SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – At Thursday night’s NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four banquet, the rest of the nation learned what Maine already knew: That two of the top 10 players in the nation performed their magic in our backyard this winter.

The University of Southern Maine’s Ashley Marble and Eileen Flaherty of Bowdoin were announced as members of the Kodak/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America Team.

Marble and Flaherty were two of four juniors named to the team. Taryn Mellody of the University of Scranton, also a junior, joins Marble as the only All-Americans represented in this weekend’s championship round.

After leading the Huskies with 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during the season, Marble, a 5-foot-9 dynamo in the low post, has upped those averages to 22 and 14 in the tournament. With her team blowing out most of its opponents, Marble averaged only 25 minutes per game prior to the playoffs.

Marble finished with 22 points and 17 boards in Friday’s 74-65 victory over Hardin-Simmons.

The fourth women’s All-American at Southern Maine, Marble quit basketball in 2003 to pursue a volleyball scholarship at the University of Maine. She stayed one season before transferring.

Asked by an out-of-state reporter Friday if that’s because she likes basketball better than volleyball, Marble replied, “With this team, I do.”

Marble scored 25 points and Flaherty fashioned 19 last Saturday, when USM bounced Bowdoin 56-53 in the sectional final at Gorham.

Sibley still scoring

Katie Sibley was far-and-away the best player on her high school team, and as such, the 5-foot-5 guard developed the reputation as a gunner.

It wasn’t uncommon for Sibley to light up opponents for 25, 30 or more points on a winter night in high school. She steered Boothbay to one regional championship berth with those exploits.

In USM coach Gary Fifield’s system, Sibley has evolved into a traditional point guard.

She shares the role of Huskies’ quarterback with Katie Frost and is second only to Frost with 76 assists while averaging just over six points per game.

On Friday, Sibley showed Hardin-Simmons that she still has a knack for driving to the hoop and finishing her own business. She erupted for 10 of her 13 points in the second half of USM’s 74-65 victory.

“Coach noticed (Hardin-Simmons was) having trouble handling our ball screens,” said Sibley. “He just kept saying, put it to the corner,’ so we did, and off I went. I just do what he says.”

Those words coaxed a chuckle from Fifield at the post-game press conference.

But the way Sibley, Donna Cowing, Katie Frost and Shannon Kynoch seem to take turns supplementing the leadership of Marble and Megan Myles has been no laughing matter for USM opponents.

“We just play to our strength,” said Sibley. “Usually we are the more athletic team in almost every game.”

Keep Hope alive

Hope downed Scranton, 59-56, in Friday’s second semifinal. Bria Ebels led nine different players in the scoring column with 15 points for Hope (32-1), which overcame 23 turnovers. Mellody topped Scranton with 18 points.

The Flying Dutch played their only previous final in 1990, winning the national title over St. John Fisher.

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