GORHAM, Maine -- Junior forward Stacey Kent (Northwood, N.H./Coe-Brown Academy) scored a game-high 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds, passed off three assists and had five steals to lead the nationally-ranked University of Southern Maine Huskies to a 55-34 victory over the Keene State College Owls in the second semifinal game of the 2008 Little East Conference women's basketball tournament Friday night at the Warren Hill Gymnasium in Gorham.
With the win, the top seeded Huskies improve to 25-2 overall and advance to the LEC championship game against the Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors on Saturday (4:00 p.m.). The second-seeded Warriors defeated third-seeded Western Connecticut State University 58-46 earlier in the evening. Keene State (16-11), the fourth seed in the tournament,hope to extend its season with an ECAC tournament berth.
Senior guard Dawn Ross (Gray, Maine/Gray-New Gloucester) joined Kent in double-figures notching all 11 of her points in the first half, including connecting on a trio of three-pointers. Ross added six rebounds and a pair of assists. Senior forward Angela Santa Fe (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) chipped in with nine points. Senior forward Josalee Danieli (New Gloucester, Maine/Gray-New Gloucester) and sophomore forward Becky Dixon (Pittston, Maine/Gardiner) added six and five points respectively while each grabbed eight rebounds off of the bench.
Senior guard Danielle Graveley (Schenectady, N.Y./Schenectady) was the only Keene State player in double-figures netting 10 points on a 5-for-12 effort from the field. Sophomore forward Nicole Simmler (Oxford, Mass.) added eight points and five rebounds, while sophomore forward Kristin Degou (Newburyport, Mass.)chipped in with seven points.
Neither team shot the ball well in the opening five minutes of the game combining for a frigid 1-for-15 mark from the field. The Huskies took a 5-3 lead when Dixon scored Southern Maine's first field goal with 14:15 on the clock. Following Dixon's layup the Huskies scored five straight points on a pair of free throws from Kent and a three-pointer from Ross to lead the Owls by seven (10-3) with 11:16 to play. Both teams battled back and forth over the next seven minutes and Keene State cut the USM lead to five (15-10) on a three-pointer from Degou with 6:59 on the clock. Southern Maine responded down the stretch outscoring the Owls 13-6 to close out the half and lead 28-16 at the break. Ross scored eight of the Huskies final 13 points in the half, knocking down a pair of three pointers and making two free throws.
The Owls scored the first two points of the second half on a lay-up by Simmler, but it was the only two points the Owls would score in the first 9:12 of the second stanza as USM turned up its defensive pressure. Southern Maine pulled away from the Owls during that stretch scoring 14 unanswered points to open up a commanding 42-18 lead with 11:48 to play. The Huskies received scoring contributions from five different players in the run, including four points from Kent.
Simmler snapped the Owls' scoreless drought making a lay-up after a steal with 11:46 to play, but USM used a 7-2 mini-run on two free throws from Dixon, a lay-up from Kent and a traditional three-point play from Danieli to grab its largest lead of the game (49-22) with 7:44 remaining. From there the Owls never got closer than 19 points (53-34) with 1:12 to play as the Huskies cruised to the win.
Southern Maine shot just 34.7 percent (17-for-49) from the field, while Keene State made 26.0 percent (13-for-50). The Huskies held a huge rebounding advantage, 47-26, including 17 offensive boards.
(Courtesy USM Sports Information)