The standings are bunched near the top again this season among the women’s basketball teams competing in the Sunrise Conference.
The University of Maine-Fort Kent has been the team to beat in recent years, but this winter all three Maine teams are engaged in a three-way duel for league honors.
As the halfway point of the regular season arrives, coach Lucas Levesque’s Bengals (7-10) are tied for first place in the standings with a 5-1 Sunrise record. UMFK has won two straight, including Sunday’s 56-39 victory over SUNY Canton.
However, the Bengals’ instate rivals are very much in the hunt. UMaine-Presque Isle (7-9) moved into a tie with UMFK atop the league after UMPI defeated UM-Machias 55-50 Wednesday night. UM-Machias (10-7) is a game behind with a 4-2 mark.
Through Tuesday’s action, UMPI was the top scoring team in the conference, averaging 68.8 points per game in league play. Freshman forward Rashell Saucier of Washburn (13.8 ppg, 2.6 spg) and sophomore guard Emily Pelletier of Fort Kent (11.4 ppg) have been among the catalysts for coach Tracey Guerrette’s Owls.
Freshman guard/forward Renee Moore has been UMPI’s rebounding leader at 7.6 per game.
In conference games (before Wednesday’s results), UMPI leads Sunrise teams while shooting 46 percent from the floor, 38 percent from 3-point range and 76 percent from the foul line.
UMaine-Machias, coached by Skip Alley, is also challenging for the league’s top spot. The Mariners have connected for 68 ppg on 39 percent shooting in Sunrise games despite 16 percent 3-point shooting and 52 percent free-throw accuracy.
UMM features the league’s the most prolific scorer in sophomore guard Sabree Rodriguez, who has connected for 20.8 ppg in conference play thus far. Her 8.0 rpg also place her among the league leaders.
Junior guard Kayla Wood of Machias has been another key performer at 12 ppg, and junior forward Dana Houghton of Lee (9.4 rpg) ranks among the rebounding leaders.
Wood and freshman guard Emma LeGallais are the top ball distributors in the conference, averaging 4.0 assists per game. LeGallais’ 4.0 steals per outing also set the standard.
UMFK is operating with a nine-player roster that includes seniors Amber Garrison and Angela Norsworthy of Presque Isle, along with junior Maliesha Caesar. The team’s offensive catalyst is freshman Jenn Colpitts of Scarborough, who is scoring 18.0 ppg.
Norsworthy and Caesar each has grabbed 8.5 rebounds per game for the Bengals, who are allowing only 42.8 ppg in conference play.
Garrison and Colpitts lead the way with 4.0 and 3.0 assists per game, respectively. They also are defensive catalysts, with Colpitts averaging 4.0 steals and Garrison 3.8 steals.
Despite a lack of depth, UMFK appears to have enough talent to challenge for yet another league championship this season.
The top four teams will advance to the Sunrise Conference tournament, scheduled for Feb. 26-27 at Windham High School.
MMA places three on Wall of Honor
Three former Maine Maritime Academy women’s basketball players were honored recently by having their jerseys added to the school’s athletic Wall of Honor inside Margaret Chase Smith Gymnasium.
Shelley Gott-Miles, Julia Knights and Alyssa Burns, teammates on the Mariners’ NCAA tournament teams from 2005-07, were recognized for their efforts at the Castine school.
Gott-Miles, a former standout at Mount Desert Island High School, graduated from MMA in 2007 as the program’s career scoring leader with 1,600 points. She also grabbed 826 rebounds, handed out 169 assists and set a Mariners record with 202 3-pointers.
Gott was a four-year, All-North Atlantic Conference choice and was the league rookie of the year as a freshman.
“Shelley was the toughest player to wear a Lady Mariner uniform,” head coach Craig Dagan said in a press release. “She always set the tone for us defensively and never backed down from taking the big shot.”
Knights, who starred at Woodland High School, was another MMA mainstay who graduated in 2007. She finished her career with 1,570 points, 1,003 rebounds, 240 assists and 169 blocked shots.
Knights ranks second on MMA’s career scoring list and is the only women’s player in school history to amass 1,000 rebounds. Her blocked shots total leads the Mariner record book.
“Julia was the heart and soul of this program for five years and was an integral part of the MMA community,” Dagan said. “Julia was a two-time academic all-conference selection, a three-time all-conference selection and was named the rookie and player of the year in her first season in Castine.”
Burns, who played at Dirigo High in Dixfield, transferred to MMA after one season at American International College and was named the North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year three times.
Burns, a D3hoops.com all-region pick as a senior, finished her career with 1,463 points and 717 rebounds and stole the career record for steals with 253.
“Alyssa was one of the most dynamic players ever to don the Lady Mariner uniform,” Dagan said.
With Knights, Gott-Miles and Burns in the fold, MMA compiled a 103-30 overall record, including a 50-5 mark against NAC schools. They made three consecutive trips to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship and at one point helped the Mariners earn a No. 18 national ranking.
“They put MMA basketball on the map and brought so much positive publicity to MMA as a whole,” Dagan said.
The trio has been placed on the Wall of Honor alongside former MMA women’s basketball standout Vanessa LeBlond-Vigue and former volleyball performer Katie Clapham.