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Marian Catholic watched a 13-point lead vanish as Mother McAuley went on an 18-5 run over a 6:47 spanning the third and fourth quarters.
That’s when Marian Catholic’s 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Teniya Page decided enough was enough.
Page scored four of her team-high 18 points in the final 1:20 and assisted on a big three-pointer from junior Ashton Millender as No. 3 Marian Catholic (4-0) pulled out a 57-54 victory Saturday in Chicago as part of the Maine West tournament.
“I think we became complacent at times, but we pulled it out at the end and that’s what matters,” Page said. “It’s about us coming together and being familiar what everyone can and can’t do. It’s just going to take some time, but we’ll do better.”
McAuley (3-2) trailed 41-38 with 4:36 remaining in the third quarter when the Mighty Macs exploded behind Alyssa Siwek (21 points, eight rebounds, four assists), who scored four straight points to get the deficit under double figures.
Siwek’s three-pointer with 7:27 remaining in the fourth quarter got McAuley within 46-40. A three-pointer by Kristen Kleist 38 seconds later followed by a free throw by Jasma Williams and two free throws by Kleist finally got McAuley even at 46-46.
“I expected it,” Page said. “They’re a tough team. They try hard every time, no matter who they play. We just had to match their toughness. That’s what we got to learn to do. Ashton and I knew it was our time to finish the game. She picked it up and I just followed along with her.”
Page found 6-foot sophomore Kauai Bradley (six points) on the right baseline for a short jumper, and then hooked up with Millender (12 points) for a three-pointer from the key to give the Spartans a 51-46 lead.
Three free throws from Elizabeth Nye (10 points) got McAuley within 53-52 with 1:06 left, but another basket by Bradley and two free throws by Page closed the book on the McAuley upset bid.
“McAuley’s always tough,” Marian Catholic coach Annie Byrne said. “They’re blue-collar, hard workers. They will catch you any time you fall asleep, anytime they can and then some. You always know what you’re up against in McAuley. This group just needs to learn everybody’s going to bring their absolute best against you.
“You can’t take a day off,” Byrne added. “They’re (the Spartans) such a great group of kids and they’re very talented, but preparation is so important. They’re learning how to do that. I think they’ll get better and better at it throughout the season.”
Lauren Carlson added nine points and seven rebounds for McAuley, which fell to 2-1 in the tournament while Marian Catholic improved to 3-0.
“You can’t give them points off turnovers, you can’t give them points on second chance rebounds,” McAuley coach Ashley Clanton said. “When you saw the lead blow up, that’s exactly what it was…a few bad turnovers, a couple of missed box outs and bam, they’re up.
“It takes doing all the little things, and we did it for the majority the game,” Clanton added. “A little slippage in the middle of it. But the girls are good enough to do things right. I think we’ve got some kids who have a lot of potential. Once we get them cranking, we’ll be a pretty nice ball club.”
McAuley already has one big piece to work with in Siwek, a 5-foot-8 senior who showed no fear going into the lane against the bigger, more physical Spartans.
“Hard games are going to come,” Siwek said. “This is a learning experience for all of us. We’re getting better each day. We have a new coach and we’re learning her new stuff. We usually don’t do so well against them (Marian Catholic), but today we were right up there with them.”