Six hundred ninety-eight miles from Brunswick, the women’s basketball team is making a home for itself on one of the nation’s largest stages.
For the second consecutive year, Bowdoin advanced to the NCAA Division III championship game on Friday evening after finishing off the St. Thomas Tommies, 71-60, in Salem, Virginia. Almost exactly one year ago, the Polar Bears fell to the Amherst Mammoths in their second ever NCAA championship appearance (they previously lost to Wilmington College in 2004). Tomorrow evening’s match-up, which will be played against the winner of tonight’s semifinal between top-seeded Thomas More (31-0) and Scranton (29-2), will be the program’s third. It is the first time in program history that the team has reached the championship game in consecutive years and another shot at the NCAA’s highest honor.
In an anomalous fashion, four Bowdoin players combined to score all 71 of the Polar Bears’ points in Friday’s semifinal. Maddie Hasson ’20 lead the team with 25 points, Abby Kelly ’19 posted 21, Taylor Choate ’19 had 14 and Moira Train ’21 had a breakout performance with 11 points. A handful of the team’s key players, including Samantha Roy ’20 and Hannah Graham ’19, failed to get on the board.
The Final Four showdown between the two 30-1 teams got off to an even start, with Bowdoin managing to secure an 11-10 advantage at the close of the first quarter. Though their offense kept them in the game, the Polar Bears struggled early to contain the Tommies’ leading scorer, Hannah Spaulding, who posted eight of the team’s 11 points in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Polar Bears found their offensive grove, posting 22 points while using double- and sometimes even triple-teams on defense to close down Spaulding, who scored only two points in the quarter and nine in the remainder of the game.
The Polar Bears grew their lead in the third, establishing their largest lead of the game, 49-38, with 2:17 to play in the third before allowing the Tommies to post 16 unanswered points between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Trailing 54-49 with 7:21 to play in the final quarter, Bowdoin rallied behind Hasson and Train, who combined for their own six-point run to reclaim the lead with five minutes to play. From there, the Polar Bears kept rolling, scoring the game’s final six points to secure the victory.
Bowdoin’s victory adds to an otherwise impressive weekend of achievements for the team. On Friday, head coach Adrienne Shibles was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division III Coach of the Year, while Kelly was named First Team WBCA All-American, each receiving the respective honor for the first time.
The Polar Bears will contend for the program’s first NCAA Division III championship title tomorrow evening 7:30 p.m. The game can be streamed online at www.ncaa.com/liveschedule. While the broadcast will be in color, if all goes as planned for the Polar Bears, the confetti will be in black and white.