One week after the number two seeded Keene State Owls gave the Huskies, ranked first in their league, their second loss of the season, the two teams met again in the final game of the Little East Conference championship at the Warren G. Hill Gymnasium in Gorham last Saturday. Senior forward Ashley Marble (Topsfield) recorded her 20th double-double of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies to their 11th consecutive Little East Conference championship with a 68-57 win over the Owls.
Plagued by turnovers and missed shots, both teams struggled during the first half exchanging the lead back and forth. After Lindsey Welch (Newport) missed a three-pointer with 19:47 to play, the Owls outscored the Huskies over the next four minutes and took the lead, 2-9.
The Huskies called a 30 second time-out, and with 15:58 to play Welch dished the ball out to freshman guard Nicole Paradis (Skowhegan), who made the shot from three point territory and cut the lead to 5-9. A three-pointer from sophomore forward Stacey Kent (Northwood, NH) with less than ten minutes to play and another three-pointer from Welch launched the Huskies into the lead, 19-15 with 8:33 left in the half. Owls guard Michele Boudreau took the lead back for Keene State, 29-32, sinking a three-pointer with 3:16 left in the half.
The Huskies shot a solid 41.7 percent from the field but committed eight turnovers. They trailed the Owls in rebounds as well, grabbing 17 while Keene took 19 in the first half. Marble went into the half with 11 of her 26 points and five of her 10 rebounds. Welch chipped in with eight points and junior forward Angela Santa Fe (Derry, NH) netted four.
The Huskies cut the Owl’s lead in the opening minutes of the second half. After Marble connected and drew the foul on a lay up, she helped her team tie up the game, 32-32 with 18:38 left to play. The Huskies outscored Keene State on a 16-4 run in the first six minutes of the second half. In less than five minutes Marble and Santa Fe each scored four points and Paradis and Welch each drained a three-pointer to help push the Huskies into a 46-36 lead.
A lay up from Owls forward Jenn Kinney would cut the lead to six with 12:06 remaining, but the Huskies answered with back-to-back three-pointers from Paradis and junior guard Dawn Ross (Gray), pushing the lead back to 52-40 with 10:26 left in the game.
The Huskies went on to outscore the Owls again 11-6 over the next four minutes. Marble was fouled on the boards and went to the line to drain both foul shots, putting the Huskies lead at a comfortable 63-46. The Huskies kept this lead, taking the 68-57 victory.
Despite playing on a shin injury, Marble helped the Huskies to achieve 100 percent from the charity line in the second half, while the Owls held on at 50 percent. The Huskies, who shot 41.7 percent, recorded 14-for-27 in the second half, putting them at 51.9 percent.
Marble was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive year. With her 10 from this game, Marble set USM’s career record for rebounds with 1,115 in her career. She surpassed Sue Joseph’s (1980) record of 1,108. Marble’s 26 points puts her at 1,911, enough to secure her second place all-time at USM.
With the win, the Huskies earned an automatic bid into the 2007 NCAA Division 3 Women’s Basketball Tournament. This is the 13th consecutive year that the Huskies have received an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The Huskies improved their record to 25-2 heading into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen games last Saturday and Sunday. They played Williams College, who came into the tournament at 20-6.