Bowdoin College has fielded stellar women’s basketball teams, first under Stephanie Pemper and now Adrienne Shibles, who just completed her 10th season with her finest team yet.

The Polar Bears (29-3) finished second in the NCAA Division III tournament, reaching the same level as Pemper’s 2003-04 team.

“It’s been such a great journey … truly a special ride,” Shibles said after her team lost to NESCAC rival Amherst 65-45 in the title game Saturday night in Rochester, Minnesota.

“I’m super proud of what these ladies have accomplished. It’s been a defining moment in my life.”

On Sunday, while the Polar Bears had a layover at the Cincinnati airport on their trip back to New England, Shibles spoke more about this accomplished team.

“They were just so incredibly invested,” she said. “We have had great teams before but we seemed to have everyone on the same page all the time.”

Bowdoin dominated teams, winning by an average of 30 points (and by 26 in NESCAC games).

The biggest challenges, as usual, were Amherst and Tufts. Bowdoin’s record over the past two years is 50-8, with three losses to Amherst and three to Tufts.

This year, Bowdoin lost a back-and-forth 49-45 game at Amherst on Jan. 27. The Polar Bears beat Tufts during the season, then lost to the Jumbos 60-48 in the NESCAC semifinals. It was a defining game for Bowdoin.

“Adversity can bring about amazing growth, and our loss to Tufts did just that,” Shibles said. “We really focused on our weaknesses in our game, and it made us a much better team.”

Bowdoin roared through the NCAAs. After two easy wins, the Polar Bears traveled to face Scranton, the top seed in their region. Bowdoin won 66-54 to set up a rematch against Tufts. Bowdoin won that one, 66-48.

In the Final Four, Bowdoin beat previously undefeated Wartburg of Waverly, Iowa, 90-62.

“Bowdoin exposed us in every way you can imagine,” Wartburg Coach Bob Amsberry said. “They’re really good.”

Amherst Coach G.P. Gromacki noticed.

“We know them well,” he said. “They really got hot in the tournament. We knew we were in for a pretty tough fight.”

Amherst wears teams out with its defense, allowing 39 points per games. Bowdoin matched the Mammoths for much of the game, keeping them scoreless for the first 5½ minutes.

“Our defense was pretty good early,” Shibles said.

But so was Amherst’s. The Mammoths held Bowdoin scoreless for a 4½-minute stretch in the first quarter, which ended 8-8.

At halftime, Amherst led 26-23. The Mammoths’ superb 6-foot forward, Emma McCarthy, began scoring inside and the Polar Bears had to adjust.

“They have five incredible starters,” Shibles said. “We were really trying to keep them out of the paint and limit their perimeter shooting. But (McCarthy) did a great job of driving the basketball. That forced us to double team, which opened up (outside) shots.”

And Bowdoin’s strong offense shot only 28 percent in the first half. It got worse.

Bowdoin briefly took the lead in the third quarter, but the Mammoths finished the quarter with a 42-36 advantage.

In the fourth, Amherst enjoyed a 17-0 run, holding Bowdoin scoreless for nearly seven minutes for a 59-39 lead.

“All credit to Amherst. They defended us on the perimeter exceptionally well,” Shibles said. “Certainly our shot selection was not phenomenal. But when we had open looks, we just didn’t hit them.

“Shots weren’t falling and it affected out confidence in the second half.”

Amherst will do that to a team, keeping the pressure on and moving ahead.

“The most resilient team I’ve ever coached,” said Gromacki, who has won three national titles, including the last two.

NEXT YEAR, Bowdoin will have six of its nine regulars back but will miss three graduating seniors, including Kate Kerrigan, the national Player of the Year.

Point guards Taylor Choate and Sam Roy return. The leading scorer, guard Abby Kelly, will be back, as will guard Hannah Graham of Presque Isle. Center Cordelia Stewart of Bangor and forward Maddie Hasson of South Portland also will return.

“We are going to be returning people with a lot of playing experience,” Shibles said, pointing out the strides Stewart and Hasson made this year.

Amherst, which didn’t substitute often, will lose two starters, including McCarthy. The other three starters are sophomores.

BOWDOIN’S SCHEDULE will be similar to this past year, which means no game with St. Joseph’s. The Monks (28-2) were the other local power, losing to Amherst 53-47 in the second round.

Shibles said she would like to play St. Joseph’s, but the Monks’ conference schedule makes it difficult.

St. Joseph’s Coach Mike McDevitt said Sunday that indeed, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference added five league games last year (totaling 16), limiting his nonconference games. The Monks’ 2018-19 schedule is full, “but maybe in two years,” McDevitt said.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH

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