– By GREG REID

Special to the Telegram

GORHAM – Let the Huskies score off the cut, and they’ll slash a defense to ribbons.

Forward Jordan Grant had 23 points and nine rebounds to lead the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team to a 90-66 win over UMass-Dartmouth in the Little East Conference championship game Saturday at Hill Gymnasium.

“Coach (Gary Fifield) said we’d score off the cuts, if not the first one then the second or third one,” said Grant, who was playing with the yellowish green remnants of a black eye she picked up in a game last week. “We were getting inside and going up strong.”

As conference champions, the Huskies earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. Ranked fourth in New England, they will learn Monday where they will play.

Forward Haley Jordan, a Falmouth graduate, had 17 points while drawing the tough task of defending Erika Bornemann (16 points), the Corsairs’ No. 2 scorer and leading rebounder. McAuley graduate Rebecca Knight had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Corsairs (20-8), playing in the LEC final for the first time, were led by the league’s leading scorer, Colleen Moriarty, who had 20 points and nine rebounds. Kelsey Garrity added 10 points and seven assists. Enjoying their first 20-win season, the Corsairs could still earn an NCAA bid.

Senior Nicole Garland, a Deering graduate, went 4 of 4 on 3-pointers and had 18 points for USM (27-1), which was ranked No. 9 nationally in the most recent D3hoops.com poll and the top seed in the conference tournament.

“We came into the game with certain key things to emphasize,” said Garland, who also had six rebounds and five assists. “We really just went after it. We had so much confidence because we had beaten them twice this season (82-61 and 86-50). We stayed compact on defense and really shut them out.”

True enough. The Huskies held the edge in rebounds (24-12), turnovers (10-5) and steals (6-3).

USM kicked into high gear, going on a 15-2 run midway through the first half, with Grant (5 points) and Knight (4) slashing through the paint to open a 21-6 lead with 10 minutes to play in the half.

“That opened it up for sure,” USM Coach Gary Fifield said. “I thought we played outstanding defensively. Bornemann and Moriarty are so tough inside. We had to double down and give inside help. It was really the whole team.”

USM kept pushing, with Grant and Haley leading the way to a 48-27 lead at intermission. With a 21-point USM lead, the game settled into a back-and-forth affair, ending in the Huskies’ highest-scoring game of the season. Now it’s on to the NCAA tournament for the 26th time.

“I feel really good about this team and how we’re playing,” Fifield said.