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Late Southern Maine rally nips Panthers

GORHAM, Maine -- Junior Niki Dominiczak (Dixfield, Maine) made two free throws with one minute remaining to give the University of Southern Maine Huskies a dramatic, 61-59 come-from-behind victory over the Plymouth State College Panthers in Little East Conference women's college basketball action Tuesday evening at the Warren G. Hill Gymnasium.

Southern Maine, which has won five straight and nine of its last 10 games, improves to 12-5 for the season and remains tied with Eastern Connecticut for first place in the Little East Conference at 7-1. Plymouth State drops to 10-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play.

The Huskies came out ice-cold to start the game, quickly falling behind the Panthers. Plymouth State went on an early 17-2 run to take a19-4 lead at the 14:03 mark. USM's shooting woes continued as the Panthers built their largest lead of the evening, 27-9, on a three-point basket by freshman Erica Perry (Fryeburg, Maine) with 11:56 left. USM continued to trail through the remainder of the half, cutting the Panthers' margin to ten, 38-28, at the break on a three-pointer by sophomore Jess Libby (Orono, Maine) with 15 seconds to go.

USM began the second half with a 10-4 run, cutting the lead to 44-38 on a put-back by sophomore center Kara Crockett (Glenburn, Maine) at the 16:13 mark. After a Panthers' timeout, PSC increased its lead to nine, 49-40 on a shot from beyond the arc by junior Megan Fournier (East Waterboro, Maine) with 14:03 to go.

Southern Maine responded with an 11-2 run, keyed by six points by senior Amanda Kimball (Arundel, Maine) and some amazing shot-blocking by Crockett, to tie the game at 51-51. It was the first tie since the opening minutes. USM took its first lead of the night, 56-53, at the 2:58 mark on a three-point bomb by freshman Meg Cressler (Appleton, Maine). Senior Kate Fillion (Littleton, N.H.) answered with a three of her own 12 seconds later, for a 56-56 tie.

Huskies' senior Erin Shaw (Hancock, Maine) nailed her third long-range basket at 2:21 to again put USM up three, but Fillion hit another clutch three-pointer 19 seconds later to tie it at 59-59. Dominiczak was then fouled with one minute remaining, and after a Panthers' timeout, calmly swished both free throws to give the Huskies their final margin. Crockett saved the win for USM with two key blocks in the final 30 seconds, thwarting a last-ditch Panthers' comeback.

Kimball recorded her third double-double of the season, totaling game highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Shaw, despite struggling with her shooting, joined Kimball in double figures with 12 points and dished out a game-high six assists. Crockett scored eight points but her main contribution came at the defensive end as she recorded a career-high nine shot-blocks, one short of the school single-game record.

Fournier paced the Panthers with 13 points and nine caroms, while sophomore Courtney Albert (Hudson, N.H.) added 12 points and Fillion finished with 11.

Southern Maine next plays on Saturday (January 27) when the Huskies travel to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a 1:00 p.m. Little East Conference game. Plymouth State travels to Norwich University Thursday (January 25) for a 7:00 p.m. contest.