HENNIKER, N.H. – New England College began Saturday's North Atlantic Conference women's basketball matchup with the University of Maine at Farmington boasting a 10-1 record on its home court at Bridges Gym.
Two hours later, the Pilgrims' record at home stood at 10-2.
After allowing an early second-half double-digit advantage to slip away, the Beavers eked out a small lead in the final three minutes and hung on to post a 59-56 upset win over New England College.
The win improved UMaine-Farmington's record to 7-13 overall, and keeps the Beavers in the hunt for a home quarterfinal spot with a 7-7 conference record. New England College remains in third place in the league standings, but saw its record fall to 15-6 overall, 10-4 in the NAC.
Senior Kenni Norton (Strong, Maine/Mt. Abram) paced UMaine-Farmington with her second double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Lindsay Ranquist (Owls Head, Maine/Medomak Valley) potted a season-high 16 points – second-best scoring performance of her career.
But it was the Beavers' performance at the free-throw line that played a starring role in the win. UMaine-Farmington was 14-of-17 (.824) at the line – UMF's best single-game free-throw percentage this season when the Beavers have gone to the line at least 10 times. Norton was 7-of-8 at the free-throw line, while freshman Meghan Smith (Boothbay, Maine/Boothbay Regional) was a perfect 4-of-4 at the charity stripe.
Smith and Holly Oliver (Belgrade Lakes, Maine/Messalonskee) each tallied six points in the win.
Leading the way for New England College was Kate Levy, who finished with a season-high 28 points. Taylor Burgess chipped in eight points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, while Kayla Lawlor added seven points in the losing cause.
The Pilgrims would jump out to the early 6-0 lead and lead by as many as nine in the opening half, before the Beavers responded with a 10-0 run to grab their first lead of the afternoon and go up 17-16 midway through the half. Farmington would take a seven-point lead with just under two minutes to play after a Ranquist 3-pointer, but NEC would close out the frame scoring the final six points to cut the Beavers' lead to 33-32 at halftime.
UMaine-Farmington grabbed its largest lead of the game, 45-35, six minutes into the second half following back-to-back buckets by Ranquist and Ayla Allen (Rumford, Maine/Mountain Valley) to cap a 12-3 run by the Beavers. The Pilgrims chipped away at the Farmington lead over the next seven minutes, finally overtaking the Beavers on a Levy 3-pointer with 7:09 on the clock. The lead see-sawed three times down the stretch, with UMaine-Farmington eventually taking the lead for good on Elizabeth Ferry's (Winslow, Maine/Winslow) layup at the 2:06 mark.
The Pilgrams went 0-of-5 from the floor over the final two minutes and were unable to regain the lead, while the Beavers went 3-of-4 at the free-throw line over the same span.
UMaine-Farmington will return home for its next two games, beginning with an NAC matchup against Lyndon State College on Friday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Dearborn Gym.