BANGOR — The Husson Eagles wanted to play at a crisp pace during Friday night’s North Atlantic Conference women’s basketball semifinal against Green Mountain College of Poultney, Vt..
Coach Kissy Walker’s team took advantage of its ability to stay in attack mode, wearing down Green Mountain on its way to a 79-60 victory at Newman Gymnasium.
Top-seeded Husson (18-7) advances to today’s 2 p.m. league title game here against No. 3 Castleton (Vt.) State (16-11), which edged the University of Maine-Farmington 61-59 in overtime in the other semifinal.
In the opener, Husson took advantage of its quickness in the post against a taller Green Mountain squad (12-14). Freshman Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag and junior forward Shelby Bradford of Lee were the “driving” forces, going to the basket aggressively and hitting the boards.
Hanscom finished with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds along with three assists and two steals. Bradford scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out five assists with four steals.
“We had it fresh in our mind that they were a good rebounding team and we needed to block out,” said Hanscom said, referring to GMC’s effort against Husson in their previous meeting last Saturday.
“They didn’t go very deep on their bench, so we had to push the ball,” Hanscom said.
The host Eagles capitalized on their defensive intensity and transition offense while turning a four-point lead into a 13-point bulge late in the first half.
Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan scored a layup off a Bradford steal, then answered a free throw by GMC’s Brittany Holden by canning a foul-line jumper off a Hanscom offensive rebound and feed. Sevey followed up with a 3-pointer in transition off a skip pass from Jenny Rollins to give Husson a 30-21 lead with 4:41 left.
Meanwhile, the visitors’ offensive struggles continued. Green Mountain went seven minutes, eight seconds without a field goal and Husson eventually extended its run to 11-1 during a span of 2:39.
Michelle Barden’s three-point play with 3:21 to play in the half made it 34-21 and put the hosts firmly in charge.
“We talked about wearing them down, that was our No. 1 goal,” Walker said. “No. 2, we just wanted to keep the pressure on so that they’d get tired, and attack the basket.”
Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont knocked down four 3-pointers on her way to 12 points, while Sevey contributed 11 points and three assists.
Husson outrebounded Green Mountain 40-27, with 17 offensive boards among its total.
Molly Hopper paced a balanced scoring effort for Green Mountain with 13 points, while Natalie Clark netted 11, Brittany Holden 10 and Emma Buckley nine.
Green Mountain never got closer than 11 points in the second half and Husson pushed its lead to as many as 20 points (64-44) at one point.
Husson utilized eight players for 12 minutes or more and played all of its 17 members.
In the nightcap, it was fitting that a game dominated by defense ended with a gem on the defensive end.
Castleton State senior LeeAnne Ketchen blocked Amanda Byrne’s driving layup with one second remaining, lifting the Spartans to victory.
“Byrne made a nice move to the basket and I thought LeeAnne did a nice job to recover and got a nice block,” said Castleton coach Tim Barrett.
Castleton State overcame a six-point deficit in the final 1:49 of overtime to eke out its second win over UMF (15-11) in three tries this season.
“I was proud of the way our kids hung in there at the end,” Barrett said. “Obviously some seniors stepped up.”
Ketchen played a key role in the comeback. First, she hit a 3-pointer with 1:37 left in OT to cut the Beavers’ lead to 59-56. On the ensuing inbounds pass, she made a diving steal that wound up leading to two Jess Banks free throws to get Castleton within a point.
“The play of the game is Ketchen diving into the bleachers and hitting her head for a steal and then all of a sudden that changes the game,” said UMF coach Jamie Beaudoin.
After a missed shot by UMF, Byrne fouled Banks on a 3-point attempt and Banks converted all three foul shots to provide the winning margin.
“There’s a reason that she has been an all-conference player for four years,” Beaudoin said of Banks.
The Beavers had three shots in the last 21 seconds, but were unable to convert.
“We had shots to win it, we had shots to tie it; we had offensive rebounds to get other possessions. The ball just didn’t fall for us,” Beaudoin said.
Banks (six assists) and Ketchen finished with 12 points each to lead CSC, which overcame 12 missed free throws. Mary Nienow added nine points and Melissa Verrill contributed eight points and 10 rebounds.
Junior forward Caitlyn Laflin of Farmingdale led UMF with a game-high 20 points (13 from the foul line) and 14 rebounds. Winslow’s Byrne posted 14 points and four assists and Erin Porter of Bangor added 12 points.
The Beavers committed 24 turnovers.