Husson University's Justin Thompson (center) is greeted by his teammates after scoring his 1,000th career points during a Dec. 4, 2021, game against the University of Maine at Presque Isle at Newman Gymnasium in Bangor. Credit: Drew Hallett / Husson University

It’s a big weekend for basketball in greater Bangor, and not just for high school.

Top-ranked Husson University will host quarterfinals and semifinal games in the North Atlantic Conference men’s basketball tournament on Friday and Saturday at Newman Gymnasium.

The East Region champion crowned by those games will advance to host the NAC West Region champion at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, for the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament,

NAC East postseason play began with first-round games Tuesday as third-seeded UMaine-Presque Isle defeated No. 6 Thomas College of Waterville 83-71 and No. 5 Northern Vermont-Lyndon upended No. 4 Maine Maritime Academy 69-63 at Castine.

Senior guard Griffin Guerrette of Presque Isle paced UMPI to its victory with 23 points, five assists and five rebounds while reigning NAC co-player of the week Dany Harris added 21 points.

Freshman forward Sawyer Deprey of Caribou led Thomas with 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals.

UMPI (15-9, 9-4 in NAC play) will face second-seeded UMaine-Farmington (13-6, 8-2 NAC) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal that follows the 5:30 p.m. matchup between Northern Vermont-Lyndon (7-17, 3-6 NAC) and Husson (12-9, 8-2 NAC).

Husson earned the top seed in the East based on its two regular-season victories over UMaine-Farmington, but the Eagles split their two earlier games with NVU-Lyndon, winning 92-66 on Feb. 4 and falling 110-80 on Feb. 5 in back-to-back games played at Lyndonville, Vermont.

Husson has been paced offensively this winter by its veteran backcourt, with senior guard D.J. Bussey leading coach Warren Caruso’s club with 15.6 points per game, followed by graduate wing Justin Thompson of East Millinocket (14.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game) and senior guard Justice Kendall (13.9 points and 3.5 assists per game).

Husson is seeking its first trip to the NCAAs since 2019.

UMaine-Farmington, the eighth highest-scoring team in NCAA Division III at 88.9 points per game, features the nation’s second-leading individual scorer in senior guard Terion Moss of Portland, who is averaging 27.3 points and 4.9 assists per contest for coach Sam Leal’s Beavers.

The 2018 Mr. Maine Basketball from Portland High School, who transferred to UMaine-Farmington after playing a year of point guard at the University of Maine, is the reigning NAC Co-Player of the Week after averaging 33.0 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in three games, including a 38-point performance during Saturday’s 91-69 win at Thomas to close out the regular season.

Moss also scored 33 points with five assists during an 84-75 non-conference win over Bowdoin College in Brunswick, UMaine-Farmington’s first victory over the Polar Bears since 2013.

Moss’ perimeter play has been complemented by 6-foot-9 senior center Jack Kane of Cumberland, who is averaging 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and ranks eighth in Division III nationally with 2.89 blocked shots per contest.

UMPI brings a seven-game winning streak to the NAC quarterfinals, with Guerette and Harris leading the Owls so far this season with 19.6 points per game apiece. Harris has added 8.6 rebounds per contest while Guerrette also contributes 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per outing.

Sophomore Gilbert Jean Mendez is contributing 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for coach Dan Kane’s Owls. He’s coming off being named NAC Co-Rookie of the Week after averaging 18 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 9.7 rebounds over three conference victories last week. He scored 15 points in the first-round playoff win over Thomas.

Top-seeded SUNY Delhi (19-6 9-1 NAC) will host the West Division quarterfinals and semifinals this weekend in Delhi, New York.

SUNY Delhi will host No. 4 NVU-Johnson (10-14, 5-6 NAC) in Friday’s first quarterfinal, followed by No. 2 SUNY Poly (16-9, 9-1) against No. 3 and defending champion SUNY Canton (13-11, 7-3 NAC).

SUNY Canton advanced earlier this week with an 87-68 victory over No. 6 SUNY Cobleskill while NVU-Johnson edged No. 5 Cazenovia 65-62.

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...