BIDDEFORD — It took a while but the game plan for the University of New England women’s basketball team finally worked Thursday night.

And because it did, the Nor’easters are back in the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship game.

Pounding the ball inside against a smaller opponent, UNE wore down Eastern Nazarene for a 75-59 victory at Alfond Arena.

The Nor’easters (23-5) will seek a fifth straight conference title and another Div. III NCAA tourney berth when it meets Western New England (19-8) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Biddeford. UNE lost 78-55 at home to Western New England on Jan. 3.

After leading by one point at halftime, the Nor’easters got the ball inside to 6-foot-4 Alicia Brown on almost every possession thereafter.

Brown finished with a career-high 33 points, 21 in the second half.

She added 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“We got decent looks around the rim (in the first half) but we just weren’t finishing,” said UNE Coach Anthony Ewing. “(Brown) did a good job posting up strong and absorbing contact. She was unbelievable. She had a huge game. She put us on her back offensively for sure.”

Eastern Nazarene – whose tallest player, 5-11 Michelle Detwiler, was mired in foul trouble – had no answer.

“We knew they’d go to (Brown). She’s a fantastic player,” said Lions Coach Sacha Santimano, whose team lost to UNE 64-53 and 78-68 in the regular season. “We knew they’d send the ball inside. I would have.

“Early on we did a good job but then we got tired. We don’t have a lot of size.”

The Lions (18-9) hung in for a half by hitting 6 of 12 3-pointers and only trailed 32-31.

But the inside play of the Nor’easters and 0 of 6 on 3-pointers in the second half did them in.

UNE never trailed in the second half, and an 11-3 run midway through the third quarter turned a three-point lead into a 49-38 advantage.

Nine of the points were from in the paint or foul shots from plays down low.

The other two came from a long jumper by Sam McDonald (5 points, 10 rebounds) after Olivia Shaw pulled down an offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to the wing.

“We all can contribute down low and that makes us a threat if (opponents focus on me),” said Brown.

Midway through the final quarter, Eastern Nazarene cut the lead to nine points before UNE turned up the pressure on defense, scoring eight straight points to put it away.

“Every game we try to search out our run. And we do that with defense,” said Ewing. “You can’t go on a meaningful run without getting stops.”

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