The schools outside of Maine in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II women’s basketball tournament are ones you’ve probably never heard of. Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is the defending national champion and this year’s No. 3 seed. The University of Cincinnati-Clermont is the No. 2 seed, and then there’s Penn State Beaver and Penn State Fayette, neither of whom you’ll see much of on ESPN.
Andrew Morong, coach of No. 1 seed Central Maine Community College, sees the field differently.
“It’s high quality,” Morong said. “The University of Cincinnati-Clermont might be better than any team in the state of Maine — at any level. And the Penn State schools are extremely talented.”
The tournament will be held in Uniontown, Pa., and opens at 4 p.m., Thursday with the University of Maine at Augusta facing Cincinnati-Clermont. Also Thursday, Albany faces Penn State Fayette at 6, CMCC takes on Warren Wilson at 7:30, and Penn State Beaver plays Berkeley (N.Y.) College at 9:30.
Although the tournament is a single-elimination format, all eight teams are guaranteed at least two games. Thursday’s losers will play consolation games on Friday before the semifinal games. The national championship game is on Saturday, with the time to be announced.
All games will be streamed live by Tourbeau Sports Group on their homepage.
CMCC is 26-2 and defeated UMaine-Augusta, 100-48, in the Yankee Small College Conference championship game. Susie French (19.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, 56 percent shooting) was a first-team USCAA All-American. Other standouts for the Mustangs include Mt. Blue grad Gabby Foy (15.0 ppg), Laura Soohey (10.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg), and Madison grad Sam Bruce (10.4 ppg). CMCC plays an up-tempo style and averages 87.4 points per night.
Warren Wilson comes in at 15-10 and plays a much slower game, averaging 56.6 ppg. Dani Henderson (16.4 ppg) is the team’s top scorer.
“We have several game films,” Morong said. “I think they’re very scrappy and very active defensively. Defensively, they’re very similar to us. They have a 6-footer inside, and they can shoot the three. They’re very balanced. It should be a great matchup.”
UMaine-Augusta is 15-10, and probably got one of the five at-large bids to the tournament by defeating Southern Maine Community College in the YSCC semifinals. The Moose were ranked 10th in the USCAA before the tournament, while SMCC was seeded sixth.
Arreonte Lee (20.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 6.2 assists per game) was named first-team USCAA All-American, while Richmond grad Jamie Plummer (19.4 ppg, 11.0 rpg), and Monmouth grad Jennifer Lola (18.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) are also big scorers. The Moose will suit up just seven players for the tournament.
“It sounds interesting,” UMA coach Jennifer Laney said, “but we’ve had the experience and we’ve had the success of doing it with seven all season long.”
Cincinnati-Clermont surpassed 100 points three times this season and has three main scoring threats: Tess Jenike (15.4 ppg), Ashley Keith (15.3 ppg), and 6-foot-1 Stacie Lee (14.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg). The Cougars have eight freshmen, but still shoot 42.1 percent on 3-pointers as a team.
“They seem to have a lot of the same structure for the team as us,” Laney said. “They’ve got a 6-1 center who matches up well with Jamie Plummer, and they have two guards who carry their offense.
“We need to make sure that we contain the post. Their center has a big impact, not only offensively, but also defensively. Their guards — I think stopping their penetration in the paint is going to be a big thing for us.”