BANGOR, Maine — The Husson University men’s basketball team beat UMaine-Farmington 96-89 in overtime Saturday at Newman Gym to capture its fourth North Atlantic Conference championship in six years and their first back-to-back conference championship since 2001.
“The game was one of the best games I have ever been a part of. Both teams played at such a high level throughout the game, it was unfortunate that one team had to lose,” said Husson coach Warren Caruso.
The Eagles, who are now 10-3 in conference championship games under Caruso, clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, their 10th national tournament appearance in the last 20 years.
“We can’t say enough about this group. They showed so much heart and passion today to win the championship,” said Caruso.
Both Donte Cottonham and Trevon Butler hit two early 3-pointers to put the Eagles ahead 12-7 in the first half. The two teams exchanged scores before UMF tied it up at 17-17 on a Nick Hilton jump shot with 9:29 remaining in the half.
The Eagles built a lead at 6:14 remaining on another Cottonham 3-pointer, going up 28-2. The Beavers hung with the Eagles and eventually took the 33- 31 lead on a Garret Clemmer 3-pointer as the two teams headed into the half.
Butler led the Eagles with 11 points in the first half, with two rebounds and three assists. The Beavers were led by Andrew Dickey and Ben Johnson who had 10 points apiece.
In the second half, UMF went up as much as nine points with 15:18 remaining in regulation. Husson battled back with 18 combined points from Butler and Phil Leighton to recapture a 54-52 lead.
Husson took a 3-point lead into the final minute of regulation, but Pet Sumner sank a jumper and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 79-79 with five seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
UMF answered first in the overtime, when Johnson made a jump shot, however the Eagles responded with nine unanswered points to create an 88-81 lead with a little under 1:30 remaining.
Johnson delivered again for UMF, hitting back-to-back jumpers to close it to 92-89. Husson was sharp from the free throw line as Corey Wood, Leighton, and Dan Fleming went a perfect 8 for 8 from the line in the final 48 seconds.
Butler ended the afternoon with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, to earn tourney MVP honors. Leighton was the second leading scorer for Husson with 18 points, three rebounds, and four assists.
“We had a lot of guys make big plays to help us win today,” added Caruso.
UMF’s Johnson grabbed a double-double with his 28 points and 20 rebounds, while Clemmer added 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
The Eagles’ NCAA tourney opponent will be announced during the tourney selection show at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
At Tampa on Sunday, South Florida snapped a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the third inning when Veronica Gajownik hit a two-run single en route to the victory in Maine’s season-opener.
The Bulls added another run in the fourth on Ashli Goff’s RBI single and put the Bears away in the next inning when Kourtney Salvarol hit a two-run home run.
Dagmar Ralphs and EmJ Fogel each recorded two hits for the Bears while Fogel and Jessica Burk each singled in a run.
Losing pitcher Kyle Sparks gave up two earned runs, walked two and struck out one in four innings.
Maine plays Loyola Marymount next at 10 a.m. Monday.
At Burlington, Vt., Vermont’s Brittany Zuback gained control of a loose puck and fired into the top left corner of the net to give the Catamounts the triple-overtime victory over the Black Bears in Hockey East quarterfinal action.
Vermont took the lead early with two goals just minutes apart in the first period, the first by Victoria Andreakos and the second by Rachael Ade.
Maine tied the game with two third-period goals.
Emile Brigham knocked the puck in the net on a pass from Brianne Kilgour at 10:58.
The Bears tied it at 16:44 when Brittney Huneke found Hailey Browne for a goal.
Maine goalie Meghann Treacy finished with 46 saves and Vermont’s Roxanne Douville notched 50.
Maine finished at 7-21-5 and Vermont improved to 18-13-4.
At Providence, senior guard Stephanie Prusko hit a 3-pointer with a minute remaining in regulation to extend the Rhode Island College Anchorwomen’s lead to 59-55 as top-seeded RIC defeated second-seeded University of Southern Maine in the championship game of the Little East Conference tourney Saturday.
With the win, Rhode Island College (20-8) earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tourney. The NCAA will announce its field of 64 on Monday. Southern Maine (20-8) will await a possible postseason at-large berth.
Trailing by four, Huskies’ senior Erin McNamara drained a step-back 3-pointer to bring USM to within a point of the Anchorwomen only to have Prusko can a 3-pointer with the time expiring in the shot clock.
Prusko finished with 15 points. Sophomore forward Vandell Andrade had a team-high 19 points.
McNamara finished with a game-high 23 points. Junior Rebecca Knight had a season-high 21 points and sophomore Megan Pelletier chipped in with eight points.