Rhode Island College continues to explore new heights as a men’s basketball program under the floor generalship of Greenwood’s Kinsey Durgin.

Durgin, one of only four 1,000-point scorers in Telstar Regional High School history, also passed that milestone as a senior captain at RIC earlier this winter. Neither he nor the Anchormen stopped there, however.

With an 87-77 victory Tuesday night over the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Rhode Island College clinched its second 20-win season in the last three years. Durgin was one of six Anchormen in double figures with 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

If RIC backs that up with a win Saturday at UMass-Boston, the Anchormen would clinch the Little East Conference regular-season title for the first time and sew up home-court advantage in the conference tournament later this month.

Durgin ranks among the Anchormen’s leaders in every major offensive and defensive category, including scoring (14.4 points per game), rebounding (5.0), assists (2.9), steals (32 total), 3-pointers (56) and free-throw proficiency (81 percent).

While the University of Southern Maine dominates the women’s division of Little East, Rhode Island College quietly has 15 wins and counting. Gray-New Gloucester product Josalee Danieli scored 16 points in a 60-42 win Tuesday over UMass-Dartmouth. Danieli is second among the Anchorwomen in scoring (12.3) and rebounding (6.8).

Tourney time

Many eyes are fixed upon the high school basketball tournaments in Augusta, Portland and Bangor beginning this weekend. That’s also a sign that the state’s NCAA Division III programs are ready to get a head start on their own brand of March Madness with a storm of conference tournaments.

Bates College and the New England Small College Athletic Conference are among the first in the country to step into that single-elimination spotlight with league quarterfinal games on Saturday. On the women’s side, the Bobcats (14-9 overall, 6-3 conference) are seeded third and will host Amherst at 3 p.m. It’s the same match-up but a much tougher assignment for the No. 8 Bates men (18-6, 3-6) when they travel to No. 1 Amherst for their 3 p.m. tap.

Sophomore Val Beckwith (17.7 points per game) has been the top scorer for the Bates women in eight consecutive games down the stretch. The Bobcats also showcase junior forward Matia Kostakis (13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds per game) and junior point guard Sarah Barton (8.0 points, 7.1 assists).

Bowdoin College earned the No. 1 seed in the women’s draw. The Polar Bears have won the NESCAC women’s tournament six straight seasons, which is also every year of its existence.

Saturday could hasten the abrupt end of what was once the most promising season ever for the Bates men, unless the Bobcats can knock off last year’s national runner-up on its home court. In early January, Bates appeared to be a lock for at least an at-large NCAA bid after a spotless 15-0 non-conference mark. They’ve dropped four of their last six games, however, punctuated by back-by-back losses to rivals Colby and Bowdoin last weekend.

Zak Ray (12.3 points, 5.8 assists, 2.6 steals per game) is putting the finishing touches on a fabulous career. The Bangor native scored 18 points in Saturday’s loss to Bangor, leapfrogging three former players to take over 15th on Bates’ all-time scoring list with 1,154 points.

Central Maine Community College is also gearing up for the Yankee Conference semifinals and championship this weekend at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. The top-seeded Mustang men meet No. 4 SMCC at 2 p.m. Saturday, immediately following a noon clash between the No. 4 CMCC women and No. 1 New Hampshire Tech. Championships games are noon and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Think spring

With pitchers and catchers reporting to major league camps this week and with many of us needing a prescription to lessen the effects of spring fever after Wednesday’s blizzard, it’s worth noting that the University of Maine baseball team was unanimously picked to win the America East baseball championship in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Maine received all seven first-place votes. The Black Bears seek their third consecutive conference crown after a 35-22-1 record last season. Improving that mark will be a tall order if only because Maine has gone old school with its non-league slate. In the tradition embraced by legendary coach John Winkin in the 1970s and ’80s, Maine will meet the University of Miami during a rugged Florida trip. Later on, the Black Bears will visit Arizona State for a four-game set.

Local fans will have a new rooting interest on the roster this season. Tavis Hasenfus of Winthrop, the 2006 Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, is expected to see time in the outfield as a freshman for Maine.

Quick hits

Isaac Stickney of Rumford (Mountain Valley) notched his ninth double-double of the season with 17 points and 15 rebounds in the University of New England’s 73-67 victory over Colby-Sawyer on Tuesday night. The Nor’easters swept their season series from the Chargers after snapping a 13-game losing streak to their conference rivals earlier this winter Bates will host the New England Division III men’s indoor track and field championship this Friday and Saturday at the Walt Slovenski Track The University of Maine at Farmington women’s basketball team has clinched the No. 1 seed in the upcoming North Atlantic Conference tournament. The Beavers (20-3 overall, 15-0 in conference) wrap up the regular season at Lasell and Mount Ida this weekend.

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