BRUNSWICK — Coming from a small town on an Indian reservation near the Canadian border in upstate New York, Abby Kelly was looking for a college with a small student body to continue her basketball career.

ABBY KELLY

The 5-foot-8 guard had options, but it was the “culture” of Bowdoin College basketball that drew her to the Brunswick campus.

“I think what sold me over the other schools was team culture. The positive energy and the welcoming of the women on the team, it was incredible,” Kelly said. “Since the day I got here, it hasn’t let me down.”

Bowdoin heads to Salem, Virginia, to play in the NCAA Division III Women’s Final Four for the second straight year, meeting St. Thomas of Minnesota in a national semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday.

Bowdoin wasn’t always on her radar, and at first she wasn’t really interested in the school.

“I had never heard of Bowdoin until a coach of mine that had graduated from here talked about it,” said Kelly, who played three years at Salmon River (New York) High and two years at Kimball Union prep school in New Hampshire.

“After my coach brought me to a camp here and I met the girls on the team, witnessing the competitive level of play. I thought this may be something special,” Kelly said. “And looking at the other NESCAC schools, this is obviously a great school and a great academic school.”

In four seasons at Bowdoin, the Bombay, New York, native has played in 118 games, starting all 31 this year. She has averaged 10.4 points throughout her career, and leads the team this season with a 14.8 average. Her 1,224 career points rank seventh at Bowdoin and her 139 3-pointers are fifth.

Earlier this month, Kelly was named NESCAC Player of the Year. And just this week, the senior was named the Northeast Region Player of the Year by D3hoops.com.

“I look up to her on and off the court, her work ethic is amazing,” said sophomore Moira Train, a Greely High grad. “We’re both guards so we guard each other at practice and see lot of each other. She’s always giving me constructive criticism on how to get better. She makes everyone around her be accountable.”

Coach Adrienne Shibles was impressed by Kelly from the start.

“Her passion to compete is unrivaled, she is just a fiery competitor and as a coach, you love to have someone like that in your corner, rather than on the other team,” Shibles said. “It’s great to have someone like her down the stretch in games, just to get your team ignited when they need that spark.

“There are a ton of things I’m going to miss about Abby, but her passion to compete is really special.”

When this weekend is complete, it will mark the end of Kelly’s basketball career. But it’s not the end of the friendships she has created.

“I’m going to look back and say these were easily the best four years of my life,” she said, “playing some of the best basketball in the country, with some of the best people, I am absolutely blessed.

“I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people from various places and backgrounds. I love to take the time to talk to other people, especially when I’m supposed to be doing homework,” Kelly said with a laugh. “I have developed so many relationships with all kinds of people.

“I’m going to miss all of that comfort that I’ve come to find here.”

But before all of that, the Polar Bears have some unfinished business. After losing to Amherst in the championship game a year ago, Kelly and her teammates are determined to win this weekend at the Final Four.

“Going into this for the second time, there’s a fire lit underneath us,” Kelly said. “We were so close last year. We’ve put in the work every day since coming back from spring break last year. We want it so bad.

“This time next week, we’re either national champs or we’re not, and that comes down to our habits and the things we’ve worked on to get to this point.”

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