BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine was clinging to a two-point lead Saturday afternoon against a tenacious Dartmouth University team that had trailed by 16 at one point in the second half.
So the youthful Black Bears got the ball to their All-America East first-team guard Sigi Koizar and she delivered. The senior scored their last six points as UMaine escaped with a hard-fought 60-55 women’s basketball triumph at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Koizar hit a driving layup with 1:02 remaining to expand the lead to 56-52 and, after UMaine forced a shot-clock violation with impressive defending, she sank the first two of her four free throws with 28.2 seconds left to give the Bears some vital breathing room.
Koizar drove through heavy traffic to hit her all-important layup.
“That was a play we drew up,” Koizar said. “I drove the middle and was either going to shoot a layup or pass it to a shooter on the weak side.”
The Black Bears (5-5) survived a career-high 26 points from Dartmouth junior forward Andi Norman, who was 7-for-13 on 3-pointers. The Big Green (3-5) shot 11 of 26 from beyond the arc. Norman had averaged only 5.7 points per game this season.
“My coaches had a discussion with us about our roles, and they told me I was our best 3-point shooter and they wanted me to shoot the ball. So that gave me some new-found confidence, and I was able to get some open 3-point shots and hit them today,” Norman said.
Norman hit her last 3, a contested shot from the corner, with 22 seconds left to make it 58-55 but Koizar sandwiched free throws around a 3-point miss by Norman to sew up the victory.
“In preparation, we spent a lot of time focusing on [Koizar]. She’s their go-to player,” Norman said. “She makes things happen. She makes them go. Late in the game, when they needed to get the ball in and we were trying to foul, that’s who they were getting the ball to.
“When she’s scoring six points in the last however many minutes, they’re doing their job getting her the ball, and we have to foul because we need the ball,” Norman said.
Koizar finished with 15 points to go with six rebounds and three assists. Freshman forward Laia Sole also scored 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. She went 6-for-7 from the floor with most of her baskets coming off inside moves.
Dartmouth coach Belle Koclanes said Sole is, “very, very good. She got our veteran post player [Yarmouth’s Olivia Smith] in foul trouble and she was too strong for our younger post players. She was fantastic.”
“Laia is almost unstoppable when she gets inside,” said UMaine assistant coach Edniesha Curry, who filled in at the press conference for ailing head coach Richard Barron. “She also has great interior passing which allows our shooters on the outside to roam around. And she’s unselfish so they get a lot of open 3’s.”
“I’m just happy that we won,” Sole said. “I was happy with my performance too but most of my points today were because my teammates passed me the ball in the perfect place to turn around and shoot.”
Freshman Blanca Millan contributed 14 points and and redshirt sophomore Tanesha Sutton hauled down a game-high 10 rebounds while chipping in with three assists. Freshman Fanny Wadling added eight points.
Kate Letkewicz had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Big Green while Isalys Quinones had eight rebounds to go with four points.
The Black Bears built the lead to 46-30 with 4:30 left in the third quarter but the Big Green outscored UMaine 11-2 the rest of the period to pull within 48-41.
The Big Green kept chipping away at the lead and former BDN All-Maine first-teamer Smith of the former Catherine McAuley High School in Portland got the roll on a short jumper to pull Dartmouth within 54-52 with 1:22 remaining.
The Black Bears scored 13 unanswered points in the second quarter to manufacture a 33-19 lead before Annie McKenna’s driving layup with 29.5 seconds left ended the flurry. Dartmouth had gone 7:16 without scoring.
Sheraton Jones missed two free throws and Anita Kelava fouled Norman in the ensuing rebounding action.
Norman sank one of two to close out the half and pull Dartmouth within 33-22.
Sole started the 13-point run with a short hook shot off a Naira Caceres feed and Julie Brosseau passed to Koizar for a 3-pointer from the left side of the key.
Wadling hit a pair of baskets from underneath, Sole and Kirsten Johnson each sank a free throw, and Millan scored off a power move to the basket off a Johnson pass.
Norman nailed four of six 3-pointers in the first half to lead all scorers with 13 points. Letkiewicz added six points and a team-high five rebounds.
UMaine did a much better job defending getting out on the 3-point shooters in the second quarter as the Big Green took just four after launching eight in the first period.
Sole netted nine first-half points and Wadling scored eight, while Millan scored five and Koizar had four to go with three assists and four rebounds. Sutton had seven rebounds.