BRUNSWICK – After losing to Colby College in the semifinals of the New England Small College Athletic Association tournament, the Bowdoin College women’s basketball players weren’t sure if they would get a second chance to continue their season.

Well, they got it. And now they’re making the most of it.

Bowdoin’s switching man-to-man defense completely disrupted a high-scoring Western Connecticut offense, and the Polar Bears eased past the Colonials 65-43 in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament at Morrell Gymnasium.

For the second straight night, Bowdoin held an opponent to a season low in points. On Friday, the Polar Bears held fast-breaking Baruch to 53 points.

“I think the big thing is that we never had doubt, from the second we stepped on the court,” said Caitlin Hynes, who led the Polar Bears with 17 points and did a great defensive job on the Colonials’ 6-foot-2 center, Melissa Teel. “I think we knew we were going to win. We had the intensity to fight, the heart.”

The victory put Bowdoin (22-6) in the Division III Sweet 16 for the first time in three years. The NCAA will announce the sites and opponents today, though it’s likely the Polar Bears will play at Kean University, the No. 2 team in the nation, in Union, N.J.

“I’m really happy with the way we’re playing and the confidence we’re playing with,” said Polar Bears Coach Adrienne Shibles. “I think they’re just cherishing this opportunity and taking advantage of it.”

As in its first-round victory, Bowdoin took a big halftime lead, 31-15, then held off a second-half challenge — with the help of an improbable shot by Hynes.

Western Connecticut (23-6) got within 37-29 with 15:21 left. Shibles called a timeout, told her team to become aggressive, and her players responded.

Hynes, who had four blocked shots and three steals, drove left on Teel, the Colonials’ shot-blocking center. She reached under Teel with her right hand and as she was fouled, flicked a shot that hit the side of the rim, bounced up and dropped in. She completed a three-point play to spark a 12-2 run — seven by Hynes — to make it 49-31. Western Connecticut got no closer than 15.

“I think the women played really well, with a lot of focus and intensity,” said Shibles. “They did a great job sticking to the game plan and that helped us pull away against a really great team.”

Leah Rubega, who led Bowdoin with 12 rebounds and had 14 points, hit a 3-pointer in that streak.

But as well as Bowdoin played on offense, it was the defense that decided it. Hynes, Rubega and Colleen Sweeney kept Teel under control, holding her to eight points and nine rebounds.

“She’s obviously a huge key to their team,” said Hynes. “If she gets on a roll, they get on a roll too.”

But the Colonials couldn’t. And Bowdoin’s switching man-to-man defense on the perimeter kept the Colonials from getting off outside shots. Western Connecticut is a dangerous 3-point team, hitting 35 percent. On Saturday it shot 2 of 17.

“We’re used to disrupting the other team’s set offense,” said Teel. Tonight they got into us more.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]