After watching her team lose, 34-31, in an Athletic Association of Catholic Academies basketball game to archrival Mount St. Joseph on Tuesday, Villa Maria Academy coach Kathy McCartney described the contest in a few words.

"It was a rugby scrum," said the veteran coach, who watched her team go from being one point up with 1 minute, 50 seconds to play to being five points down with 15 seconds to go.

"That's what happens when you have two teams that play aggressive, man-to-man defense," said Magic coach John Miller, whose squad lifted its record to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the league.

It was the first game of the season for the Hurricanes, and McCartney said it showed.

"We didn't do the little things," she said, pointing out that Villa Maria shot 11 for 14 at the free-throw line but was only 8 for 32 from the floor.

There were indications from the beginning that it was going to be a low-scoring affair.

The two teams combined for only 13 points in the first quarter and 10 points in the second. The Magic led, 12-11, at halftime.

With two victories under its belt - over Cumberland Valley and Gov. Mifflin in the Cedar Crest Tournament last weekend - the Magic probably had an advantage over the Hurricanes.

They also were playing at home after the site was switched from Villa Maria at the Mount's request.

However, the Magic, the defending Catholic Academies champions, were no sharpshooters, either. They shot only 9 for 32 from the floor.

"Defense won it for us," said the Magic's Bridget Higgins, who was the game's high scorer with 16 points. No other player reached double figures.

"We expected a tough battle from them," Higgins added. "They are our big rivals."

Maddie McTigue led Villa Maria with eight points.

No more than five points ever separated the two teams.

After Villa Maria took a 21-16 lead with 1:59 left in the third quarter, Higgins hit 2 of 3 from the free-throw line after being fouled on a long three-pointer just before the third-period buzzer.

"I couldn't believe I got fouled," Higgins said of her shot from the left corner.

Villa held a slim 21-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Hurricanes made it 23-20 before the Magic rallied to take the lead, 30-29, with 1:25 to play on a Higgins basket.

Higgins then hit a pair of free throws with 39 seconds left. She missed a pair with 27 seconds to go, but Villa Maria lost the ball and was out of timeouts.

Villa Maria   6 5 10 10 – 31

Mount St. Joseph   7 5 8 14 – 34

VM: Lisa Mararchi 7, Kelly Anthony 5, Kellie O'Rourke 4, Maddie McTigue 8, Kristen Walheim 4, Maddie Joyce 3.

MSJ: Bridget Higgins 16, Alex Louis 2, Carly Monzo 5, Cailin Schmeer 4, Kelsey Jones 5, Meg Geatens 2.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.