For most of the second half, the Mustangs had to work just as hard to preserve the lead against their rivals from Southern Maine Community College.
CMCC held off the Seawolves for a 66-62 win. The Mustangs were down by as many as 12 points in the first half and then had to play stellar down the stretch to pull out the victory.
“We haven’t had a really tough game like that,” guard Gabby Foy said. “It really shows the character and the heart that we have.”
Foy led the Mustangs (9-3, 6-0) with 24 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Malia Hamel added nine while Corrie Kinder and Kat Styles each had eight.
“In your biggest game, you need your best player to step up,” CMCC coach Andrew Morong said of Foy, a sophomore guard. “She steps up when we need her to. She put us on her shoulders at times. She was just absolutely brilliant.”
SMCC did a fine job defensively on the Mustangs in the first half. CMCC shot just 31 percent and had 14 turnovers. Foy led the charge in the second half. She started to be more aggressive offensively, finding room to take it to the basket or getting an occasional shot from the outside. Her efforts helped spark the team around her.
“When I’m in a tough situation, I think of last year’s National Championship game and how we shouldn’t have lost,” Foy said. “That just motivates me to want to do whatever I need to do for the team.”
Caitlin King led SMCC (8-5, 6-2) with 17 while Zyrah Giustra and Jennifer Genthner each had eight.
After being behind for most of the first half, CMCC tied the game early in the second half. The Mustangs took the lead with 10:13 left on a Foy 3 that made it 45-42. CMCC led most of the way from there but SMCC was always within reach.
The Mustangs got some key baskets from Styles, Hamel and Foy down the stretch. The largest lead was 63-59 with 59 seconds left after a Hamel baseline drive. King came back with a 3 from the corner to make it 63-62 with 39 seconds left.
Larson sank a free throw with 18 seconds left to make it 64-62, but SMCC had another chance at the equalizer. CMCC’s Laura Soohey tipped a pass into the post and then blocked a shot. She was fouled in pursuit of the loose ball and sank two free throws at the other end to seal it with three seconds left.
“We had five returnees out on the floor,” Morong said. “That’s a big advantage for us. But Malia Hamel forced a turnover and hit a big 3. Kat Styles with 11 rebounds. Even girls that went in for on a few minutes, they found a way to make an impact.”
SMCC opened the lead in the first half thanks to some energetic play and a strong presence on the boards. The Seawolves led CMCC 31-22 in rebounds in the first half and did a nice job limiting what the Mustangs liked to do.
“Credit to them, they took us out of our game early on,” Morong said. “At times, we got the tempo going where we wanted, but they did a good job slowing us down. They killed us on the boards. They get a lot of credit for that.”
CMCC did a better job offensively in the second half. They played better defense and got the game moving at their tempo.
“We knew they were a little bigger,” said Foy. “The first half, we didn’t do a good job of boxing out. So rebounding was what we needed to do and get the ball out and get them out and run.”
Led by Foy, the Mustangs started getting the offense going and some momentum building from that. With some defensive stops added in, CMCC played a tougher second half and that delivered the win.
“We were down 12 in that first half,” Morong said. “Finally, tying the game in the second half, they go back up by six. Then we tie the game again, and they go up by four. Then we finally got the lead for good. It says a lot about our character.”