BANGOR — The North Atlantic Conference women’s basketball tournament begins in 13 days. Husson University would like the event to be held in Newman Gymnasium.
Tuesday night, coach Kissy Walker’s Eagles took another step toward earning the top seed for the tournament.
Husson took advantage of its veteran presence on the court in grinding out a 66-57 victory over rival Maine Maritime Academy of Castine.
“I don’t think it was our prettiest game, but we overcame the obstacles [including 23 turnovers],” Walker said. “We’re glad to come out with the win. Some of our closer games we’ve been able to hold on and pull them off.”
The Eagles improved to 13-7 overall, 9-1 in NAC play, winning for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Husson holds a one-game edge over the University of Maine-Farmington (10-10, 8-2 NAC) in the standings, while Castleton State (12-9, 7-3 NAC) is three games back with four to play.
“We want to get that No. 1 spot, get that bye, host the first round and have the playoffs here, said senior guard Laura Archer of Ellsworth, whose steady play in the second half helped cement the victory.
Archer scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds, all after intermission. She also provided two assists, two steals and three blocks.
Husson gained the upper hand by pounding the ball inside and getting to the foul line. The hosts went 26-for-40 from the line, outscoring MMA (7-14, 3-7 NAC) by 11 points.
Senior forward Shelby Bradford of Lee led that effort, going 6-for-9 from the line on her way to a team-high 18 points. She also tracked down 15 rebounds.
“Getting them in foul trouble was a big thing that we knew would really help us in the long run,” Bradford said.
“We’re definitely improving as the season goes on and it’s good to see us actually improving instead of dwindling like some teams do as the year goes on,” she added.
The Eagles shot 45 percent from the floor in the second half, but used a stretch of stingy defense to finally build a lead.
Husson’s scrappy man-to-man defense, including some effective full-court pressure, limited the Mariners to one foul shot during a key span of 5½ minutes. MMA committed five of its 18 turnovers in that time.
With the Eagles up 49-46, Bradford opened a 7-1 run with a bucket from underneath off an Ashley Bragdon feed. MMA managed a Tatum Welch free throw, but Bragdon hit a foul shot, Archer converted her own steal with a layup and Bradford threw in a scoop shot off a pass from Archer to give Husson a 56-47 lead with 6:06 left.
“I think man’s really our go-to defense, because we’re more intense — in your face, get your hand on the ball out on the guards, pressure the post a lot,” Archer said.
Coach Craig Dagan’s Mariners, who were plagued by foul trouble, fought back to within six points (58-52), but couldn’t get over the hump.
“They took 17 more free throws than we did tonight in a very physical game,” Dagan said. “Despite the free throw disparity, we still had a chance to win.
“That’s been our M.O. all year long: We’re in the game with two or three minutes to go, we get good looks; we just didn’t make shots,” he added.
Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan tossed in 12 points with three assists for Husson, which outrebounded MMA 46-38. Bragdon, of Newport, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, most in the second half.
Welch carried the Mariners. The sophomore from Newport scored a game-high 24 points and led all rebounders with 16. She also made five steals.
Elizabeth Cote of Brewer contributed nine points and five rebounds for MMA, which shot 30 percent from the floor.