When Binghamton post player Alyssa James hit a couple of outside jump shots, University of Maine women’s basketball Coach Amy Vachon shrugged.

When the Bearcats’ guard Rebecca Carmody knocked down two 3-pointers, Vachon nodded.

“We could live with it,” she said.

Vachon did not want Binghamton All-Star guard Imani Watkins taking the game over.

Maine held Watkins down, finally got its own offense in sync and beat Binghamton 57-40 Saturday afternoon in the America East quarterfinals, before 1,896 at the Cross Insurance Arena

Watkins, who averages 19 points per game, was held to seven, while making nine turnovers.

Maine was led by guard Sigi Koizar’s 16 points, Blanca Millan’s 14, and Anita Kelava’s contribution of 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Fourth-seeded Maine (17-15) will play in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Sunday against No. 1 New Hampshire (26-4). The Wildcats are the only conference team Maine has not defeated this year.

No. 5 Binghamton is finished at 13-17, its final two losses coming to the Black Bears.

“Give credit to Maine and their defense,” Bearcats Coach Linda Cimino said.

That defense focused on Watkins, with Millan, a 5-11 freshman guard, covering her.

“Every basket (Watkins) got, she had to fight for,” said Bearcats point guard Kai Moon (10 points). “Maine definitely had an aggressive defense. They capitalized on our turnovers.”

Maine’s defense kept the Black Bears close, down 22-18 at halftime even though they shot 18 percent in the second quarter.

“I was a little concerned that we weren’t going to make (another) shot,” said Vachon’s Maine’s associate head coach who is in charge while head coach Richard Barron is on a medical leave.

“We struggled from the floor in that second quarter … Defensively, we’ve been solid all year long, so that wasn’t a surprise to me.”

In the third quarter, with Maine down 29-28, Millan made one of her four steals and dribbled down for a fast-break layup.

After a Binghamton miss, Millan hit a 3-pointer and the Black Bears, up 33-29, never trailed again.

“Millan is long and athletic. She did a great job, playing the passing lanes,” Cimino said. “She was physical and Imani was exhausted. They wore her down.”

James was tired, too. She played 39 minutes, usually with one or two Maine players giving her little room inside.

“Their game plan was to key in on certain players and they did a good job with it,” James said.

Among those on James was Kelava, a 6-foot-3 freshman.

“We knew how we wanted to defender her,” Kelava said. “It was physical but the major thing for us was the help (from a teammate). We were there every time.”

Kelava starts but usually averages only 16 minutes. She played 35 minutes Saturday, remaining a force inside, while showing a touch on jump shots.

Laia Sole, normally Maine’s top post player, who comes off the bench, played only 17 minutes, nine of them in the final quarter.

“She just wasn’t being as productive as she could be,” Vachon said, “and other kids were doing what we needed.”

Sole began the fourth quarter, with Maine up 41-34. She scored on an offensive rebound (43-34).

Then Koizar drove in and kicked it out to Sole for a jumper (45-34).

Millan then scored her third steal/fast-break layup (47-34) and Koizar finished the run with a driving jumping shot (49-34).

“We definitely talked about shooting during halftime,” Koizar said. “Blanca gave us a big lift with her steals, and we used our depth.”

Maine ended the game shooting 44 percent (to Binghamton’s 31 percent). The Black Bears were 4 for 13 from 3-point range – both Millan and Koizar hitting NBA-length shots – although they began 0 for 8 beyond the arc.

“Going 0 for 8 is not going to win too many games,” Vachon said. “We have to play good defense, but we have to make shots.

“As you can see, when we make shots, things are a little easier.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

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