PORTLAND — One steal was followed by an easy fast break basket.

Then another steal and another basket followed that.

That was the pattern early in the second half Saturday and there was little the Oxford Hills girls’ basketball could do to sway the momentum.

After playing a solid first half against the defending state champions, the Vikings watched the Class A state championship game slip away in a hurry. McAuley’s five-point lead to start the second half quickly became double digits and the Lions never looked back. in a 67-47 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“We’ve been in a situation all year where we don’t score 65 t0 70 points,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “When it gets into that style of game, we’re going to be in trouble. We don’t score in bunches like that.”

The Lions scored 11 consecutive points to open the half and dominated the third quarter. What was a 20-20 game late in the half was a 50-30 game by the end of the third.

“We couldn’t score,”  Pelletier said. “Their defense was very good. Then it seemed like everything was a steal out front which led to a layup. When it wasn’t, they came down and hit a 3.”

It is the fourth consecutive state title for the Lions, who have won six Gold Balls in 11 tries in the last 16 years. It was the first state appearance for the Vikings since 2008, when Oxford Hills lost to Deering.

“No matter what, winning the fourth was the goal, but playing really well and having one of our best games makes it even more memorable,” said senior guard Allie Clement.

Between Clement on the outside and Victoria Lux in the paint, the Lions were tough to stop. McAuley dominated the boards and Lux was even able to beat the Vikings in transition numerous times. The Lions got rolling in the third and the Vikings were overwhelmed.

“I’m really proud of everyone,” Clement said. “Everyone kind of knew they wrent’ satisfied with how we played in the first half. We got some fouls and things. The second half, we came out how we did. From there, we took what we got and had some open shots and we knocked them down. It was awesome.”

Lux led the Lions (21-1) with 19 points while Clement finished with 17. All of Clement’s points came in the decisive second and third quarters, in which the Lions opened the lead late in the first half and then blew it open in the third.

“This is typical of our season,” said McAuley coach Bill Goodman. “The bench helped us in the first half. Then I went to the go-to girls in the second half. Everything we’d been struggling with a month-and-a-half ago, we did today. We moved the ball nicely.”

Oxford Hills (17-5) got 17 from Anna Winslow and nine from Mikayla Morin. Crystal West added eight for the Vikings.

Following the loss, the Vikings took the runner-up trophy across the court and proudly saluted the sizable Oxford Hills fan base. The entire McAuley team stood up and applauded them as well.

“We’re young and we’re athletic,” Pelletier said. “At the beginning of the year, we probably didn’t think we’d be here, and we got here. So now our goal for next year is to get right back here.”

The Vikings made the Lions take notice early. Oxford Hills jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead. McAuley had three starters pick up early fouls — Clement, Olivia Smith and Lux.

“I’ve said all along that you’ve got to be prepared for foul trouble,” said Goodman, who got valuable minutes from players like Ayla Tartre, Mary Furlong, Allie Tillotson and Margaret Hatch. “All year we’ve worked the bench just as much as the starters. They worked on their defense just as much in practice. They’ve been doing it all year, and they did it tonight.”

Winslow and West each had five points in the first to open up the lead. A West 3 late in the quarter made it 12-4, but the Lions had a surge on a 3 from Olivia Dalphonse and a basket by Lux that trimmed the lead to 13-9 after one.

McAuley took the lead in the second on a four-point play by Clement. West answered with a 3 to give the Vikings a one-point lead. After back-to-back baskets by Jaclyn Welch, Tiana Sugars and two free throws by Morin tied the game 20-20 with 1:31 left in the half.

McAuley got a short jumper from Smith and then as time ticked away, the Vikings defense got lazy on Clement and she buried a 3 to end the half with a 25-20 lead.

“It definitely felt good,” Pelletier said about his team’s first half performance. “Right at the end when Clement hits that 3, the tide turned. All of a sudden, right there, they go up by five instead of two. Then they get a quick steal and it’s seven or nine and we couldnt’ get it back from there.”

The Vikings turned the ball over seven times in the third while McAuley had no turnovers. Oxford Hills didn’t get a first shot in the quarter until 4:53 remained. Steals and baskets by Clement and Dalphonse quickly padded the lead. Then Smith scored in the post. Welch scored off another steal and Lux converted a 3-point play and the lead was up to 36-20.

“I think we didn’t come out how we wanted to in the first half,” Clement said. “We were just so crazy that it was the state championship and our last game, especially for the seniors. Once we got past that and in the second half, we settled down and we just knew.

“The third quarter has always been our favorite quarter. The first few minutes we want to come out with a bang. We wanted to get some points on the board and play some good defense. I think we did that and it changed the momentum of the game.”

The Vikings didn’t score until two Winslow free throws with 4:12 left. Then after a Clement 3 and baskets in the paint by Smith and Lux, the lead was up to 43-22. Morin drilled a 3 for the Vikings first field goal of the quarter with 2:51 left.

“They hit their shots, kind of like we did against EL,” said Pelletier of the Eastern A final. “They hit the shots against us. They have an inside-outside game that just dominated.”

The lead was 50-30 after three and the Lions never let up. Winslow scored eight of the Vikings 11 points in the fourth, but Oxford Hills couldn’t put a dent in the lead.

“We can’t complain,” Pelletier said. “We had a great season. Our seniors played their butts off. I can’t ask for anything more.”

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