VESTAL, N.Y. — A national tournament awaits the Maine women’s basketball team, but it’s not the one the Black Bears had in mind at the start of the weekend.

The top-seeded Black Bears fell to fifth-seeded Hartford 65-54 in the America East semifinals Sunday afternoon at Binghamton University, ruining their hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament.

Instead of hosting Friday’s conference championship game with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament up for grabs, Maine will head to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The Black Bears (23-8) earned a spot in the WNIT by winning the America East regular-season title.

“Right now, it’s hard,” junior guard Sophie Weckstrom said.

“Tomorrow we need to get over this. We have more games to come. Hopefully more than one. That’s what we’re definitely going for.”

Hartford (16-16) held the Black Bears (23-8) to 31 percent shooting. Star forward and first-team all-conference selection Liz Wood was scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting (0 for 5 from 3-point range).


Weckstrom led the Black Bears with 13 points and made three 3-pointers (3 for 10), and guard Sigi Koizar narrowly missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Mikaela Gustafsson (10 points) recorded her second straight double-digit scoring game in the tournament. Wood grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

Hartford senior Cherelle Moore carried the Hawks with a 26-point, 10-rebound performance.

Amber Bepko added 14 points and provided some crucial outside shooting (3 for 7 on 3-pointers).

A lack of outside shooting proved the Achilles heel for the Black Bears.

Hartford packed defenders into the paint, limiting scoring opportunities near the basket.


The Black Bears hoisted 34 3-pointers but made only seven.

“We need to make those shots,” Black Bears Coach Richard Barron said.

“We didn’t shoot them with confidence. We didn’t shoot them to make them.”

Moore, a 6-foot forward, set the tone early with her physical play in the paint.

She scored 16 of the first 25 points for Hartford on 8-for-10 shooting, with all of the damage within 12 feet of the basket.

Hartford carried a 32-22 advantage into halftime.


Anna Heise (eight points) and Weckstrom combined to make four 3-pointers in the second half, and the Black Bears pulled within 45-42 with 9:46 remaining.

Then, with Koizar already on the bench with four fouls, Wood picked up her fourth with 9:11 remaining.

“It made a difference,” Barron said of the foul trouble.

“Does it mean we would’ve won the game? I don’t know. I thought we were playing better than Hartford in the second half, even when we weren’t scoring..

“We were playing hard, getting rebounds. We were very aggressive on the offensive end. Inexplicably, we couldn’t get to the free-throw line.”

The Black Bears shot just four free throws in the game and didn’t attempt a single free throw in the second half.


Hartford was 13 for 16 at the free-throw line – all in the second half.

Wood and Koizar returned with 7:36 remaining, and the Black Bears got within 49-47 on a Weckstrom 3-pointer with 7:09 left.

But Hartford outscored the Black Bears 16-7 in the final seven minutes to secure a spot in the championship game against three-time defending champion Albany.

“We cut it down to three at one point, and we were struggling to get over that hump,” Gustafsson said.

“But we definitely fought and we got it down a couple times. You’ve got to keep pushing at that point and try to get over.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.