BRUNSWICK — Point guard Marle Carle took over in the final 21/2 minutes Saturday night to lead Bowdoin into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament for the first time in three seasons.

Carle, a sophomore from Plattsburgh, New York, hit two 3-pointers, sank two free throws and came up with a big steal down the stretch to rally the Polar Bears to a 71-66 victory against Ithaca in a second-round game at Morrell Gymnasium.

Bowdoin (25-4) moves on to play Montclair State (28-1) of New Jersey on Friday night. The site will be announced Sunday.

Ithaca (23-6), which trailed for much of the second half, appeared headed to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season when it fired off 10 unanswered points to move into a 65-58 lead with less than five minutes left.

“(Carle) just refused to lose,” Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles said. “She just had the heart of a champion in those final minutes and she just stepped up and made big plays. Everyone in the NCAA tournament is so talented, so it comes down to making big plays when you need them, and Marle was huge for us.”

Carle, who scored 15 of her career-high 23 points in the second half, brought the Polar Bears within 66-63 when she sank two free throws with 2:36 remaining. Following a change of possession, she sank a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to make it 66-66 with 1:55 left.

“They were sagging (defensively),” Carle said. “Coach says all the time to look for your shot when they’re sagging.”

Carle stole the ball on the Bombers’ next possession. As the shot clock was winding down, she hit her third 3-pointer of the game to send Bowdoin into a 69-66 lead.

The Polar Bears finished the game with an 11-0 run.

“(Bowdoin) made plays,” Ithaca Coach Dan Raymond said. “They made steals when they needed to. They got stops when they needed to. They got rebounds. They made big shots. Did we give it away? No, absolutely not. They just made more plays at the end of the game than we did.”

Shannon Brady, a 6-foot junior from Scituate, Massachusetts, scored 21 points for Bowdoin, sinking 8 of 16 shots. Kate Kerrigan added 11 points.

Samantha Klie led Ithaca with 14 points. Keri Steele followed with 12 points and Ally Mnich added 11.

The Polar Bears fired off a 10-0 run to move into a 33-25 lead with less than five minutes left in the first half, but the Bombers rallied to make it 35-35 with a minute left.

Curle then swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the Polar Bears were back in the lead.

The score was tied or the lead changed hands 17 times in the first half.

The Bombers held a 44-37 lead in rebounding.

“Ithaca is a phenomenal team,” Shibles said. “We got outrebounded, and I don’t think that’s happened more than a couple of times all year.

“They were physical and gritty so I have a lot of respect for them.”