|University of Hartford||University of Maine|
Bangor, Maine — The University of Maine women’s basketball team captured its league record eighth America East Championship, and its first since 2004, with a 74-65 victory over No. 6 Hartford on Friday evening at the Cross Insurance Center in front of 3,373 fans.
With the win, Maine earned its ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Black Bears will learn their next destination during Monday evening’s NCAA Selection Show, slated to begin at 7 p.m. live on ESPN.
For the first time since January 9, 2011, the Black Bears featured five scorers in double-figures. Blanca Millan led the way, scoring 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half. Millan’s performance earned her the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player accolade. The sophomore went 7-for-11 in the second half while adding two steals and two rebounds. Julie Brosseau paced Maine’s first half scoring as she tallied all 16 of her points in the opening 20 minutes. Brosseau went 4-of-7 from three point range to help Maine finish with nine triples as a team. For the third time in the postseason, Parise Rossignol provided a key scoring punch off the bench. Her 12 points earned her a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Fanny Wadling rounded out Maine’s double-digit scorers with 10 points while padding the stat sheet with a game-high eight rebounds and team-best six assists.
“I’m really happy for our kids,” said head coach, Amy Vachon. “Words can’t explain it. At halftime we really talked about defense and how we had to buckle down defensively. We weren’t getting stops. We were taking some crazy shots at times. To have five kids in double-figures; that’s awesome. That speaks volumes of this team and that’s kind of how our team has been all year.”
Maine’s free throw shooting was a large factor in its success. The Black Bears ended the contest 15-for-17 from the charity stripe, led by Millan and Rossignol who each went 4-for-4 from the line. Overall, the contest featured five ties and eight lead changes in the first half before Maine settled into its rhythm and led for the entire second half.
“Honestly, it’s surreal,” said Rossignol. “I’m waiting for someone to wake me up. This feeling is incredible, it’s been the best times of my life. I’m so thankful.”
Brosseau tallied 11 of Maine’s first 13 points, including a trio of triples, as the Black Bears rushed out to a seven point lead in the opening five minutes of play.
Hartford did not let the game get out of hand early as the Hawks were quick to answer with an 11-1 run to take its first lead of the game, late in the first quarter.
Six lead changes and four ties were featured in the second period as neither team was able to grab more than three point edge. Brosseau’s fourth triple of the half regained a one point edge for the Black Bears with 7:02 remaining in the half.
A 7-3 run for the Hawks, capped on a jumper from Sierra DaCosta matched the Hawks’ largest lead of the game, 29-26, with 4:51 on the clock.
Rossignol’s triple off a feed from Wadling put the Black Bears back up by one but two lead changes and two ties in the final 3:10 of the half sent the game into the break knotted, 36-36.
The third period proved to be the turning point in the game. Maine’s energetic offense and smothering defense came alive as the Black Bears were able to outscore Hartford 24-11 in the third. Millan poured in Maine’s first seven points of the second half before the Black Bears rushed out on a 9-0 run, pushing its lead out to 11.
Rossignol’s triple led to Maine’s 5-0 run to end the third as the Black Bears carried a 60-47 advantage into the final quarter.
A layup from Sutton and a trey by Millan extend Maine’s lead to 16, it’s largest of the championship contest.
Hartford was not done yet. The Hawks continued to rally, putting together a 6-0 run to cut the lead back down to 10.
But a pair of turnovers from the Hawks ended its surge as Maine was able to push the lead back out to 15 before capturing its eighth America East Championship with a 74-65 decision.