ITHACA, N.Y. – The Bowdoin women’s basketball team is moving on in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament — again.

The Polar Bears advanced to the second round for the 12th straight year with a 75-68 win Friday night over a rival with its own rich NCAA tournament history — Southern Maine.

Bowdoin’s streak is the longest in Division III basketball. The Polar Bears (20-7) will play at 7 p.m. tonight against Ithaca, an 84-37 winner over Elms.

“It’s so hard to make it to the NCAA tournament, but then to make it this far speaks to the mental and physical toughness of the players in the program,” Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles said.

Bowdoin fell behind 10-5 early before going on a 20-4 run. USM (22-6) then outscored the Polar Bears 22-7 in the final eight minutes of the first half to head into the locker room with a 36-32 lead.

USM led by seven twice in the second half, but the Polar Bears responded each time. With 13:39 remaining and the Huskies up 43-36, Bowdoin’s Allie Piscina nailed a shot from behind the 3-point arc. About six minutes later, she hit another 3 to tie the game at 56.

“I went nuts. I was so excited,” Piscina said. “You see your open shot and you just have to have confidence.”

Two free throws by Megan Phelps put Bowdoin ahead for good, 60-58, with 5:20 to play. Phelps added a 3-pointer moments later to make it 67-60, and the Polar Bears hit six straight free throws in the final minute.

“I thought we played fearlessly, which is great,” Shibles said. “Lots of people step up in different moments.”

The victory came in spite of an off night for Bowdoin’s leading scorer, Jill Henrikson. Henrikson finished with 12 points but managed only three in the final 31 minutes.

Kaitlin Donahoe picked up the slack, leading Bowdoin with 20 points. Amy Hackett and Piscina chipped in 14 and 13, respectively.

“(Our depth) is what I am most proud of,” Shibles said. “And the improvements we’ve made over the course of the season. In a game like this, with the importance of it, it just shows the maturity of the players and how far we’ve come.”

Seniors Courtney Cochran and Nicole Garland were unable to stay hot at the same time for USM. Garland led the Huskies with 13 points in the first half but scored only four in the second. Cochran scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half, and also pulled down 17 rebounds.

“They just played great defense,” Garland said. “And they didn’t allow us to get any open looks. That was our downfall.”

The loss ended USM’s return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence.

“They were determined to bounce back this year and get 20 wins to get back to the NCAA tournament,” said Coach Gary Fifield.