BIDDEFORD, Maine — Alicia Brown (Greenland, N.H.) supplied a career-high 33 points to pace top-seeded University of New England to a 75-59 victory against No.5 Eastern Nazarene College in the semifinals of the 2017 Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Women’s Basketball Championship on Thursday evening (Feb. 23) at the Harold Alfond Forum.
Winners of 16 in-a-row, the Nor’easters (22-5) move into Saturday’s league title match to meet third-seeded Western New England University, which rallied to eke out a 44-43 result at No.2 Roger Williams University. Tip-off in Biddeford will be 2 p.m.
Brown (CCC 1st Team) dropped in 14-of-26 shots on the night to surpass her previous personal-best (set exactly one year ago) by eight points. Additionally, she grabbed 10 rebounds to log her second consecutive double-double, and registered five blocks.
It was the most points scored by a UNE player since 2002-03, tying the ninth-highest single-game mark in program history. Big Blue has also now played 37 contests in the CCC postseason tournament across 17 appearances, and Brown’s output established the new championship standard for the squad just two days after Sam MacDonald (Lebanon, N.H.) took the top spot with her 28-point performance in the quarterfinal round.
Supporting the Nor’easters was Sadie Nelson (Windham, Maine) with 12 points — the only other UNE player in double figures. MacDonald (CCC 3rd Team) joined Brown with 10 boards, and dished out seven assists.
The Lions — who see their winningest season in recent years end at 18-9 — received 22 from Kayla Torio (Manteca, Calif.). BreAnna Fraser (Henderson, Nev.) contributed 12 points, and Michelle Detwiler (Elkhart, Ind.) collected seven rebounds.
UNE has won the last 19 dates with Eastern Nazarene. It was the first time the sides had met in the league tournament.
ENC burst out of the gate, drilling five three-pointers in the 1st quarter to gain a lead as large as eight (18-10) and settle on a 21-18 edge. Torio and Shelby Holmes (Seeley Lake, Mont.) had eight points apiece in the stanza.
Scoring slowed a bit in the 2nd, and a jumper by Brown with 2:04 left before halftime slipped the Nor’easters in front (32-21). The hosts did not relinquish control of the scoreboard for the rest of the battle.
Behind a 12-spot from Brown in the 3rd, UNE methodically built the spread up to nine (53-44) by the conclusion of 30 minutes.
That margin (62-53) stood with 5:25 to go in the 4th, as Torio worked to keep her team close, but Nelson (CCC 2nd Team) canned a triple on the ensuing trip for the Nor’easters to spark an 8-0 spurt that put the difference out-of-reach.
UNE finished with a 48-34 rebounding advantage (and 20 offensive), and hit 40.8 percent of its shots. Eastern Nazarene’s field-goal percentage wound up at 35.6 overall, but only went 1-of-10 from deep over the last three periods.
It will be UNE’s eighth attempt at the league crown. The Nor’easters have won it all on six occasions, including the last four years.
Saturday’s championship tilt will be a rematch of last season’s conference final (UNE 56-41). Big Blue had captured 17 straight meetings against the Golden Bears before WNEU opened the 2016-17 series with a 78-55 road win on January 3; the Nor’easters then returned the favor with an equally-decisive 81-62 victory in Springfield on January 28 to earn a split.