CASTINE, Maine — The Husson University women were looking for an edge going into Saturday’s North Atlantic Conference basketball game at Maine Maritime Academy.
Toward that end, coach Kissy Walker’s team held a team-building function Friday night that featured a hypnotist who imparted positive thoughts in the Eagles’ minds.
Ashley Bragdon was one of three Eagles who reached a hypnotic state. Judging from her play Saturday afternoon, it appears she received the message loud and clear.
The junior forward from Newport posted a double-double with a game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes of action to power Husson to a 76-64 North Atlantic Conference victory at Smith Gymnasium.
The Eagles (6-6, 2-0 NAC) snapped an eight-game losing streak to MMA.
“There’s no love lost there,” Bragdon said. “We all know it’s a rivalry. It’s always Maine Maritime and Husson at the top of our conference, so we wanted this one.”
In the men’s game, Husson’s defense set the stage for a 72-36 victory. It was the Eagles’ 10th consecutive win over MMA.
In the opener, the Husson women took the lead 7½ minutes into the contest and never trailed after that. The Eagles outslugged the Mariners (4-9, 0-2 NAC) in a bruising contest that featured 48 fouls and 76 free-throw attempts.
Bragdon, a former Nokomis High standout, thrived under the rough conditions against Husson’s nemesis. It was her best performance of the season, according to Walker.
“Ashley’s kind of game is a physical game and this was a pretty physical game. She was focused,” Walker said.
As for the hypnosis, Bragdon would do it again.
“I’m starting to wonder after today,” she said. “I came in and was really focused. Everything just clicked. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.”
Already leading by two points, Husson took control with a 9-1 second-half flurry that lasted 94 seconds.
Bree Hanscom scored on a baseline move, then Bragdon rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Noelle Lincoln and scored. MMA’s Samantha Goda countered with one free throw, but Laura Archer knocked down a 3-pointer and Shelby Bradford scored on an offensive rebound to give the Eagles a 52-42 lead with 11:18 to play.
Coach Craig Dagan’s Mariners spread out the Eagles and attacked the basket off the dribble, getting to the foul line often. However, the hosts couldn’t get closer than three, the last time at 64-61.
“It’s big to come out of here with a win and it’ll definitely help us,” Bradford said. “If we can win here, we can win anywhere.”
Lee native Bradford provided 11 points and 14 rebounds for Husson, while Hanscom of Mattawamkeag contributed 12 points and Archer of Ellsworth 11 points and six rebounds.
MMA was led by 11 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks from Tatum Welch of Newport. Goda finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Prior to the contest, MMA honored former star Vanessa LeBlond Vigue of Freeport (1996-99) by retiring her No. 32 jersey, making her the first Mariner so recognized.
In the men’s game, the Eagles (5-8, 2-0 NAC) limited the Mariners to 21 percent shooting with stingy man-to-man defense to win their third straight.
Husson’s cohesive defense applied plenty of ball pressure, making it difficult for MMA (5-8, 1-1 NAC) to execute effectively all afternoon.
“We thought [Paul] Campbell and [Derek] DiFrederico were two keys for them coming into the game and the better job we did keeping them in front of us, the better off we were going to be on the defensive end of the floor,” said Husson coach Warren Caruso. “To our fortune, we executed very well in that manner and I think we made life difficult for them for the better part of 40 minutes on their offensive end.”
The Eagles built their offensive success around the efficient and powerful post play of Matt MacKenzie. The junior forward from Warren scored 10 points in the first 9:15 and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals.
“He has really matured into a very good basketball player,” Caruso said. “Our group has really grown to understand and gain confidence in him. I think guys played off him and he recognized things very well.”
Husson demonstrated tremendous patience and balance. The Eagles shot 56 percent from the floor, even while using nine players for 13 minutes or more.
Jay Uhrin of Winterport came off the bench to tally a team-high 14 points, while Brock Bradford of Kenduskeag scored 12. Scott Kissinger added four points and five rebounds.
DiFrederico of Millinocket paced MMA with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Jake Manner of Frankfort contributed six points and nine boards.
Husson surged in front with an 11-2 run in the first half. Deashawn McMorrin kicked off the spurt with a layup and a rainbow 3-pointer. Kissinger hit one foul shot, before Jarred Sternbergh answered with two free throws for the Mariners.
Nick Perras scored a layup off a backdoor cut on a feed from McMorrin and Kissinger drained a 3-pointer off a kickout pass from MacKenzie, giving the Eagles a 29-17 lead late in the first half.
Husson blew the game open in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“It seems like we’re maturing, we’re understanding,” Caruso said. “It was a good 40 minutes of basketball for us.”