AUGUSTA — The Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team was taking nothing for granted.
With two comfortable wins already in the books against the Moose from the University of Maine at Augusta, the Mustangs weren’t making assumptions about a third Sunday.
“We know in a tournament, none of that matters,” said forward Susie French. “It’s all about one game, one win or one loss.”
The Mustangs brought their game to the Yankee Small College Conference championship game Sunday like it would be their last. As it turned out CMCC’s season continues. The Mustangs claimed a third straight conference title with a convincing 100-48 win over the Moose at Southern Maine Community College.
“It’s so exciting,” French said. “We had this goal at the beginning of the season to get back to this championship game. This was our main focus. Coming into the game, we knew it was all about our energy. We brought the energy up and never let down.”
The Mustangs return to the USCAA National Championships in Uniontown, Penn., on the campus of Penn State Fayette. The tournament begins March 4.
“The passion and energy that this team has can really bring them to heights that the program hasn’t seen before,” CMCC coach Andrew Morong said. “Hopefully we’ll see that next week.”
The Mustangs were intense from the start and never let down. If the players on the court weren’t fired up, the bench help get them there. That fire showed in the swarming defense that overwhelmed the Moose.
“We want to make it look like we have eight or 10 players on the court,” French said.
The Moose, which used only six players, had 22 turnovers in the first half and finished with 31. The pressure was too much and UMA watched the game get out of hand early as CMCC built a 57-21 lead by halftime.
“The defensive pressure is what we’ve been doing all year,” Morong said. “We practice it every day. The girls did a great job executing it without fouling and giving them breaks. We knew we need to gas them from the opening tip to the final horn and we did that.”
French finished with a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds. She was named the tourney’s top player, just days after being named the YSCC Player of the Year.
Lexi Larson added 17 for the Mustangs (25-2) while Laura Soohey had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Gabby Foy and Samantha Bruce each chipped in 10. UMA (15-9) was led by Jamie Plummer with 17. Arreonte Lee had 14 while Jenn Lola added 10.
UMA had an early 7-6 lead but that didn’t last long. CMCC scored 10 straight to build a 14-7 advantage. French had six of those points.
A few minutes later, the lead surged to double digits as the Moose were swarmed by the Mustang defense. That led to numerous steals and fast break baskets. UMA shot just two percent from the floor in the game.
With the lead at 19-14, CMCC ran off 19 straight points to make it 38-14 with 8:57 left. Larson drained a trio of 3’s during that run. French scored eight.
The Mustangs then finished the half with 13 straight for a 57-21 lead. Foy had five points during that final push, including a 3. Samantha Bruce and Soohey contributed four points each as the Mustangs went into the half with the game in hand. CMCC shot 53 percent from the 3-point line in the first half.
The Mustangs opened the second half with two hoops from French to help push the lead to 40-plus. CMCC never looked back the rest of they way, utilizing a deep bench that maintained the lead as well as the intensity level.
“We talk all the time about putting the hammer down,” Morong said. “When you get a team down, you don’t help them back up. We had to snuff them out. We did that pretty well today.”