All season long, the University of Maine women’s basketball team had difficulty executing late in close games.
Friday night, it spelled the end of the Black Bears’ turnaround season.
Freshman Deanna Mayza hit a turnaround jumper from the foul line with 15 seconds left in overtime, then added the two clinching foul shots to lift No. 5 Hartford to a 63-62 America East quarterfinal victory over No. 4 UMaine at SEFCU Arena in Albany, N.Y.
The Hawks (13-17) advance to Sunday’s 11 a.m. semifinal game against top seed Albany, while coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears close out their best season since 2004-2005 with a 16-14 record.
“What’s been an Achilles’ heel of our team all year is the way we finish a game,” said Barron, whose ballclub was 4-24 last season. “We’ve not been very strong in the last two minutes of games and that was kind of the case again tonight.”
Amber Bepko (16 points) drained three 3-pointers to help Hartford surge to an early 11-2 advantage. UMaine battled back and finally took the lead midway through the second half behind the determined play of senior Ashleigh Roberts, who finished with a game-high 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a blocked shot in 43 minutes.
Freshman Sigi Koizar (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) helped the Black Bears force overtime. She rebounded a Liz Wood miss, then scored on a driving scoop shot to make it 52-52 with 1:15 remaining in regulation.
Hartford then turned the ball over but UMaine was forced to call a timeout with 14.9 seconds left and only three seconds on the shot clock. The Bears inbounded to Roberts on the low block, but she lost control of the ball in the paint.
Hartford wound up with the last shot, but Mayza missed. Hawks coach Jennifer Rizzotti later admitted setting up the play incorrectly.
In overtime, a 3-pointer by Wood (11 points, 8 rebounds) put the Bears on top 57-56 at the 2:37 mark. Hartford countered with a 3 by Shanise Bultron (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists).
The teams traded misses, before UMaine’s Lauren Bodine (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) missed a 3-pointer and Chantel Charles pounced on the rebound but was whistled for traveling with 46 seconds left.
“There were a lot of big plays because the game kind of got tight,” Barron said.
The Hawks missed on a drive to the hoop, but retained the ball, which was ruled to have been tipped out of bounds by the Bears. On the ensuing play, Hartford got the ball to Mayza, who dribbled into the lane, then spun around and knocked down a fallaway jumper as the shot clock expired to put her team ahead for good.
Koizar drove in and scored for the Bears to cut the deficit to two with 7.4 seconds remaining, but the UMaine was forced to foul. Mayza hit both ends of a double bonus to make sure the Hawks overcame Koizar’s rattle-in 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play.
“The prayer shot by Mayza there at the end was big, making it two possessions,” Barron said. “The 3 that Bultron hit, huge shot, that was a big one; the foul shots that Mayza hit. It seemed like they just made those big plays there down the stretch.”
Alyssa Englert provided 10 points and Bultron added eight for Hartford, which shot 43 percent overall and went 7-for-15 on 3-pointers (47 percent) while outscoring the Bears 10-3 from the foul line.
Charles also chipped in with nine points for UMaine, which outrebounded the Hawks 42-32 but shot only 39 percent from the field.
Bodine knocked down a 25-foot 3-pointer as time expired in the first half, helping the Black Bears stay within striking distance at 28-23.
UMaine spent the entire half battling from behind after Bepko’s early long-range assault gave Hartford an 11-2 lead only 2:31 into the contest.
The Hawks eventually led by as many as 12 points after a Shanise 3-pointer made it 26-14 at the 6:52 mark, the Bears ended the half on a 9-2 run that made it a more manageable deficit.
UMaine, which didn’t post its first lead until about 10 minutes remained in regulation, shot only 28 percent from the field (9-for-32) and struggled to score despite several close-range opportunities. The Bears didn’t exactly light it up from the 3-point arc, but Bodine went 3-for-7 from long distance to take the sting off the offensive struggles.
Hartford shot 48 percent (11-for-23) from the floor and hit four of six 3-pointers to establish a lead and hold it throughout the half.
The Hawks were unable to extend their advantage due in part to their 10 turnovers, although the Bears had nine miscues of their own. UMaine did have nine second-chance points.