lessnar had the same game as Carr, just in reverse, as she scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half. Burns followed with nine points, while Upham added seven points.

It was the second time this season the Bereans and Knights have played each other. Temple beat Highview 59-36 in the first meeting back on Dec. 13.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer