It wasn’t pretty. It was a struggle the whole way.
But the University of Maine women’s basketball team received a go-ahead 3-pointer from junior forward Caroline Bornemann with 1:54 left in the game, just the Black Bears’ second basket of the quarter, as they edged Binghamton University 69-65 at the Memorial Gym in Orono on Saturday afternoon.
UMaine will get the third seed in the America East playoffs and host No. 6 Binghamton on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals.
UMaine finished the regular season at 15-13 overall and 11-5 in the conference while the Bearcats wound up 13-16 and 6-10, including a pair of four-point losses to UMaine.
Bornemann’s 3-pointer, just her second basket of the game, made it 62-59 and two Adi Smith free throws a minute later extended the lead to five.
Binghamton couldn’t get any closer than three the rest of the way.
UMaine survived a 2-for-15 shooting exhibition in the fourth quarter..
Anne Simon made the pass to an open Bornemann for her critical 3 pointer on the left wing and she let it fly.
“I was open, and I shot it with confidence,” said Bornemann.
“Caroline is someone you can trust to shoot the three when she’s open and she did,” said Simon. “That was a big shot for her.”
Sophomore forward Smith finished with 31 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season. She also had three assists and two steals.
Smith made five of her six free throw attempts over the last 59 seconds and finished with a 9-for-11 showing from the foul line.
“I’ve really focused a lot on my free throwing shooting with my coaches,” Smith said.
Simon also made a pair of clutch free throws with 16 seconds left.
Smith had three of her rebounds, including an important offensive rebound, over the final 1:54 after Bornemann made her three.
UMaine outrebounded Binghamton 41-34.
“It was a great team win,” said Smith. “We crashed the boards really hard. We’ve worked on that and pursuing the ball the past few weeks.”
Senior guard and reigning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Simon, in her second game back after missing eight games due to a lingering high ankle sprain, finished with 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. Junior guard Olivia Rockwood had nine points.
Bornemann wound up with five points and four rebounds.
Redshirt freshman guard Jadyn Weltz scored 23 points to lead the Bearcats. She also hauled down 12 rebounds, dished out four assists and had three steals during an impressive performance.
Junior guard Denai Bowman had 17 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Sophomore forward Genevieve Coleman had 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“It was a good team effort,” said Simon. “We can definitely play better but you have to give credit to Binghamton. They played a good game. They made some tough shots.”
UMaine raced out to a 7-0 lead and led by as many as eight in the second quarter.
But the resilient Bearcats outscored UMaine 11-5 to finish out the first half to pull within 29-27 at the intermission.
UMaine made just one of its last five field goal attempts and managed to gather in just three offensive rebounds in the first half.
Smith, whose basket in the final seconds supplied UMaine with its two-point lead at the break, had a double-double in the first half with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Simon had 10 points and two steals.
Weltz’s 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals paced Binghamton. Coleman and Bowman had six points apiece, and Coleman also grabbed four rebounds.
“We put a good fight in. We battled for all four quarters,” said Bowman. “We did have a few mistakes, but we cleaned it up. Hopefully, next time we can secure the win on Wednesday.”
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said anyone can beat anyone else in America East.
“We just made a couple more plays than they did. Their point guard [Weltz] had an amazing game,” Vachon said. “Our defense wasn’t great and we turned the ball over too much, but I’m happy we came away with the win.
“We grinded it out,” Vachon added.