Milton, Mass. - The Curry College women's basketball team shocked the six-time defending Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) champion in rousing fashion with a 63-54 upset victory to deliver the University of New England (UNE) their first conference loss of the season. The win returns the Colonels' overall record to even, at 7-7, while they improve their CCC record to 4-2. The Nor'easters now also sit at 7-7 overall after the defeat, with a conference record of 5-1. Despite being called for 21 personal fouls, with four players at four fouls apiece, Curry stood tough in the face of adversity and came out triumphant.
The game started with an early Curry turnover leading to a UNE basket to give the visitors an early lead. It would not last long, however, as a layup by senior captain Emily Irwin (Billerica, Mass.) knotted up the score for the first of four times in the match-up. The teams would spend the next three minutes trading points until a converted and-1 by Irwin put the hosts up 7-4 with 6:19 remaining in the first. Curry would hold on to this lead for the majority of the quarter, but would squander the advantage as junior Ashley Coneys (Dover, N.H.) swished a last-second three to put UNE ahead at 13-12.
The Nor'easters would score just three points over the first five minutes of the second frame, but their defense kept them on the superior end of the scoreboard, letting up just a pair of points on an Irwin layup while collecting eight rebounds. However, the score would soon even up for the final time, as a pair of free throws by Irwin tied it at 16 all, before a free throw by freshman Amanda Leal (Tyngsboro, Mass.) would give the hosts a lead for good. The Colonels would see this lead grow to seven off of a Peyton Perine (Fairfax, Va.) layup, but a pair of threes for the Nor'easters would quickly cut the deficit to just one. The half ended after sophomore Maeve Foley (Wethersfield, Conn.) split a pair of free throws to send the Colonels to the break up by a pair, at 24-22.
Though the scoring in the first half was limited, the teams would come out firing as the action resumed. Curry struck first on an Irwin jumper to extend the lead to four, but UNE answered back with a jumper of their own from Coneys. Though the guests kept the game close, Curry stretched the lead to 10 with 3:39 left to play in the period thanks to some timely threes by Leal, Irwin, and senior Molly Plunkett (Quincy, Mass.). UNE scored the next three to creep closer, but could not avoid the whistle, as Sadie Nelson (Windham, Maine) got caught with a hold under the basket which sent Irwin to the line for a pair. The senior guard converted both and sent Curry into the final quarter with a nine point edge at 43-34.
The energy was high in the Katz gymnasium as the fourth frame got under way, but the Colonels knew they had to play their cards correctly to retain their advantage as Plunkett, Irwin, and junior Sam Bamford (Easton, Mass.) all entered the frame with three personal fouls, while the freshman Perine entered with four. UNE looked to capitalize on the hosts' unfavorable position and went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter to cut the lead to one at 43-42. Not only were the visitors able to trim the deficit during this four minute stretch, but also induced fouls on Irwin and Plunkett to put them each at four, one away from fouling out of the contest. After a prolonged stoppage due to an apparent shoulder injury to UNE's Nelson, Curry's Leal, Irwin, and Plunkett put together an impressive stretch which brought the home crowd back to life. Off of a missed layup by Madalyn Sanborn (Lyndonville, Vt.), Irwin drove the other way looking for a fast break. Though she would miss the layup, Leal was underneath to gather the offensive board and put up a shot of her own, also unsuccessfully, as Jocelyn Chaput (Nashua, N.H.) got enough on it to register the block. However, the ball would stay with Curry as Irwin would put up another unsuccessful layup attempt before Plunkett collected the third offensive board of the sequence and dished it out to Leal behind the arc for a three. UNE squandered their ensuing possession with a missed layup and the hosts took advantage, as Bamford found Leal for her second consecutive trey. On the following possession, UNE would catch a break as Plunkett got called for her fifth foul, disqualifying her from the remainder of the game, with 4:37 left to play. The conference foes went on to pot a three each, but just 30 seconds later, the foul bug bit again, as Bamford collected her fourth of the day, limiting her ability to stay aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. After a free throw by Chaput, Bamford found Irwin (who also still sat a single foul away from disqualification) beyond the key to put the hosts up by nine. Chaput put the Nor'easters on her back over the next three possessions and once again got UNE to within one with 1:01 remaining in regulation, as she ran off an eight point streak of her own. However, the visitors would soon be forced into desperation mode as a drive by Irwin put her at the line for a pair and brought the lead back to five. A pair of turnovers by UNE would put the ball back into the captain's hands at the charity stripe, where she would convert each of her next four attempts to seal the fate of the guests. By a score of 63-54, Curry women's basketball defeated UNE for the first time in over ten years, which dates all the way back to a 79-74 decision on January 6th, 2007 on the Nor'easters' turf.
UNE was led by Chaput, who put up 18 points on the day while also recording a pair of blocks. Coneys took care of the boards for the visitors with eight rebounds, while also tying for a game high with four assists. In addition to Coneys, Bamford and Irwin also collected four helpers apiece. Irwin also set not only team highs, but game highs in steals (7), rebounds (10) and points, with a season high 35 (14 of which came in the final quarter) to collect her third consecutive double-double. The captain was joined in double digits by Leal, who registered 18, while Coneys put up 13 in the losing effort.
Curry will play next on Saturday, January 12th at 1:00 P.M. at home against Western New England University, another CCC opponent. UNE will also continue their conference schedule, as they travel to face Nichols on Saturday, January 12th at 1:00 P.M. The Colonels will again face the Nor'easters later this month in Biddeford, Maine on Wednesday, January 30th at 5:30 P.M. for UNE's home half of the season series.