BANGOR, Maine — This one hurt.
Elizabeth Belanger threw in a 10-foot runner that cleared the netting with 0.9 seconds to play Wednesday night, lifting the University of New Hampshire to a 74-73 America East women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Center.
“I’m tired of getting beat on the last shot,” said senior guard Ashleigh Roberts. “We’ve had a few games that have come down to just a few possessions.”
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears (10-11, 4-4 AE) missed two free throws in the last 34 seconds, allowing the Wildcats to escape with a win.
It was the second straight loss for UMaine, while New Hampshire improved to 6-1 in conference play and 12-8 overall.
UMaine, which had been disappointed with its intensity and effort in Sunday’s loss to Stony Brook, was more focused against the Wildcats.
“We just put in all our effort, just playing and leaving nothing in the tank, and then we do that and the outcome isn’t what you want,” said Bears sophomore Liz Wood.
UMaine fought an uphill battle against repeated foul calls all night, but never trailed by more than two points. Ultimately, the hosts did not execute well enough when the game was on the line late.
The Black Bears led 69-63 with 3:20 to play, but UNH responded with five straight points. Kaylee Kilpatrick made a free throw, then Kelsey Hogan (14 points, 7 assists) cashed in after UMaine’s Sigi Koizar turned the ball over by stepping out of bounds along the baseline.
Maine’s Mikaela Gustafsson made an errant pass on the ensuing possession, and Sarah-Marie Frankenberger answered with two foul shots to cut the deficit to 69-68 with 1:46 left.
Sophie Weckstrom gave UMaine a lift by draining a 3-pointer 15 seconds later, then a Chantel Charles steal went for naught when Roberts was whistled for traveling. It was the last of the Bears’ 11 turnovers.
The Wildcats again got within two on a pair of Frankenberger free throws, before Koizar made only the front end of a two-shot foul with 33.7 seconds left. Ariel Gaston (14 points) drove in for a baseline finger roll to get the visitors within one.
UNH fouled Roberts on the inbounds play, but she missed the front end of a bonus and Belanger (20 points, 4 steals) rebounded. She got the ball back about 10 seconds later and drove to the left side of the lane before hitting the game-winner.
“Elizabeth Belanger was heads up and they recognized we just needed to score,” said UNH coach Maureen Magarity. “Elizabeth just put her head down.”
The Wildcats outscored the Bears from the foul line, going 17-for-22. UMaine made only six of 13 free throws.
“We let them stay with us because of their free throws,” said Roberts, who finished with 12 points, three assists and three steals. “I felt like every time we were on the verge of getting a stop, or if we just scored, the next thing we’ve got to get back and get a stop, they were getting to the line.”
Wood led the way for UMaine with 18 points and six rebounds along with three assists and a steal. Weckstrom provided 13 points, Anna Heise contributed nine points and five rebounds while Koizar posted seven points, seven rebounds, three assists and Cherrish Wallace had five assists and two steals.
UMaine shot 55 percent from the floor (31-for-56), but UNH went 26-for-49 (53 percent). The Wildcats outrebounded the Bears 31-26.
“It’s frustrating,” Wood said. “Especially in a game like this, every possession matters.”
UMaine heads on the road to play Maryland Baltimore County on Saturday.
The game featured a rare, albeit brief, matchup between two sisters — former Leavitt High School standouts Courtney Anderson of UMaine and Kristen Anderson of UNH. They actually guarded each other early in the contest.
Kristen played 24 minutes and scored three points with three rebounds and two assists, while Courtney had two points and three rebounds in six minutes.
The Bears had forged a seven-point lead four minutes into the second half behind a 6-0 run.
Heise made a reverse baseline layup off a pass from Wallace, who then fed Wood for a foul-line jumper. Roberts followed with a steal and left-handed layup that put UMaine in front 45-38.
The Wildcats refused to let it slip away.