Bates’ Tom Coyne, left, and UMF’s Terion Moss (14) race down the court at Dearborn Gymnasium earlier this season in Farmington. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

There might not be a Division III men’s basketball coach in the country more ready to prepare his team for a conference tournament opponent than the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Dan Kane. The Owls face UMaine-Farmington in the North Atlantic Conference semifinals at 5:30 p.m., Friday at UMF’s Dearborn Gymnasium. Not only did Kane play his college ball at UMF for coach Dick Meader, he worked as an assistant coach under Meader and was instrumental in recruiting many members of UMF’s senior class, the players who helped lead the Beavers to a 21-4 record and 13-1 mark in conference play.

“This is a special thing for me,” Kane said about playing UMF. “They’re just very solid. Four senior 1,000-point scorers. They’re a balanced, senior-led team. They don’t make mistakes.”

The winner of the UMPI-UMF game will face the winner of Friday’s second game between SUNY-Canton and Husson on Saturday for the NAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. Also competing in men’s basketball conference semifinals this weekend is Colby, which will play Amherst in the New England Small College Athletic Conference semis at 7 p.m., Friday at Tufts.

While the teams in the NAC are playing for the automatic bid that comes with the conference title, Colby (23-2) could earn an at-large bid. The NESCAC earned four tournament bids last season. Ranked No. 11 in the nation, the Mules finished the regular season as the two seed in the conference.

“We’ve put a pretty good resume together. I’d be really surprised if we’re not in, no matter what happens,” Colby coach Damien Strahorn said. “Obviously, we’d like to take that matter in our own hands and win (the NESCAC title) before at-large bids get chewed up by teams that lose (in conference tournaments).”

Colby’s Will King draws the foul from Trinity’s Nick Seretta (22) earlier this season in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Colby lost to Amherst, 87-69, when they met in the regular season on Feb. 8. It was a game of runs, Strahorn said, with the Mammoths taking a 21-point lead, then the Mules cutting the deficit to five points, before Amherst pulled away again late.

“Defensively, we weren’t able to control the ball as much as we’d like. We’re going to have to be physical,” Strahorn said.

The Amherst game was the first the Mules played without senior guard Sam Jefferson, who suffered an ankle injury the night before in a win over Hamilton. Jefferson is third in the NESCAC in scoring, averaging 21 points per game, and a 50 percent shooter from three. Jefferson tried to return in Colby’s triple overtime win over Bates in last week’s quarterfinals, but was able to play just one minute.

“He’s been working through his recovery. He just wasn’t ready (against Bates),” Strahorn said. “We’re hoping with another week of prep he can be more ready.”

Even without Jefferson, the Mules have offensive depth. Matt Hanna (15.1 ppg), Alex Dorion (14.4 ppg), Noah Tyson (12.6 ppg) and Wallace Tucker (11.6) each average double figures, and freshman Will King scored 32 points in last week’s win over Bates. Amherst is led by Garrett Day, who Strahorn called one of the toughest guards in the conference.

In the NAC, while Kane is certainly well-versed in UMF’s style of play and roster, it didn’t help his Owls (13-13, 6-8) in a pair of lopsided regular-season losses to the Beavers. UMF beat UMPI on back-to-back days, 87-59 and 98-78, in the final games before the Christmas break. Meader said not to expect the same type of game Friday.

“I think they’re a much more confident team now. They’re a dangerous team. They can get to the rim and score,” Meader said. “They’ll be fired up and (Kane) will have them ready to go.”

Guard Shyquinn Dix leads the Owls in scoring at 16.8 points per game, while Griffin Guerette averages 15.2 points. UMPI lost its first seven conference games, but won seven of their last eight NAC games, including last week’s 87-86 win at Thomas in the conference quarterfinals.

“After we got a couple wins, we started rolling,” Kane said.

The Beavers got a boost recently with the return of senior Amir Moss, who missed the middle of the season. Moss averages just over a dozen points per game. His younger brother, sophomore Terion Moss leads the Beavers in scoring at 18.6 points per game in his first season at UMF after playing last season at Division I Maine. Senior Isaac Witham of Skowhegan averages 10.9 points for UMF.

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