ORONO — The University of Albany jumped ahead 17-5. University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon said the problem was not complicated.

“We couldn’t stop them and we couldn’t hit a shot,” she said.

The Black Bears got better. They filled defensive gaps. They controlled the ball and drove to draw fouls. Their shooting improved a little.

It added up to a 66-51 victory in an America East semifinal Sunday before a near-capacity crowd of 1,233 at Memorial Gymnasium.

Tanesha Sutton paced Maine with 21 points. Blanca Millan and Dor Saar both added 16. Parise Rossignol scored nine, and Fanny Wadling recorded six rebounds (three offensive) and three steals.

“Give Maine credit. They have a lot of threats,” Albany Coach Colleen Mullen said.

The top-seeded Black Bears (24-7) will play in the title game for the fourth straight year at 5 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The opponent will be second-seeded Hartford, a 64-59 winner over third-seeded Stony Brook.

Sunday’s game was played in the on-campus gym called The Pit because the Cross Center wasn’t available.

Fourth-seeded Albany finished 13-18, which included a 3-10 nonconference record. The Great Danes, six-time conference champions from 2012-17, lost in the semifinals for the second straight year.

Even though the Black Bears were playing in the gym they practice in, they shot only 30 percent. They rallied with defense, especially in the third quarter when they held Albany to six points.

“We didn’t shoot the ball great but we played really hard,” Vachon said. “We did a great job on the boards.”

Maine outrebounded the Great Danes 41-35, including 14 offensive boards.

Maine held Albany to 38 percent shooting, but the Great Danes shot 50 percent early, pounding the ball inside.

Albany came out with an obvious plan of attacking with its tall frontcourt, led by 6-foot-2 Heather Forster (19 points). The Great Danes got easy looks and point guard Kyara Frames (20 points) drove in at will. Albany got a lead and Maine got in foul trouble, especially the 6-1 Wadling sitting with two fouls for 13 minutes of the first half.

“We made adjustments at halftime,” Vachon said. “We brought a double (team inside).

“We had to. They’re bigger than us and were dominating inside.”

It worked. Albany led 36-34 in the third quarter but finished the period with 1-of-8 shooting with six turnovers.

Forster scored two early baskets in the fourth quarter but then was smothered. The next time she got the ball, Wadling covered her with Rossignol coming over to force a bad shot.

On her following possession, Forster drove to her left against Sutton. Forster turned to her right and bumped into Wadling, resulting in a jump ball.

“Maine did a great job of doubling down on our post players and really taking them out,” Mullen said. “We got a little rushed in our offense and did things we don’t normally do.”

Albany, which made two first-half turnovers, had 14 in the second half.

Conversely, Maine had nine turnovers minutes into the third quarter and made only two more. Saar, the heady sophomore point guard, kept Maine on task.

Maine led 46-38 after the third quarter and was up 55-48 with 2:25 left when Rossignol popped in a 3-pointer for a 10-point lead. Rossignol, who has struggled with her shot recently, was 2 of 5 beyond the arc.

“Shooters have to have a short memory,” Rossignol said. “If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it. I’m still confident. I want that big moment to hit a big shot.”

Albany had to eventually start fouling. Maine hit 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch and 24 of 26 overall.

Sutton and Millan both finished with seven rebounds. Sophomore 5-11 forward Maeve Carroll played 17 minutes with Wadling in foul trouble, and grabbed six rebounds.

The Maine-Hartford final is a rematch of last year’s championship game won by the Black Bears, 74-65. The Black Bears and Hawks split their season series this year: Maine lost in Hartford, 49-46 on Jan. 16 and won in Bangor 78-58 on Feb. 13.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH


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