UNE’s Meghan Gribbin controls the ball in her zone during the third quarter Thursday night.

UNE’s Meghan Gribbin controls the ball in her zone during the third quarter Thursday night.

BIDDEFORD — Despite falling behind in the third quarter, the top ranked University of New England girls basketball team held on to beat the visiting Endicott squad 66-55 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference semifinals at the Alfond Forum Thursday night.

UNE center Alicia Brown led the Nor’easters with 17 points while also collecting seven rebounds and five steals.. Alanna Vose also scored 15 while Sadie DiPierro chipped in 10.

Endicott’s Kelsey Cuddy scored a game-high 25 points while teammate Gabriella Coppola scored 10.

Endicott pushed UNE in the opening minutes, taking a quick 5-4 lead in the opening three minutes of play. UNE fought back and took control of the first quarter and mounted a lead.

UNE went on a 13-0 run midway through the first quarter and made a handful of impressive plays, including contested 3-pointers from DiPierro and Meghan Gribbin.

After a strong first quarter, the Nor’easters took a solid 25-16 lead into the second period.

Although UNE came out sharp early in the second, Endicott began chipping away at the Nor’easter lead thanks to solid defensive play.

UNE gained little offensive momentum, giving up eight turnovers in the second quarter alone.

Endicott made a dent in the UNE lead as the Nor’easters took a 37-31 lead into the halftime break.

Endicott continued to control the game in the second half, quickly jumping on UNE on both ends of the court. In the opening five minutes of play, Endicott outscored UNE 12-5, taking a 43-42 lead midway through the third quarter.

UNE coach Anthony Ewing thought that the lack of ball security was the difference in the middle quarters.

“Turnovers were the difference, we kind of rode an emotional wave there in the beginning. We got the lead and came out strong. That is how we have been winning all year long, coming out strong and taking care of the basketball… we didn’t do that,” said Ewing.

Neither team could gain much traction in the final minutes of the quarter – however UNE managed to regain the lead, making the score a tight 46-45 heading into the final period.

Both teams battled fiercely in the first half of the fourth quarter, with each defense surrendering little breathing room in their respective zones.

With the score at 53-50 in favor of UNE midway through the fourth, the Nor’easter offense surged and finished the game by going on a 13-5 run, receiving points from five different shooters .

Thanks to the late break out, UNE secured the victory.

Even when the going got rough, Ewing believed his team’s composure was what helped them prevent further damage.

“It’s what we do, this is a veteran group. This is the first time in awhile that I can say that we have a veteran team,” said Ewing. “I didn’t expect them to panic… they hung in there, I wouldn’t expect anything less from that group.”

Ewing also felt that his team fed off of the energy from the large crowd Thursday night.

“They love it, they rode the energy tonight. They don’t get nervous in those types of things, the bigger the crowd the better they are. It was good to get a big crowd here because our kids function well in that atmosphere,” said Ewing.

Looking ahead, Ewing wants his team to focus on the little things.

“I want us to carry the ball better and I want us to shoot free throws better, we missed a few bunnies tonight. If you take care of the ball, make free throws, make layups, you don’t have to sweat it out like we did,” said Ewing. “It’s going to be a big game on Saturday, so we will need to do the little things to be successful.”

— Sports Staff Writer Alex Sponseller can be reached at [email protected] or at 282- 1535 ext. 323. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

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