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Women’s basketball topples Vermont to win tenth America East title

The University of Maine women’s basketball team climbed back to the peak of the conference on Friday, defeating the defending champion Vermont Catamounts 64-48 to secure their tenth conference championship and first since 2019 at the Pit. 

It was a dominating performance for the home side, as they held the competitive edge in field goal percentage, rebounding, turnovers, and points off turnovers. 

Maine’s victory was a true team effort, with four players scoring double-figures. Six Black Bears recorded a steal in a stifling and aggressive defensive performance, holding the Catamounts to 38% from the floor and 1-9 from three.

Photograph by Jonah Smith

The Black Bears secured their tenth conference title with the victory, a record amongst America East institutions. Their record in the title game is now 10-13. Their previous appearance in 2022 resulted in a home-court loss to University at Albany. 

Fifth-year guard Anne Simon was selected as the tournament’s most outstanding player, as she and third-year forward Adrianna Smith represented Maine on the “all tournament” team. Smith was honored last year as conference player of the year.

This season, coach Amy Vachon became the only head coach in the history of the America East to win five Coach of the Year accolades, as well as one of five coaches in history to win three America East women’s basketball titles.

Owen Bulmer | The Maine Campus

The Black Bears have appeared in seven of the last eight conference championship games and, with Friday’s win, have secured their second March Madness spot in five years.

“It’s the people,” said Vachon, when asked about the sustained success of the program. “It’s the players you bring in who buy into your philosophy and your culture.”

Having lost in their last two title game appearances and facing tougher-than-expected challenges from teams like UMass Lowell and Binghamton University in the opening rounds of the playoffs, concerns that Maine would once again come up short on the highest stage did not hold the team back.

Owen Bulmer | The Maine Campus

“Those first two wins, those were grit wins,” said Smith. “Tonight, this was who we are, this was how we can play. We stepped up and got it done.” 

The team erupted with momentum and energy, proving that the Black Bears were no fluke. Fourth-year guard Olivia Rockwood nailed a three-pointer on the game’s first possession, nearly blowing the roof off the Pit as the crowd went into a frenzy.

From that point onward, Maine never relinquished the lead. 

The Black Bears came prepared to face an opponent they swept during the regular season and executed their game plan to a T.

Maine outscored Vermont 16-2 off turnovers and held dangerous Catamount scorer, graduate student Emma Utterback, to six points, going 3-14 from the floor.

Simon and Smith led Maine with 15 and 16 points, respectively. Smith collected six offensive rebounds, extending Maine’s possession time. Rockwood pitched in ten points and six rebounds.

Second-year guard and Maine native Sarah Talon scored 12 points, and third-year guard Paula Gallego provided crucial bench minutes, scoring nine points and going 2-2 from beyond the arc.

The Black Bears excitedly await their opponent in the NCAA tournament. A March Madness selection show watch party will be hosted at the Pit on Sunday at 8 p.m.

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