CASTINE, Maine — Bowdoin College has developed a reputation as one of the top Division III women’s basketball programs in the nation.
Tuesday night, the 18th-ranked Polar Bears demonstrated the kind of hard-nosed defense that has helped them achieve that success and notoriety.
Bowdoin harassed Maine Maritime Academy with relentless full-court pressure that led to numerous turnovers and transition points that set the tone for a 64-52 victory at Margaret Chase Smith Gymnasium.
“We really look for our pressure,” said Bowdoin sophomore Amy Hackett of Bangor, who paced the Polar Bears with a game-high 16 points and six rebounds.
“It really generates our offense and it really gives teams a lot of trouble in the backcourt that aren’t as comfortable handling the ball, so it’s something that’s really good for us,” she added.
Coach Adrienne Shibles’ Polar Bears (14-3) forced the majority of the Mariners’ 23 turnovers and were able to capitalize often at the offensive end.
Bowdoin scored 19 points as a direct result of MMA miscues.
“The points that they scored off their press was the difference. That’s the reason they won,” said MMA coach Craig Dagan, whose team is now 8-8.
The Polar Bears’ run-and-jump not only facilitated their transition attack, it also made the Mariners work hard to get the ball up the floor. That meant MMA had only 12-14 seconds on the shot clock by the time it was able to set up its offense.
“It depends on the opponent, but most games we press,” Shibles said. “We try to be really aggressive defensively. We feel like because we’re a little smaller, we really need to extend our defense full court.”
The Mariners did a solid job of containing Bowdoin’s frontcourt tandem of Caitlin Hynes of Owls Head (7 points) and Leah Rubega (9 points, 8 rebounds).
Instead, Bowdoin’s guards shouldered much of the offensive load. Junior Katie Bergeron of Bradley and Hackett were the catalysts.
Bergeron scored 14 points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, handed out five assists and made four steals.
The Polar Bears established lots of dribble-penetration, especially in the second half.
“That’s what we were looking for in the second half was just to open up the lanes and get to the rim, try to get to the line,” Hackett said.
Hackett went 7-for-11 from the foul line and Bergeron was 6-for-8, although Bowdoin shot only 19-for-32 (59 percent) in the contest.
“I thought they did a good job of defending us in the post,” Shibles said. “They were pretty physical with us. It was nice to see the guards step up. Amy had a great game. She got to the rim a lot, which was fantastic.”
Bowdoin, which committed 17 turnovers of its own, shot 40 percent from the field and outrebounded MMA by only a 39-36 margin.
Sophmore forward Sam Goda of Eliot paced the Mariners with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Brittany Hunt scored 11 points, while freshman guard Casey McCloskey of Howland added six points and four assists.
MMA was without its No. 3 scorer in sophomore forward Amethyst Cousins of Bass Harbor (9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) because of an ankle injury.
“I think any time you can play against something different like that (press), against a quality team, it helps our kids get better and develop and helps them understand what they need to do to perform at a higher level,” Dagan said.
Bowdoin rattled off an 8-0 scoring run early to take control. Hynes scored from down low off a Hackett feed, then Hackett drained an 18-footer.
A turnover led to Ellery Gould’s scoop shot from the lane and Bergeron scored from underneath off a steal and assist from Rubega to give the visitors a 17-6 lead with 13:21 to play.
Brittany Hunt scored five points to spark an 8-3 run that got MMA within 20-14 at the 9:59 mark, but the Polar Bears eventually scored seven points in a span of 1:20 to take a 30-16 advantage with 2:59 left in the half.
The Mariners got as close as six when Goda opened the second half with a 10-foot runner from the paint, but Bowdoin’s attacking offense enabled it to get to the foul line and build the advantage to as many as 17 points.
“At times we handled their press well,” he added. “Consistency is our biggest issue.”