After cruising to a 28-point victory over Hartford on Tuesday afternoon, the University of Maine women’s basketball team found itself trailing that same Hartford team by eight in the third period of Wednesday’s series finale.
But the Black Bears, who trailed for nearly 28 of the 40 minutes, rallied behind Blanca Millan, Anne Simon and Dor Saar to eke out a 52-49 victory at Chase Arena in West Hartford, Connecticut, to extend their winning streak to 15 games dating back to last season.
UMaine is now 5-0 overall this season and 2-0 in America East play.
UMaine has won the last six meetings between the two and 10 of the last 11 in West Hartford.
It was Hartford’s first two games of the season.
Fifth-year senior Millan, who had scored 33 points for the second straight game on Tuesday, scored a game-high 22 on Wednesday.
She also had six rebounds and five steals. Saar added 13 points, three assists and two steals and Simon finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists. Fanny Wadling chipped in with four points, a team-high seven rebounds and two assists.
Nina Farkic’s 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists, Breyenne Bellerand’s 12 points and two assists and Charlette Leurs’ seven rebounds and three blocked shots led Hartford.
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said it wasn’t a pretty win “but I’m really proud of our team for gutting it out at the end. Playing three games in four days and playing on the road for two straight weeks can be tough.”
Her team trailed by five at the half and she told her team to attack the rim more in the second half rather than settling for 3-pointers because “we were tired and our shots weren’t falling.”
She also praised Hartford’s performance and predicted they are going to win a lot of league games.
Millan’s layup with four seconds left in the third quarter gave UMaine the lead for good at 41-40.
It capped a 17-8 run after UMaine had fallen behind 33-25.
Simon, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year, converted a layup to start the flurry for her first points of the game.
Jumpers by Millan and Simon made it 33-31 and, after Jada Lucas nailed a 3-pointer for Hartford to rebuild the lead to five, UMaine closed out the period on an 11-5 spurt to take a lead it would never relinquish.
Millan had six of the 11 points and Saar hit a 3-pointer.
A Simon 3-pointer off a Saar pass and a Saar three off a Simon feed sandwiched a jumper by Hartford’s Jordan McLemore to give UMaine a 50-45 lead with 2:58 left.
Two Bellerand free throws and a Farkic jumper pulled Hartford within 50-49.
But Farkic was called for traveling with three seconds left and Saar sewed up the win with two free throws.
“Farkic had been really hurting us attacking the basket, putting a lot of up-fakes and getting baskets,” said Vachon who told her team to double team her if she got the ball and noted that Wadling played a key role in causing the turnover.
“Fanny is really smart and does so much for us,” Vachon said.
UMaine will return to action for a two-game matinee set at New Hampshire on Jan. 2-3.