The fans that came to the 2013-14 season opener for the UMPI Women's Basketball Team may not have been ready for what they saw Saturday night. The UMPI Women came away with a 43-38 home victory over Newbury College that more resembled a heavyweight fight than a basketball game.
There were plenty of swings…and misses by both teams. The stingy UMPI defense allowed only 4 first half field goals to a Newbury College squad which was recently voted third in the pre-season poll of New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) basketball coaches.
The teams combined to miss more than 125 shots including 23 misses from the charity stripe. That poor marksmanship coupled with 40 turnovers between the teams led to a punishing style of game that never had any sort of offensive flow for either team.
The Owls were only slightly better offensively in the first 20 minutes, hitting on 8 of 32 shots to lead Newbury 23-11 at the half. First year UMPI Head Coach Doug Carter noted, "that was as ugly a first half as I have ever seen in organized basketball, but the young ladies on this team simply refuse to give up."
The visiting Nighthawks made several runs at the Owls in the second half, including after senior captain Olivia McNally went down with a leg injury and was forced to leave the game late in the half. With 2:33 left in the game, Janetis Cardona made a foul shot to close the UMPI lead to 6 at 35-29. But foul shots by Brigitte Pratt and a huge 3 pointer from freshman Sydney Churchill seemed to seal the win for the Owls as they led 40-29 with only 1:38 on the clock.
The Nighthawks proved they had a punchers chance and plenty of fight left in them as they knocked down several outside shots, including a 3 that banked in from Katie Haney in the waning second to cut the UMPI lead, but the Owls running without senior playmaker McNally hung on for the hard fought victory.
Churchill led the Owls with 12 points and junior Rebecca Campbell added 16 rebounds and 5 points. McNally had a well-rounded game with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals. Newbury was led by Alex Pezzella who knotched 16 points while taking 28 shots and Katelyn Poeser with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
UMPI (1-0) will next face Thomas College (0-1) at 2pm Sunday in the second round of the Women's Star City Classic. Newbury will play UM-Fort Kent at Noon Sunday. Earlier in the day, UM-Fort Kent beat Thomas College 76-47.