The Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Emily Strachan and teammate Eliza Brault agree this season’s Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team was a young and inexperienced crew.

But the Mustangs still managed to put together a winning season and now find themselves on a quest to capture another national title.

Emily Strachan, left, and Eliza Brault of the Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Second-seeded CMCC is on its way to Richmond, Virginia, to compete in the USCAA Division II Women’s Small College Basketball National Championship on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The Mustangs earned a first-round bye and will face the winner of a first-round game between seventh-ranked University of Maine at Augusta and 10th-seeded Penn State Fayette.

Strachan, a Lewiston native and a freshman guard, is making her first trip to the nationals, but Brault, the team’s only returning veteran, has been to the big dance — in 2020 when CMCC placed second.

“It is really exciting,” Strachan said. “I mean we have only one returner and we are all new so it is really a big accomplishment for us.”

The Mustangs won the national tournament in 2017 and 2019.


CMCC women’s basketball coach Andrew Morong said Strachan is one of the reasons for the Mustangs success.

“It is always great having a local standout on your team,” Morong said. “Emily came in and we needed her to be one of the go-to players right away. That was a recruiting pitch and that’s what exactly happened.

“She has really stepped up. She scored over 30 twice this year in a game. She is a our leading scorer, but she has developed into an overall player. She is one of our better perimeter defenders. She is our best rebounding guard as well.”

Strachan said “sticking with” CMCC’s tradition of playing fast-and-furious basketball allowed the Mustangs to earn a trip to nationals.

“I love the fact that we are all from different places,” said Strachan, who is taking general studies courses before she commits to a major. “So I have a lot of new friends that I feel like in the beginning of the year we got really, really close and got over some obstacles.

“My favorite part of the team is all the friendships I’ve made. They are like my family now.” 


Strachan, who averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 61.3 percent at the foul line, knows the Mustangs’ youth will play a role in how far her team advances in the nationals.

“Once again, we are really young,” she said. “Sometimes we come out not as strong and we make stupid mistakes, but I think if we stick together and play how we played against (Southern Maine Community College) … we will really be good” she said. “I am just proud of us and happy where it is going.”

Brault, a sophomore guard from New Hampshire, played a huge role in the Mustangs’ 57-50 win over Southern Maine to give CMCC its fifth straight Yankee Small College Conference Championship.

She dropped in the Mustangs’ two late 3-pointers and two key free-throws. Brault averaged 7.6 point per game and shot 60 percent from the foul line. She is planning to spend her next two years playing at a four-year college.

“She really put the game away for us (the past) Saturday night,” Morong said of the conference championship game. “She had two 3s in the second half and we just really relied on her experience. She had two steals and two big foul shots.  .. I am just excited that it is hopefully a stepping stone for her to have a great national tournament as well.”

“(Brault) was a second-team All-American as a freshman,” Morong added. “She’s had an up-and-down year. She’d play great and disappear on us and play great and disappear. She has been really patient with herself and kind of trusted the process.”


Brault said CMCC’s season came down to trusting each other.

“It was such a young team,” she said. “We kind of had to like find our way to be together, especially with the coaches, too, which was hard for a little bit, I think. We all held each other accountable. … 

“I love this team because they are all like my little sisters. We just became a family so fast. We have girls from the Netherlands, New Zealand and from Florida. … It is weird to think we call came together and became so close. If I could be here all four years, I would.”

Brault has a lot of confidence in the Mustangs even though they started out as bunch of newbies.

“I am super confident in my team because I feel like even though we are young, a lot people don’t expect us to do anything, and that probably lights a fire under our butts like, ‘Let’s prove them wrong,” she said. 

But she stressed that CMCC must not look beyond the next game.


“I would like to say we will win it all, but we should just focus on thing at time,” she said. “That’s what coach likes to say. We talked about it a lot. We don’t want to get caught up in the hype of nationals. We are down there to do business.”

Brault is also looking to another milestone — graduating with her mother, Andrea, who is taking online classes at CMCC.

“She has been plugging away at her major,” Brault said. “I know she has been working pretty hard on it. Nobody in my family has done college — and we get to graduate at the same time. So it is going to be really cool.”


Morong said harvesting a new crop of athletes requires patience.

“We have an extremely young team — 16 newcomers came to us and one returner,” he said. “(There is) a lot of talent, probably the most we’ve ever had, but the least experienced we’ve ever had. So as a coach and our coaching staff, we need to be extremely patient — and I am the least patient person I know. 


“So it was very much a challenge for all of us and the kids had to be patient, too. We could see it coming. We could see it developing and we’d go 10 steps forward and 20 back.”

Patience and the learning process eventually brought the Mustangs to the nationals.

“This is the expectation every year,” Morong said. “We’ve won eight of the last 10 conference championships, we won five of the last conference tournament championships, we’ve been in the last four national championship games.

“The bare minimum expectation is winning the conference and going to nationals. Even with a young team, we kept telling them this is the expectation, guys.”

Morong also saw something else in his Mustangs.

“I would say youthful ignorance,” Morong said. “Being so young they do not know that they are in a moment when they are in a moment. I think our diversity has a lot to do with it. 


“We have players from three countries, seven states and a host of Mainers from different backgrounds — and I think we did a great job kind of molding together and learning from each other. I know that (camaraderie) is kind off the court, but that has made us successful on the court as well.”

When Morong looks back at the regular season, he is not sure there ever was a turning point for the Mustangs.

“I always tell our teams, a good CM team becomes a great CM team when the players can take the keys from the coaches — (and) that hasn’t happened, yet,” he said. “It happens at different points every year for every team, and I am hoping that is still to come.

“They have moments where they have battled through adversity … but they haven’t stepped up and said, ‘We’ve got this now.’ And I am hoping that is coming here in the next 48 to 72 hours. So no time like the present.”

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