The University of Maine women's basketball team competes against Providence College in November 2021. Credit: Seth Poplaski / UMaine Athletics

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s women’s basketball team pulled itself into a tie with Albany in the battle for the top seed in the America East Tournament as UMaine earned a hard-fought 64-55 victory in a thriller at an energized Memorial Gym Wednesday night.

Sophomore point guard Alba Orois hit an important traditional 3-point play with 2:05 left and junior guard Anne Simon nailed a clinching three with 54 seconds remaining.

UMaine is now 12-10 overall and 9-3 in the conference after winning its sixth straight game.

Stony Brook is leading the league but can’t play in the conference tournament. The school is leaving America East after the season to join the Colonial Athletic Association and a conference bylaw forbids teams from playing in championships if they are leaving the league.

Albany had its five-game winning streak snapped and is now 16-7 and 9-3.

Orois’ traditional three-point play made it 59-55 as she was fouled after driving the lane and knocking down a layup.

Orois said she has been working on her shot a lot because opponents are sagging off her to try to limit her penetration into the paint.

“I want them to know I can shoot the ball. I have more confidence shooting now,” said Orois, who used her quickness to drive around the Great Danes and convert layups while also burying a pair of threes.

She said the team worked very hard for the win against an outstanding opponent.

Simon’s three expanded the lead to 62-55.

“That boosted my confidence. I didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half so when that went in with all the fans, it was just amazing,” said Simon who said her three meant more than the jump shot that enabled her to reach the 1,000-point plateau in the second period.

“We missed an execution. We left the leading scorer in the conference open for a three and she is going to drain those,” said Albany coach Colleen Mullen.

Simon said the game had the atmosphere of a championship game.

“We knew it was going to be an important game. Credit to Albany, they’re a really good team,” said Simon. “They go for offensive rebounds so we really had to box them out. But, at the end of the day, we took good care of the ball and hit some tough shots.”

Simon scored 17 points and also had four assists. Orois also finished with 17 to go with six assists and five rebounds. The other three starters — Maeve Carroll, Caroline Bornemann and Paula Gallego — each had 10 points.

Carroll and Bornemann each grabbed five rebounds and had two steals. Carroll added three assists.

Kayla Cooper’s 17 points and four rebounds, Morgan Haney’s 13 points and Helene Haegerstrand’s 12 points paced Albany. Lucia Descortes had seven rebounds and three assists for Albany.

“It was a lot of fun,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “We made a couple more plays than they did. Albany is a great team.”

UMaine shot 56.3 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc compared with Albany’s 41.2 percent and 35.7 percent.

UMaine outscored the taller Great Danes 36-20 in the paint.

The Great Danes jumped out to a 15-8 lead but the Black Bears strung together an 18-6 spurt spanning the first and second quarters to take a 26-21 lead.

But the Great Danes answered with six unanswered points as Cooper parlayed a pair of nifty inside moves, including one directly under the basket, to sandwich baskets around one by a wide open Hahne, who easily converted a Lilly Philips inbound pass.

The Black Bears scored the last five points of the half as Simon hit a jumper and Orois nailed a step-back three from the top of the key just before the buzzer sounded.

Simon had 10 first-half points and became the 22nd in UMaine history to score 1,000 points when she sank a 15-foot jumper with 7:10 left in the half.

Carroll had eight points and four rebounds and Gallego had six points. Orois added four points and two assists.

Cooper poured in 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the floor for Albany. Haegerstrand had five points and Ellen Hahne produced four points.