BIDDEFORD — Meaghan Gribben hit her 3-point shot, clenched her fists and yelled. Her University of New England teammates noticed. Soon, Saturday’s close women’s basketball game with Roger Williams University was no longer close.

UNE (23-2, 17-1) rode a 16-0 scoring run late in the second half to beat Roger Williams, 65-50, and win the Commonwealth Coast Conference’s regular season championship. The victory gives UNE the top seed and home court in the conference tournament which begins Tuesday with the quarterfinals round. The tournament winner gets an automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Division III tournament.

The game, played before a nearly full house at the Harold Alfond Forum on UNE’s campus, had a playoff atmosphere. Players had urged their classmates to attend. Campus promotions called more attention to the matchup between the top two teams in the conference. That Roger Williams (20-5, 15-3) handed UNE its only conference defeat, 80-59, on Jan. 18 in Bristol, R.I. added to the intensity.

“You could feel a lot of energy out there,” said Kelly Coleman, the junior forward and co-captain from Portland, Conn. She scored 29 points, but it was her 10 points in a frenetic first half that helped settle her team. Her basket at the halftime buzzer gave UNE a 23-19 lead.

Gribben, the sophomore guard from Windham, scored 19. Her 3-pointer changed momentum in the second half. The offensive foul she drew under the Roger Williams basket was another emotional spark. The 5-foot-5 player leads the Nor’easters in taking charges. “I’m proud of my black and blue marks.”

“I liked the way we played,” said UNE Coach Anthony Ewing of the fast-paced game. “We played hard, we played with passion. The fans and the parents were really into it. Our best basketball is ahead of us.”

“We’ll take confidence from this,” said Gribben. “We beat the second-best team in the conference.” She grinned and let someone else point out UNE finished its conference schedule with the best record. The Nor’easters were ranked No. 20 among Division III teams in the country by the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll earlier in the week.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

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