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Panthers fall to USM in LEC Semi-Final

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - The University of Southern Maine had five players score in double figures Friday, leading the Huskies to a 72-65 victory over Plymouth State College in the semi-finals of the Little East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

Second-seeded USM, which has won 11 of 14 conference tournament titles, got 19 points (8-for-11 from the floor) and nine blocked shots from Kara Crockett. Freshman Megan Cressler came off the bench to add 16 points and Erin Shaw contributed 14.

Southern Maine will face fifth-seeded Western Connecticut in the LEC Championship game Saturday at 3 p.m.. WCSU stunned top-seed and tournament host Eastern Connecticut, 63-54, in the other semi-final.

The Huskies, which had beaten Plymouth State 87-40 in the finals of last year's tournament, trailed only twice against PSC on Friday -- never by more than two points and took the lead for good with five minutes left in the first half. Cressler hit a key three-pointer with four minutes left in the game to give Southern Maine a 60-56 lead after Plymouth State had turned the ball over on its previous possession.

Amanda Kimball, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds for Southern Maine, and Niki Dominiczak added 11 points. Jessica Libby did not score but grabbed 10 rebounds and tied the single-game tournament record with 11 assists. Crockett tied the single-game team record with nine blocks.

Sophomores Courtney Albert (Hudson, N.H.) and Jenn Pelletier (Derry, N.H.) led PSC with 14 points apiece, with junior Megan Fournier (East Waterboro, Maine) added 12. The Panthers shot only 37 percent from the floor and were outrebounded, 44-33.

Southern Maine, ranked seventh in the Northeast, had lost a chance to host the tournament and win the regular-season crown outright after losing at 10th-ranked Plymouth State 79-75 ten days ago. The Huskies had rallied from 18 points back to edge the Panthers 61-59 in the first meeting between the clubs Jan. 23 at Gorham, Maine.

Plymouth State, which had a school-record-tying nine-game winning streak snapped with the loss, drops to 19-7 overall. The Panthers are hoping to receive an ECAC New England Tournament bid, which will be announced Monday. USM goes into the championship game at 19-6.