PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Senior Courtney Albert (Hudson, N.H.) scored 27 points and collected 11 rebounds Wednesday evening, leading Plymouth State College's women's basketball team to a 71-69 victory over the University of New England in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
The top-seeded and defending champion Panthers (21-8) advance to the semifinal round, and will face fourth-seeded Albertus Magnus at 1:00 p.m. Saturday in Plymouth. The Falcons (17-8) moved on Wednesday with a 62-58 triumph over fifth-seeded Westfield State.
Both semifinal games and Sunday's championship contest will be hosted by PSC. Saturday's other semifinal at 3:00 p.m. will pit third-seeded Babson (18-10) against second-seeded Colby-Sawyer (20-7), with the title game slated for Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Admission to all ECAC Tournament games at PSC is free.
UNE held the advantage most of the first half, leading by 10 points (22-12) midway through the period before PSC battled back with nine straight points. The Panthers actually tied it at 24-24 with seven minutes remaining before the two teams went into the break tied at 33-33.
Plymouth State maintained control for much of the second half, leading by 13 points (66-53) with 6:30 remaining. But the upset-minded visitors would not go down quietly. UNE scored 16 of the next 20 points to pull to within one point (70-69) with 25 seconds remaining.
After PSC clanked a free throw with 13 seconds left, UNE missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when a pass for a wide-open, potential game-winning layup sailed out of bounds with five seconds on the clock. PSC added a free throw and held on for the win.
Albert hit 11 of 18 from the field to finish with a season-high 27 points. Classmate Whitney Morin (Derby Line, Vt.) was the only other Panther to score in double figures, finishing with 15 points. Senior Jenn Pelletier (Derry, N.H.) had a frustrating night shooting, but finished with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Both Morin and Pelletier finished with nine steals as the PSC pressure defense forced 34 UNE turnovers.
The Nor'easters got strong performances from the trio of juniors Amanda Brown (Scarborough, Maine), Melissa Roller (East Sandwich, Mass.) and Missy Stults (Goshen, IN). Brown finished with 19 points, hitting five three-pointers. Roller contributed 18 points, hitting 6-of-8 from the field and 6-of-7 from three-point range, and Stults added 14 points and 12 rebounds.
UNE stayed in the game by hitting 50 percent from the field (29-of-58) and 55 percent from beyond the arc (11-20). The Nor'easters were 0-for-2 from the free throw line. PSC shot only 37 percent for the game (28-of-75) and 50 percent from the line, but the 11 free throws ended up being the difference in the game.