March 5, 2010

WATERVILLE, Maine - The Colby College women's basketball team won the first NCAA Division III Tournament game in program history, but Husson University did not make it easy on Friday night at Wadsworth Gymnasium.

The Mules moved to 24-4 overall and now hold the program record for wins in a season all by themselves after a thrilling 62-59 first round win. Colby will take on Babson College, a 76-56 winner over Emmanuel College, in an NCAA second round game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Wadsworth Gymnasium.

Colby, playing in the NCAA tourney for the first time in school history, received 12 points and 16 rebounds from sophomore Rachael Mack (Augusta, Maine) just five days after she missed the New England Small College Athletic Conference title game because of an illness last Sunday. Colby was tied with the 1981-82 and 1983-84 teams with 23 wins in a season.

Aarika Ritchie (Lee, Maine) had a team-high 13 points for the Mules, ranked 20th nationally. Diana Manduca (Portland, Maine) chipped in with 12 points, while Julianne Kowalski (Montville, N.J.) had 10 points, four blocked shots, and three assists. Alison Cappelloni (Sudbury, Mass.) struggled with her shooting but still had 11 rebounds for the winners.

Shelby Bradford (Lee, Maine), playing in her final game for Husson, had 18 points, 11 rebounds, and eight steals. Brianna Hanscom (Mattawamkeag, Maine) added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who fell 88-58 to Colby during the regular season.

The teams battled back-and-forth in the first half before the Mules took a 33-28 lead at intermission. Husson battled hard and took a 49-46 lead when Marissa Albert (Fort Kent, Maine) nailed a 3-point shot with 8:31 to play. The Mules, though, got a lay-up from Manduca and an inside basket from Mack to take a 50-49 lead with 7:02 to play and Colby never trailed again.

The Mules appeared to have the game in hand with a 58-51 lead with 1:10 to play. Husson fought back again on a 3-point shot by Noelle Lincoln (Dixmont, Maine) with 51 seconds to play and then Amanda Gifford (Lee, Maine) nailed two free throws with 42 seconds left to cut the margin to 58-56. Samantha Allen (Bridgton, Maine), who also struggled offensively, nailed arguably the biggest shot of her collegiate career when she gave the Mules a 60-56 lead with a jumper with 17 seconds left.

Once again, the Eagles would not go away and received a 3-point shot from Gifford with 5.3 seconds to play to cut the lead to 60-59. Allen was fouled with 3.3 seconds left and made 1-for-2 from the foul line. Husson got the rebound and called a timeout, but were called for a technical because the Eagles were out of timeouts. Manduca hit one of her two free throws on the technical and Colby retained possession as well to run out the clock.