BANGOR — Bates College appeared headed for a lopsided victory Monday night.
The Bobcats shot a blistering 63 percent from the field in the first half and built a comfortable, 20-point advantage.
Husson University wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
The host Eagles battled all the way back to tie the game with 2:22 left, but the Bobcats made the plays down the stretch to pull out an 84-79 women’s basketball victory at Newman Gymnasium.
“You’ve got to give them (Husson) credit,” said Bates coach Jim Murphy. “We went up 20 and the next thing you know they’re chipping away, chipping away. We ran our offense well, made some baskets and made some free throws when we needed them.”
Bates survived considerable foul trouble to its post players and made six of eight free throws in the last 1:11 to prevail. The Bobcats of the New England Small College Athletic Conference led 50-30 early in the second half, but the Eagles made a determined charge.
Behind its scrappy man-to-man defense, Husson (0-3) tied the game at 75-75 on a low-post basket by Bri Hanscom of Mattawamkeag with 2:22 to play, but freshman Meredith Kelly scored on a cutting move to the hoop at 1:57 mark to give Bates (3-1) the lead for good.
“That’s one characteristic carrying over from last year. We’d get down by 10 and come back,” said Husson coach Kissy Walker. “They’ve got that determination. They’re fighters.”
Kelly came off the bench to pace Bates with a game-high 19 points in 22 minutes, while sophomore Allie Beaulieu made four 3-pointers on her way to 18 points. Lauren Dobish netted 14 points and Jeesie Igoe added 10 and four blocked shots for the Bobcats.
Annie Burns posted eight points and eight assists.
The inside-outside tandem of Hanscom and Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan led the way for Husson. Hanscom finished with 18 points behind a 10-for-15 effort from the foul line, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out six assists. Sevey drained four 3-pointers en route to 18 points.
Kelli Murray of Shawmut contributed 13 points and three assists, with Amanda Gifford of Lee adding 11 points and six assists. Freshman Stephanie Comstock of Bangor added six points and seven rebounds.
Bates maintained the upper hand by executing well in key situations and hitting a few more 3-pointers. Despite being hampered by foul trouble to post players Igoe and Christine McCall (nine points, five rebounds), the Bobcats still got the ball into the paint frequently.
“You knew we weren’t going to shoot 62 percent for the whole game and they were going to shoot better than they did,” Graffam said.
The Eagles’ new offense was productive, but they didn’t make shots with the game on the line. Murray missed a runner from the lane at the 1:33 mark that led to two Burns foul shots and a 79-75 Bates lead with 1:11 remaining. Hanscom answered with a driving scoop shot with 54 seconds left, but Kelsey Flaherty’s free throw put the visitors on top by three.
Husson’s last chance to tie it came with 23 seconds to play when a collision in the lane left Murray open at the top of the key. Her 3-pointer missed, the Bobcats rebounded and Burns’ foul shot made it a two-possession game (82-77) with 19.5 seconds left.
“It’s a great building block,” Sevey said of the effort. “We’re really proud of everybody.
“We never gave up, that was the most important part,” she added.
Husson tightened up its man-to-man defense in the second half, during which it also had success in transition and moved the ball well in its half-court offense. The hosts shot 52 percent (15-for-29) from the floor in the half, mostly by taking the ball to the basket and demonstrating good interior passing.
Hanscom and Gifford each scored 11 points after the break to spark Husson to a 49-point half.
“I didn’t know if we’d be a team that could score a lot of points this year,” Walker said. “This was a good sign. That second half, I felt like we could come down and score when we needed to.”
Bates came out firing and made its first six shots on the way to a 15-6 advantage. Beaulieu scored 10 points during a span of 3:14 later in the half to help the Bobcats, who excelled in transition situations, to forge a 48-30 halftime lead.
Bates went 20-for-32 from the floor, including 4-for-7 on 3-pointers. Beaulieu and Dobish tallied 12 points each in the half.