With a season full of nail biters, it was only fitting that the Polar Bears ended their record-breaking run by keeping their fans on the edge of their seats.
In the NCAA Championship matchup against Wilmington that ended the Bowdoin Women's Basketball Team's undefeated season, the team played a characteristically smart, sharp game but came out just behind the Quakers, who pulled out the 59-53 win on March 20.
"I guess we just came up a little short in the last game," said senior captain Courtney Trotta, "but that in no way defined or even marred our season."
The first period belonged to the Polar Bears, who shot just under a 38 percent average and held the Quakers at 30 percent. By the end of the half, Bowdoin was up 28-23.
Bowdoin kept up the pace in the second half and was up by nine until 9:30 was left on the clock. At that point, Wilmington went on a scoring run, tying up the game at 51 apiece with just 2:30 left.
The Quakers hit a three to pull ahead and managed to keep the Polar Bears scoreless for the final four minutes until Eileen Flaherty '07 hit a jump shot to bring the game to 58-53. It was the last time the Polar Bears would score.
Flaherty had the team high of 14 points and also added in five rebounds. Senior captain Lora Trenkle followed with 12 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
Vanessa Russell '06 contributed eight points while Justine Pouravelis '06 tallied 12 rebounds and four points.
The team's ability to connect on free-throws in the final minutes of matchups was key to pulling out the win in several of Bowdoin's close games this season.
However, Bowdoin's 66.7 percent shooting average from the line outdid Wilmington's, but Bowdoin only had six attempts for the game while Wilmington had 23.
"I only felt happy tears after the loss even though it didn't turn out the way we had envisioned," said Trenkle. "I would never want to experience a season like this with anyone else other than the 15 women on the roster."
Trenkle was named both a first-team All-American by D3Hoops.com and a member of the All-Tournament Team.
Bowdoin kicked off its play in the National Tournament against Salve Regina, which the team defeated 57-44, two weeks earlier.
"In the games leading up to the Final Four, including the National Championship," said Trenkle, "we all played with a lot of passion and determination, which was evident in the intensity we brought to each individual game."
It took some time for the Polar Bears to get into their rhythm, hitting eight for 36 field goals, connecting on no three-pointers, and four for ten free-throws. The team finished out the half with a 10-4 run and a 20-13 lead.
Flaherty, Trenkle, and Pouravelis sparked the scoring in the second half, and Salve Regina would only be able to cut the lead to 13. Flaherty finished the game with a game high of 15 points and also added in six rebounds. Trenkle followed with ten and six rebounds. Pouravelis was strong all around, tallying eight points, seven rebounds, and eight steals.
Next up for Bowdoin was the Regional Final against Southern Maine on March 12 at home.
"This was such a huge game of pride for our team," said Trenkle. "USM and Bowdoin have always been rival schools, and we knew it would be even more competitive considering the location and amount of hype positioned around the game."
It was unclear in the first 12 minutes of the game just who would come out on top as Bowdoin and USM matched each other point for point. Bowdoin was able to capitalize on a 7-0 scoring streak and pulled out a 27-21 lead, but USM responded with eight points to take the 29-27 at the end of the period.
USM started up the second half with a burst of energy and capitalized on Bowdoin's scoring difficulties to gain a nine-point lead with just 8:30 left in the game.
Trenkle hit a three-pointer to bring USM's lead down to six. Alison Smith '05 hit a layup and Pouravelis connected to bring the deficit down to two. Flaherty then went to the line and went two for two to tie the game at 45 apiece.
The scoring went back and forth until Trenkle hit a jumper to tie up the game for the last time. Flaherty went two for two from the line, and then Trenkle connected on a wide-open layup. USM would only score once more before Trenkle would put the game away after hitting two more foul shots.
Trenkle led the team with 22 points, followed by Pouravelis's 14 and 12 rebounds. Flaherty also hit double digits with ten. Smith had six and Kristina Fugate '04 had a top-notch game with five points and seven rebounds.
After USM, Bowdoin had less than 24 hours to recover before taking on Scranton for the Sectional Final.
Scranton got an early head start, but Bowdoin would come back to lead with 11:51 in the first period and was up 27-25 at the half.
Bowdoin came out on fire in the second half, outscoring Scranton 14-5, and managed to rack up more than 70 points for the first time since the end of regular-season play. Bowdoin finished the game with 71-58 win.
"Everyone contributed in so many ways during the game," said Trenkle, "and I think that's what makes our team so well-rounded and diverse. Our team can be tough to defend given that anyone can step up and perform with confidence in any game. Whether they played zone or man-to-man, we always seemed to capitalize on their defensive strategies."
Flaherty led the team with 17 points and nine rebounds and Erika Nickerson had 15 points and eight boards. Trenkle contributed 13 points and five rebounds, while Smith hit 14 and eight rebounds.
The only thing now keeping Bowdoin from the Championship game was Stevens Point.
"Stevens Point was aggressive, talented, and played tough for 40 minutes," said Trenkle.
Bowdoin and Stevens Point traded leads and points during the first half; however, Stevens Point managed to edge out Bowdoin 32-31 at the half. The second period continued in much the same vein, but it would be Trenkle who would seal the 64-59 victory for the Polar Bears.
"After this game, I just looked at my team in the huddle and felt so proud of how we played," said Trenkle. "Vanessa got us rolling in the beginning, and Justine came up with some huge baskets as well. There were so many plays to be remembered, including Foog's deep three-point swish and Alison's pass to Justine for a lay up with little time remaining on the clock."
Trenkle finished the game with 23 points and six rebounds. Pouravelis would follow with 12 points and eight rebounds. Russell also hit double digits with 11 points and contributed three steals.
"This was probably one of my best games of the season," said Trenkle. "I seemed to look for my offense more when the game could have turned against our favor."
This has truly been a record-breaking season for the Polar Bears, but also a monumental four years for the seniors who have a 103-14 record, four straight NESCAC championships, and this year's first ever Final Four appearance.
"Playing in the National Championships was an amazing experience for us, our families, and fans, who made the trek, and for the college," said Trotta.
"The courage, leadership, intelligence, and talent embedded in one another shined throughout the entire season," said Trenkle. "We shared many special memories and none of them can be replaced or described by or to people outside of our program."