Senior Stephanie Houtman
NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA-The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's women's basketball team lost a nail-biter to visiting Southern Maine, 75-71, in the first game of a Little East Conference doubleheader at the Tripp Athletic Center Saturday.
The victory was a milestone for the Huskies as it marked the 600th career win for USM head coach Gary Fifield in his 24 seasons with the team.
The Corsairs, playing without starting forward Colleen Moriarty (Canton, MA/Canton HS) due to injury, led 39-38 at intermission paced by 16 points from junior guard Erica Batchelder (Stoughton, MA/Stoughton HS/Salem State), including four three-pointers. UMass Dartmouth continued to lead through much of the beginning of the second half, building a 53-47 advantage with 12:12 remaining off a three-pointer by senior guard Stephanie Houtman (New Bedford, MA/New Bedford HS/Bridgewater State). But, the Huskies would mount a charge, going on a 13-1 run in the next four minutes to erase the deficit and build an eight-point lead at 62-54 capped off by a three-pointer by sophomore guard Erin McNamara (West Newbury, MA/Pentucket Regional).
Houtman, who was honored prior to the game on Senior Day, rallied the Corsairs, connecting on back to back threes, cutting the Huskies' lead to 65-63 with 5:16 to go. The Corsairs would find themselves down just a single point after sophomore forward Erika Bornemann (Canton, MA/Canton HS) connected on a layup at 70-69. The UMD defense answered the bell on the Huskies ensuing possession and the Corsairs had a chance to take the lead on the next possession. Batchelder would miss from outside but followed her shot and was fouled by USM senior forward Courtney Cochran (Waite, ME/Woodland), who was whistled for a flagrant elbow, giving Batchelder two free throws and UMD the ball. Batchelder would make both attempts, giving UMD the lead, 71-70, but it would be the last points scored by the Corsairs. They turned it over on their next possession, leading to a layup by USM junior guard Jordan Grant (Concord, NH/Concord HS) with 49 seconds to play. Corsair freshman forward Kelsey Garrity was called for an offensive foul on the ensuing possession and then committed a defensive foul, sending McNamara to the line, where she made both shots. Grant would account for the final score, making one of two from the stripe with just four seconds remaining.
"This was a Herculean effort by our team as it really was a David vs Goliath situation," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Amanda Van Voorhis. "I think we made a statement that we can play against anyone in the conference. They beat us up inside and obviously it hurt not having Colleen. We are excited about what we've accomplished this year and even more excited about what is to come."
The Corsairs were led by Houtman, who capped Senior Day off with a game-high 22 points. Batchelder had 21 points and Bornemann recorded a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 19 rebounds. The Huskies had three players in double-digits. Junior forward Haley Jordan (Falmouth, ME/Falmouth) had a team-high 20 points, Cochran had a double-double with 19 points and 10 boards and senior guard Nicole Garland (Portland, ME/Deering) chipped in with 12 points.
The Corsairs dropped to 15-10 and 6-8 in the Little East Conference with the defeat, while the Huskies improved to 20-5 and 11-3 in LEC play with the victory. The Corsairs will visit Western Connecticut Tuesday night in a first round game in the LEC playoffs. Southern Maine advances to the LEC Final Four at Rhode Island College next weekend.