By: Erin Brown, Free Press Sports Editor
The University of Southern Maine’s Men’s and Women’s basketball teams honored the town of Gorham last Wednesday night with their annual Gorham night. Members from Gorham’s 3rd and 4th grade youth basketball teams filled the stands and played during halftime. A free raffle for gift cards to businesses around the town of Gorham was offered and teams such as baseball stood in attendance giving out free t-shirts and baked goods.
Amongst the light-hearted fun celebrating the town the houses our university, the Little East Conference matchups against Plymouth State University Panthers brought that much more electricity to Fifield Court.
Women’s basketball (3-15) snapped a ten game losing streak when they beat the Panthers (5-12) by a score of 61-60. The two teams were neck and neck throughout the entire contest, it took until the last ten seconds of play to decide a winner.
The first half of the game the Huskies held a slight lead over the Panthers with the score of 27-24. 10 of the Huskies points in the first half came from freshman Chantel Eells (Turner, ME/ Leavitt) Eells went three for three with field goals in the first half and four for six at the free throw line.
In the second half, the Huskies utilized their reserves who showed their strengths on the court. Junior Kayla Stacey (Auburn, NH/ Pinkerton Academy) drained two threes for six points in the second half. Sophomore Kimberly Howrigan (Fairfield, VT/ Bellows Free Academy) tallied eight points in the second half, including the layup in the last 10 seconds that eventually won the game for the Huskies.
Eells scored a team high of 13 points against Plymouth State Wednesday night. Eells also picked up four rebounds and one assist. Emily Nicholson (Quispamsis, New Brunswick/ Kennebecasis Valley) followed with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. Miranda Nicely (Farmington, ME/ Mt. Blue) was the third Husky to score double digits with 10 points. Nicely tallied two rebounds, two assists, and four steals.
A Panthers’ player in particular achieved a collegiate milestone Wednesday night as well. In her 21 point night, senior DeAsia ‘Ace’ Lawrence (Middletown, CT) scored her 1,000 college point. Senior Kayla Wyland (Melrose, MA) scored the second highest for the Panthers with 20 points.
Men’s basketball (7-11) also took down the Plymouth State Panthers (8-9) 63-58. It was another close game on Fifield Court for the Huskies. The Panthers pulled out with the lead early on, but the Huskies found their momentum and pulled back within range to take the first half.
The Huskies edged the Panthers 25-24 after the first half with standout performances by senior Zach Leal (York, ME/ York) who scored 14 points for the Huskies. In the second half junior Christian McCue (Hampden, ME/ Hampden Academy) helped the Huskies outscore the Panthers 38-34 with the ten points he put up within the last ten minutes of play. Leal scored another 12 points in the second half and both sealed the deal for the Huskies 63-58 win over Plymouth State University.
Leal was the top scorer for USM with 26 points. This is Leal’s third highest for the 2016-2017 season. In addition, Leal also tallied five rebounds, three assists, one steal, and two blocks. McCue followed Leal with 13 points, two rebounds and one assist. James Stark III (Miami, FL/ Miami Killian Senior) followed with 11 points, nine rebounds, one assist and one steal. Reserve, Greg Knight, (Hampden, ME/ Hampden Academy) also had a night with eight points, seven defensive rebounds, one assist and one block.
After both wins, men’s and women’s basketball currently have a 2-6 record within the Little East Conference. Both teams hold the last spot in conference, but have more season to play before playoffs. Both teams return to Fifield Court Feb. 4 to take on Keene State College for a special celebration of 50 years of women’s athletics at the University of Southern Maine.