STANDISH – Morgan Cahill hasn’t forgotten the very start of her basketball career at St. Joseph’s College. “I was timid.” she said after Wednesday’s practice. “I really didn’t have a lot of confidence in my game.”

Her memory should be good. Cahill is a freshman. She played her first collegiate game only three months ago. Her timidity is gone. She’s not sure where or when she lost it.

Thursday night, Cahill and her teammates play Suffolk University in the semifinals of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in Boston. The two teams met once during the conference schedule with Suffolk winning, 60-49.

“We’re a better team now,” said Cahill. “I’m kind of excited. This is our chance to prove ourselves. That (first game) was so long ago.”

Actually, that game was played on Jan. 17, but for Cahill everything this season has happened so quickly. One year ago she was a senior at Yarmouth High, lamenting a quarterfinal loss to Lake Region High in the Western Maine basketball tournament. At about that time she made her decision where to attend college. She wanted a nursing program and she wanted to play basketball.

“I opened my eyes to my backyard and I found St. Joseph’s,” said Cahill. “It was a local team, all the players are committed 100 percent to basketball and it’s such a close-knit campus.”

Now she’s the rookie to watch in the GNAC. A 6-foot center with strength and agility. She’s scored more than 10 points and grabbed more than 10 rebounds in 11 of St. Joseph’s 12 conference games. She leads the conference in double-doubles. Seven times she’s been named the conference Rookie of the Week. At St. Joseph’s, no one can remember another player getting recognition that often.

“We had graduated our big girl and Morgan was put right into the mix from the start,” said St. Joseph’s Coach Mike McDevitt. “I had to use her. A lot of times, just getting the opportunity helps make you a better player.”

That’s a nicer way of describing a sink-or-swim situation. Cahill scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds in her debut against the University of Maine-Machias in November. Three days later she had 12 points and 13 rebounds against the University of Maine-Farmington. Both were team wins. Cahill didn’t get her numbers against the next opponent. But losing to the nationally ranked University of Southern Maine is an education.

“Morgan is still growing as a player,” said McDevitt. “Freshmen typically have a lot of ups and downs from the confidence standpoint and she’s had hers.”

Tuesday in the conference quarterfinals, No. 3 St. Joseph’s beat No. 7 Johnson & Wales, 59-45. Cahill had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. She forgot she was a freshman.

In conference playoff action Thursday, the University of New England women put their 17-game winning streak on the line against visiting Endicott College in the semifinals of the Commonwealth Coast Conference.

UNE beat Endicott 63-60 on the road on Jan. 17 and 66-57 at home on Feb. 12.

UNE is led by senior center Beth Suggs of Bath, the conference player of the year. Suggs averaged 14.7 points per game and 11.3 rebounds, and had 15 double-doubles.

Friday evening, the University of Southern Maine women host the semifinals of the Little East Conference tournament in Gorham.

Top-seeded USM plays Rhode Island College at 5:30 p.m. and Western Connecticut State plays UMass-Dartmouth in the other semifinal.

Western Connecticut is the only team to beat USM this season.

The USM men travel to Rhode Island College Friday for their conference semifinal game.

The St. Joseph’s men play Thursday night in the GNAC semifinals at Anna Maria.

The Bowdoin women travel to Amherst Saturday for the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament.

Bowdoin upset Tufts in the quarterfinals, the first time in conference history an eighth-seeded team beat a No. 1 seed.

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

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Twitter: SteveSolloway