ORONO, Maine — A New Jersey Institute of Technology team that had been drubbed at home by 34 points by the University of Maine just three weeks ago and was playing without one of its two All-America East players came into the raucous Memorial Gym and had the Black Bear fans on edge for 25 minutes.
But the Black Bears rattled off a 10-2 run to close out the third quarter and transform a tenuous six-point lead into a 14-point advantage. They broke the game open in the fourth quarter for a 72-48 victory and earned a seventh-straight America East championship game appearance.
UMaine, 20-10 and winner of 14 straight, will host Albany in Friday’s 5 p.m. title game at the Memorial Gym.
Alba Orois led the way for UMaine with 20 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Maeve Carroll added 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Caroline Bornemann had 12 points and five rebounds and Anne Simon had 11 points and five assists.
Olivia Rockwood had nine points on three 3-pointers.
Kimi Evans and Aria Myers haad 12 points apiece for 15-15 NJIT and Kenna Squier added 10 points and four assists. Ellyn Stoll had six points and three assists and Lilly Anderson had five points and a team-high four rebounds.
The Black Bears scored the game’s first six points and led by as much as 13 points.
But the gritty Highlanders reeled off an 8-2 spurt in the second quarter to pull within seven.
Stoll and Myers hit threes and Stoll also hit a jumper to offset a Gallego baseline runner.
But UMaine closed out the half on an 11-6 spurt to take a 36-24 lead into the intermission.
Orois and Carroll had 10 points apiece for UMaine in the first half, while Bornemann had eight and Simon had six points and five assists. Carroll had seven rebounds and four assists.
Myers, who was averaging 3.6 points per game, had nine to lead NJIT. She was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor. Evans had six points and Stoll netted five.
NJIT shot 55 percent from the floor compared with UMaine’s 42.9 percent.
NJIT turned the ball over 12 times to UMaine’s three and UMaine had a 17-12 rebounding, including a 9-1 advantage in offensive rebounds.
The Highlanders were without third team All-America East sophomore guard and leading rebounder Lyzi Litwinko, who is out with an injury. Litwinko’s 7.1 rebounds per game are fourth best in the league. She is also NJIT’s third leading scorer at 10.7 ppg.