LEWISTON — Friday night will be a big one for the Bates College women’s basketball team, as the Bobcats are both hosting and playing in the NCAA Division III tournament.

“It’s honestly awesome, it’s such a special feeling that I didn’t really expect myself to be able to have in my career,” senior captain Morgan Kennedy said about hosting Friday’s game. “I’m super grateful, also, (because) our gym just brings a really special atmosphere.”

Bates is back in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, after finishing runner-up in the NESCAC and receiving an at-large bid, and it’s the first time the college will host tournament games since 2005.

Bates College’s Morgan Kennedy shoots past UMaine-Farmington’s Jacqui Hamilton during a Nov. 14, 2023, game at Alumni Gym in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

After Springfield College and Widener University open the weekend action in Alumni Gym at 4 p.m. Friday, the host Bobcats (22-5) will face Brooklyn College (18-8) at 6:30 p.m. The two teams met at a tip-off tournament in Boston in 2022, but have had new transfer students and players join the team since last season’s non-conference matchup.

“We’ve been spending this week trying to prepare, and they definitely play a different style than what we commonly see in our conference, so it has kind of forced us to prepare for some different looks that we’ll see,” Bates head coach Alison Montgomery said. “But we’re really excited to take them on tomorrow.”

This year’s Bobcats roster is comprised of 12 players, with eight being underclassmen. Montgomery said the team is balanced, and there’s “no one superstar,” but instead multiple players stepping up to contribute and lead.


Only two players (Kennedy and sophomore Elsa Daulerio) are double-digit scorers, but nearly all of them average more than 10 minutes per game.

“I think they’ve had a really clear vision about what they wanted this season to be in terms of how competitive they could be both in our conference and the tournament,” Montgomery said. “They set the goal to compete for a championship in our conference and to compete in the tournament from the start.”

What’s made this year’s team so special, for Montgomery, is the team chemistry that comes with the closeness of a smaller roster. She said she admires how much each player has stepped up to contribute on the court, and sees how close the bonds on the team have become between players.

Montgomery is in her ninth season as a head coach, and has taken the team to five conference championship tournaments during her near decade at the helm. The Bobcats claimed their first-ever NESCAC title in 2022, and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. Montgomery is also a Bangor High School graduate and a Bowdoin College alum, where she also played basketball.

With the pressure of the tournament, Montgomery said she wants the team to focus on consistency, and continuing to perform as it has all season. She called the tournament a time to “survive and advance, or end your season,” and noted it’s a balance of understanding the importance of each possession, while keeping the energy up for 40 minutes.

Kennedy said she expects Brooklyn to “bring their best at this point,” because “everybody’s fighting for their season and possibly their collegiate career.” She added that she and the team expect to see “all the gas they have in the tank.”


One of the players that will be fighting to keep their collegiate career running is Kennedy, who also said this season has been her most favorite, thanks to the team.

“This has just been the best senior year, so it’s awesome,” Kennedy said.

The team’s other two seniors are Kennedy’s sister, Alyson, and former Portland High School standout Davina Kabantu.

Montgomery said her message to the team going into Friday’s game is to “be who we are, play loose and not be too tight about the pressure of the moment,” while also embracing the opportunity to have a homecourt advantage and hopefully draw a huge crowd of fans and community members.

“I think, especially for our seniors to feel like they have another opportunity to play in their home gym in front of people, I think they’re really humbled by it,” Montgomery said. “They’re just feeling so grateful to be able to have that chance, so again, I hope that inspires a really nice performance.”

Bates College’s Alyson Kennedy shoots while under pressure from UMaine-Farmington’s Jessica Dow during a Nov. 14, 2023, game at Alumni Gym in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Kennedy said people should pack the gym with their Bates gear to cheer on the Bobcats in hopes of advancing to the next round, which will pit the Bates-Brooklyn winner against the Springfield-Widener winner on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Alumni Gym.

“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised to be here. It has been, the vision has been what we’re working towards, to not only compete in a really tough conference, but to want to kind of represent with our brand of basketball, an NCAA tournament,” Montgomery said. “We’re really going into it with a desire to show how good we are and how we can represent on a larger scale, Division III, and just the humility of being able to do it at home, I think adds another layer of just excitement.

“Feeling like if we could have a really great weekend of basketball, that puts us in a really nice position to keep competing for a national championship.”

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