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Black Bears’ season ends with a disappointing loss in the semi-finals

On Saturday, March 5, the University of Maine women’s basketball team season ended in disappointment at the America East semifinals. They fell short against this year’s runners-up, the University of Albany Great Danes, in a hard-fought 72-64 loss, falling just short of avenging last year’s championship game defeat at the hands of the Great Danes.

Entering the season, it seemed like they were one of the heavy favorites to avenge their loss in the championship from the season prior, but they lost just two players: forward Maeve Carroll to graduation and guard Alba Orois, who left the team to play professionally in Barcelona. 

At the beginning of the season UMaine started 3-4, mostly against non-conference teams. However, on Nov. 19 while against Yale, the Black Bears’ top returning player, fourth-year guard Anne Simon, went down with an ankle injury which would see her miss most of her final season. This proved to be a challenge for UMaine as only one player had over five points scored the year prior, that being third-year forward Caroline Bornemann. Other players needed to step up to fill the production.

After a rough December, the Black Bears started playing much better once conference play started kicking up in January. Throughout the month, the team went 6-1, only losing to the University of Vermont 61-52. While they were winning consistently, a noticeable trend started emerging as all but two games were closely contested games that the Black Bears failed to put away. 

In their Jan. 21 matchup against Binghamton University, Simon returned to the Black Bears. However, the stint would be short-lived, as after scoring four points and bringing down three rebounds, Simon left in the third quarter after re-aggravating her ankle injury, resulting in her missing the next eight games.

After going 6-1 throughout January, the momentum did not carry into February, going 4-4 in the month in total. While they were never blown out, they played inconsistent basketball going from playing strong one quarter to struggling the next, with this being the most apparent against NJIT, where the team struggled top to bottom and lost 56-54 in a game that could have easily been won by UMaine had they stayed consistent. Even though they started the month roughly, they won their final two games and clinched the No. 3 seed going into the playoffs.

In the quarter-finals, the Black Bears faced off against Binghamton, the same opponent they had faced just days prior. Simon, who returned to play three games prior, scored 24 points including 17 in the second half to help the Black Bears advance to the semifinals after a 64-54 victory to set up a rematch of last year’s America East Championship against UAlbany, where they would ultimately fall 72-64. 

In the absence of Simon, second-year forward Adrianna Smith broke out for the Black Bears as she was the leading force offensively, averaging 17.9 points per game, shooting 49.8% from the field and leading the team in rebounds averaging 9.5 per game. Many times throughout the season, Smith seemed to single-handedly carry the offense in her first year with meaningful minutes. Even though Simon played in just 14 games, she would finish the season fourth in points averaging 13.6 points per game on 41.9% shooting. 

Along with Simon, UMaine will graduate three other seniors: fourth-year guard Anna Kahelin, third-year forward Katie White and fourth-year forward Abbe Laurence. Next season, the Black Bears will look to Smith to continue her strong season and look for someone else to step up as their second scoring option, as the offense was inconsistent without Simon.

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