|Suffolk University||Saint Joseph's College|
BIDDEFORD, Maine — Top-seeded University of New England tallied the first seven points and never looked back, rolling to a 59-40 victory against second seed Roger Williams University in the title game of the 2018 Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Women’s Basketball Championship on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 24) at the Harold Alfond Forum.
For the seventh straight year, the Nor’easters (23-5) will continue their season into the NCAA Division III Championship, which begins on Friday at 16 sites around the country. The selection show to announce the 64-team field will air Monday (2:30 p.m.) on NCAA.com.
UNE has captured the last six postseason crowns in the CCC, upping the program total to eight (2001, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018) in nine opportunities. Since the opening of the Forum, the Nor’easters are 18-0 in conference tournament outings on their home court.
Big Blue raced out to a 23-7 lead in the 1st quarter, paced by 10 points from Jocelyn Chaput (Nashua, N.H.) (CCC 3rd Team). The Hawks got back within nine (28-19) during the latter portion of the 2nd, but an 18-4 start to the 3rd by the Nor’easters sent the spread all the way up to 27 (52-25).
Sam MacDonald (Lebanon, N.H.) (CCC 1st Team) had nine of her team-high 17 points during the run out of halftime, and added six rebounds. Chaput totaled 14 points and seven caroms, and Olivia Shaw (Saco, Maine) (CCC 1st Team) finished with 12 points, nine boards, three blocks, three steals, and three assists. Ashley Coneys (Dover, N.H.) had 10 points and grabbed nine more rebounds, helping the hosts to a 47-42 advantage on the glass.
UNE converted 15 RWU turnovers into 22 points going the other way, while only surrendering possession seven times. In spite of a height disadvantage, the Nor’easters’ defense limited the Hawks to 14 points in the paint and just 27 percent (15-for-55) field goal accuracy. The 40 points allowed by UNE was the fewest scored by a championship game participant in at least 20 years.
“What we’ve been trying to accomplish all season, and actually have been over the last month or so, is force people to make defended jump shots,” commented UNE head coach Anthony Ewing (CCC Coach of the Year). “The kids did a lot of that today and just battled, and I was really impressed with us, defensively.”
Roger Williams (23-5), which established a team-record for season wins in the semifinal round, must now wait and hope to hear its name called as an at-large selection during Monday’s show. The Hawks received such a bid back in 2014, when the their only other CCC finals appearance fell short in Biddeford.
The visitors were led by 19 points and seven rebounds from Mariah Nicholas (Acushnet, Mass.) (CCC Player of the Year). Gabby Jerahian (Quincy, Mass.) was next with nine points. Teagan Dunn (Burlington, Conn.) (CCC 3rd Team) collected game-highs of 12 rebounds and five blocks.
The teams had split the regular-season series, with the home side using a third-quarter rally to prevail in each contest. UNE’s current 10-game winning streak started after a January 27 setback (62-54) to the Hawks in Rhode Island — a game in which the Nor’easters were up by as many as 16 points. “That was a kind of turning point for us. We learned that we needed to play complete games to compete with good teams, and we’ve been doing that a lot more lately,” Ewing added.
“This [championship] was born out of really hard work and the players’ belief that we could get it done. I couldn’t be prouder of a group, because this was hard, and it’s satisfying right now. They deserve it, and I’m looking forward to them enjoying this upcoming week.”