WATERVILLE – The last time the Colby College women’s basketball team played Husson, it won by 30 points.

But that was January. Friday night was the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament and yes, it was a lot closer.

Colby needed late free throws to preserve a 62-59 victory, and will face Babson at 7 tonight at home with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

Babson advanced with a 76-56 victory against Emmanuel.

Husson (19-9) had won 16 straight games since losing to Colby on Jan. 9.

“We knew the last game (against Colby) wasn’t our best game. We played awful and they shot the lights out,” Shelby Bradford of Husson said. “(Alison) Cappelloni scored her 1,000th (point) in that game, and they were just way up.”

“I am really, really pleased with the effort and happy to be surviving and advancing. That’s what the NCAA tournament is all about,” Colby Coach Lori Gear McBride said. “And we knew Husson was going to give us one heck of a game and they really did.

“They were very, very good, and scrappy and tenacious and never gave up.”

Amanda Gifford’s 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds left cut Colby’s lead to 60-59. After Allen made the first of two free throws, Bradford grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. But the Eagles were out of timeouts, and the Mules made 1 of 2 free throws to ice it.

Colby (24-4) took its biggest lead, 58-51, on two Diana Manduca free throws with 1:10 left. Noelle Lincoln of Husson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-54. Gifford’s steal and free throws made it 58-56.

“I’m just extremely proud of the team because they’re just a bunch of scrappers. They never gave up,” Husson Coach Kissy Walker said.

With 18 seconds left, Samantha Allen of Colby hit a baseline jumper to push the lead back to 60-56.

“At that point we were sort of scrambling, I think. We were just trying to pass the ball around, run some clock,” Allen said. “Diana (Manduca) started driving to the basket and she passed me the ball. I was open so I took it.”

The Mules had a tough night from the floor, making just 33.8 percent. Even after shooting just 26.7 percent in the first half, Colby had a 33-28 lead.

“I think we got some pretty open looks at the beginning of the game. I think we had some tournament jitters, to be honest,” Gear McBride said.

“We had a lot of fans out there we didn’t want to disappoint. Having the whole week’s buildup was a little bit nerve-racking.”

Gear McBride said at halftime she told her team to focus on defense and rebounding.

“That’s been what we can control all season, and I talked to the team at halftime. Just about if the shots aren’t falling, it’s OK,” Gear McBride said.

“Let’s lock down, let’s pick up our defense, control the controllables.”