BIDDEFORD – It was opening night for basketball at the new Harold Alfond Forum at the University of New England. The UNE women wanted to make history, and to make it memorable.
Did they ever.
Senior Beth Suggs had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman point guard Meghan Gribbin added 13 points Tuesday night to lead the Nor’easters to a 72-32 victory over Bowdoin.
“That is a positive way to open a building,” said UNE Coach Anthony Ewing. “We really managed to bring a last-possession-type urgency to every possession, and that was good.”
The Nor’easters also snapped the Polar Bears’ 17-game win streak in the series.
Led by Gribbin’s 11 first-half points, the Nor’easters (2-1) raced out to a 35-8 halftime lead.
They held the Polar Bears (1-2) to 14 percent shooting from the field (3 of 21) in the first half, while hitting 40 percent (15 of 37) of their own.
For the game, Bowdoin shot just 24 percent (13 of 54) to UNE’s 45 percent (30 of 66).
Anna Prohl led the Polar Bears with seven points and six rebounds. Sara Binkhorst and Megan Phelps each added five points.
“This was a huge game, with the new building, and a big matchup against Bowdoin,” said Gribbin, who was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year last season at Windham High. She’s one of the 12 freshmen and sophomores playing for UNE.
“We promised each other before the game that everyone was going to give it their all. And I think we showed that. The energy was just crazy.”
And it proved too much for the equally young Polar Bears, who total 10 freshmen and sophomores.
After a nervous, back-and-forth opening five minutes, Binkhorst’s 3-pointer from the right wing made it 3-3. The Nor’easters then seized momentum with a 35-5 run.
“Give credit to UNE,” said Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles. “They have a great team, a lot of young players, and they came to play.
“We opened with some cold shooting and we got panicked, honestly. We lacked leadership and we lacked tenacity. Today was their day, that’s for sure. And we didn’t show up.”
Gribbin certainly did, running the offense like she’d been starting at the point for three years, not three games.
“She’s a special player,” Ewing said. “She’s learning on the job but she has a real high basketball IQ and she just distributes the ball so well.”
Just after halftime, she snuffed the Polar Bears’ hopes for a strong second half, repeatedly finding Suggs or putting the ball off the glass where Suggs could reach it.
“I really enjoy offensive rebounds,” said Suggs, a Morse High graduate. “My teammates were looking in, I was posting up, doing what I do.”
Both teams knew not to make too much of the result.
“It really is just our third game,” said Ewing, who is looking ahead to opening the Commonwealth Coast Conference schedule Nov. 28 at home against Wentworth.
“As a program, finally beating Bowdoin is a nice hill to get over. We can’t expect that every year; Bowdoin is a phenomenal program. But for tonight, (a win) was nice.”
The Polar Bears met in their locker room for about 30 minutes after the game.
“We’ll regroup and turn it up a notch in practice,” Shibles said.
“We’ll focus on getting better each and every day. This is a great group of kids. I know we can do it, but it’s going to take some hard work and some focus.”