BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine-Farmington effectively contained North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year on Friday night.
That didn’t stop Husson University from advancing to the league championship game.
Sophomore Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag scored nine of her team-high 16 points in the second half and the Eagles received a well-balanced offensive effort while pulling out 61-57 semifinal victory over the Beavers at Newman Gymnasium.
Coach Kissy Walker’s Eagles (18-8) play the winner of the Maine Maritime Academy-Castleton State contest in Saturday’s 2 p.m. title game.
With senior forward Shelby Bradford (two points) bottled up by UMF’s collapsing matchup zone, Husson redistributed its offense.
Sophomore Amanda Gifford of Lee connected for 15 points, junior Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont netted nine and five other players scored for the Eagles.
Husson shot 57 percent from the floor after halftime, including 6-for-10 from 3-point range, while gaining the upper hand against the scrappy Beavers (12-13).
Senior forward Caitlyn Laflin of Farmingdale paced UMF with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while junior Jillian Ross of Belfast posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
However, the supporting cast didn’t match that of Husson.
The Eagles took charge with a key 13-3 second-half surge. It included two 3-pointers by Lincoln, along with five points from freshman Erica Lyford of La Grange.
The run put Husson on top 55-45 with 7:36 left and the Beavers never got closer than four after that.
The offense didn’t flow smoothly for either team in the first half, but the Eagles put together a late 8-0 run to take a 26-23 edge into the locker room.
Gifford’s heady point guard play led to her scoring five points during Husson’s spurt, which turned a 21-16 deficit into a 24-21 lead with 3:16 to play in the half.
Gifford hit a 12-footer from the baseline to spark the key run. Hanscom followed with a three-point play off a slippery up-and-under move. Gifford then added a foul shot and a 14-footer off a Kelli Murray pass as the hosts found some life.
UMF was effective playing its sagging half-court man-to-man defense, which bottled up Eagles post threats Bradford and Hanscom. The two all-conference players combined for only nine points, including just two from Bradford, on 4-for-14 shooting.
The Beavers had some success from long range, hitting four 3-pointers to help overcome a limited number of close-range scoring opportunities. Ross scored six of her team-best eight points on two 3-pointers.
Ross and Laflin made 3-pointers to fuel a 9-3 run that gave UMF its largest lead of the half at five.
The intense defense played by both teams, including Husson’s 2-2-1 full-court press, resulted in a combined 24 turnovers in the half, 14 of which were by UMF.