ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s America East regular season champion women’s basketball team knew it was facing a dangerous opponent in eighth seed Hartford in its league quarterfinal series at the Memorial Gym on Saturday afternoon.
Hartford was not only playing to extend its season but to also extend its existence in America East.
Hartford is leaving the league after this season to transition to NCAA Division III.
The Hawks gave the Black Bears a fierce battle for 32 minutes but the Black Bears outscored the Hawks 12-4 over the game’s final 8:04 to earn a 63-49 victory in front of a raucous crowd at The Pit.
UMaine’s 13th straight win sends the Black Bears into Tuesday’s home semifinals against the lowest seeded quarterfinal-round survivor. UMaine is now 19-10 overall.
Hartford ended its season 4-26.
Sophomore forward Caroline Bornemann’s career-high 21 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals paced the Black Bears. Junior guard Anne Simon had 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds along with three steals. Graduate student forward Maeve Carroll contributed 14 points, all in the second half, along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Sophomore point guard Alba Orois had five points, six assists and two steals and freshman Paula Gallego had seven rebounds and two assists to go with three points.
Junior Carmen Villalobos led Hartford with 13 points, nine rebounds and four steals. The Hawks’ leading scorer Paula Maurina scored 10 points, all in the first half, and had six rebounds and three assists. Jabria Ingram added nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
Carroll was 0-for-4 from the floor in the first half but was 6-for-8 in the second half.
“Maeve struggled in the first half offensively and defensively. She was guarding Maurina and she had 10 points,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “But she had a fantastic second half. Maurina didn’t score in the second half.”
“My shots weren’t going in during the first half and it was getting in my head,” Carroll said. “At halftime I told myself that my team needs me to play well in the second half. And once the first shot went in, I got my confidence.”
“Our press in the second half was much better,” Simon said. “We got 28 points off of their turnovers and that was pretty good for us.”
Hartford shot 2-for-10 from the floor in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over eight times.
“Defensively, we really locked down in the fourth quarter,” Vachon said. “We limited them to one shot which is really big for us.”
“We just kind of let them get into our heads a little bit,” said Hartford’s Ingram. “We were getting frustrated because of the little mistakes we were making. We let them get the better of us.”
Ingram noted that UMaine’s press is effective.
“They do a good job speeding you up,” Ingram said. “And they’re a smart team. If you make a mistake, they pick you apart.”
“We did well for 32 minutes,” said Hartford head coach and East Boothbay native Melissa Hodgdon. “Maine is a good team and when you lose your discipline defensively, they make you pay for it. They scored off some back cuts and offensive rebounds.”
She also said UMaine is the type of team that can wear you down.
“They’re in great shape. They never get tired,” said Hodgdon, who added that she was proud of her players and the way they battled and kept their composure.
UMaine led by as many as 11 in the first half and 10 in the third period but the gritty Hawks kept responding to keep the game within striking distance.
UMaine led by three at the half and by six at the end of three.
Leading by six with 6:49 to go, the Hawks turned the ball over and Simon hit a 12-foot jumper from the right elbow to make it 53-45.
“I was happy I made that one because I didn’t make any threes. I’m saving those for the next game,” said Simon, who was 1-for-8 beyond the 3-point arc.
Carroll rebounded a Hartford miss and Gallego sank a free throw with 6:02 left.
Ingram hit a jumper with 4:02 left but Simon answered with a layup off a Carroll pass 22 seconds later to restore the nine-point lead.
Hartford missed its next three shots and turned the ball over twice before Bornemann and Carroll hit a pair of free throws apiece to sew up the win.
“We had a lot of mistakes in the first half but we executed well in the second half and took care of the ball,” Simon said.
Bornemann had 15 of her points in the first half to help UMaine take a three-point lead into the intermission.
“I took the chances I had, I took what they gave me,” said Bornemann about her career-high performance.
“She’s a smart player. She found the open spots,” Ingram said.
UMaine had an 11-point lead in the second quarter but the Hawks outscored them 10-2 over the final 4:25 of the first half to pull within 29-26 at the intermission.
UMaine outscored Hartford 32-16 in the paint and 28-4 in points off turnovers.
UMaine outrebounded Hartford 36-27 and had a 12-2 edge in second chance points and a 15-0 advantage in fast break points.
UMaine shot 42.1 percent from the floor and 19 percent from long distance compared with Hartford’s 38.3 percent and impressive 42.9 showing beyond the 3-point arc.
Vachon praised Hodgdon and her team for the way they battled throughout the game.
“Melissa has done a wonderful job. That’s a really tough situation,” Vachon said.