UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Jenny Schlim saved her best basketball for the games in which it mattered most, and her efforts alongside an aggressive defense and a deep bench helped lift Central Maine Community College into uncharted territory Saturday.
Schlim shattered her points-per-game average for the second consecutive night, draining a game-high 20 points, and All-American Brooke Reynolds added 13 to lift CMCC to a 74-57 win over Penn State-Lehigh Valley, earning for the Mustangs their first USCAA national title.
Schlim, a second-year guard, poured in 13 points in the Mustangs’ semifinal win over rival Southern Maine Community College on Friday, and upped the ante Saturday, hitting for 20, including to 3-pointers and a 4-for-4 night from the line.
“That’s what we expect out of Jenny every night,” Morong said. “She was ready to win a national championship. She was just like, ‘OK guys, let’s go.'”
Reynolds also led the team with 12 boards and was part of a suffocating defense that in the third quarter allowed only six points as the Mustangs built their lead out to nearly 30 points.
“We could see that coming, and I think they could, too,” Morong said. “Our girls are a lot like sharks, and when there’s blood in the water, it becomes a feeding frenzy. That’s what happened. We just pounced. We talk about getting a team in the corner and knocking them down and not helping them back up.”
Eraleena Gethers-Hairston returned to form Saturday, as well, hauling in 11 rebounds and adding eight points.
“She was a physical presence inside,” Morong said. “She just wore the other post player down and she made a couple ridiculous stops on her own. I challenge ‘E’ a lot, I’m constantly pushing her outside her comfort zone, and she just continues to respond.”
Eleven of the Mustangs’ 15 rostered players scored Saturday, and all of them played minutes in the national title game.
“No matter what the scoreboard said, no matter the situation, we expect them to perform at a certain standard, and everyone who went in the game did their job,” Morong said.
But it was defense — again — that drove CMCC to victory. The Mustangs forced 31 turnovers and scored 26 points off of them. They hauled in 49 rebounds — including 28 on the defensive glass — and had 17 steals and eight blocks while committing only 24 total fouls.
“We pushed the lead to close to 30, if not 30, and we got everyone in and everyone had contributions to the game. It was so cool to see.”
The national championship is the first for CMCC in women’s basketball, the second overall (the men’s basketball team won in the early 2000s), and the title is the first national championship by a Maine-based women’s team.
And after enjoying it all for a short while, Morong said, it’s on to next season, and another kick at the can.
“That process has already begin,” Morong said. “We have some awesome recruits coming in, from in state and beyond, and we’ve already messaged them and told them that next week, we start strength and conditioning for No. 2.”