BIDDEFORD — The University of New England took a double-digit lead less than six minutes into the game, then went on to a 59-40 victory against Roger Williams in the Commonwealth Coast Conference women’s basketball final Saturday at the Harold Alfond Forum.

The league championship is the sixth straight for UNE (23-5) and seventh in nine years. The school joined the league in 1999.

The victory also earned UNE an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

The lead ballooned to 16 points in the first quarter before Roger Williams (23-5) cut it to single digits late in the half. A play that exemplified the top-seeded Nor’easters’ effort put the lead back to double digits.

Ashley Coneys hustled for the rebound of her missed 3-pointer, diving to the floor and gaining possession as she was fouled.

Sam MacDonald then took the inbounds pass and drove down the lane before kicking it out to Olivia Shaw, who canned a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 31-19 cushion with 1:51 remaining in the half. The hustle play sparked a 6-2 run for a comfortable 34-21 halftime lead.

“If we don’t come up with that ball and hit a 3, and (then) they score, you know it’s a five-, six-point swing,” UNE Coach Anthony Ewing said. “Momentum is huge in a game like this. We had momentum for the majority of this game. And hustle plays can keep that momentum going when shots aren’t dropping.”

The Hawks, whose only other league championship game appearance was a loss to UNE in 2014, hope to enter the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.The field will be announced at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Roger Williams Coach Kelly Thompson knew Shaw’s clutch shot would make a difference.

“I said to my assistant, ‘that one really hurts a lot,’ ” Thompson said. “We got it to nine (points), under the double-digit mark, and (then) here we go (they hit a big shot).”

“But we couldn’t string good possessions back-to-back at all during the game and they did. They went on great runs and we couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

Shaw, a Saco native who transferred to UNE from Brandeis after her freshmen year, contributed to a defense that held the Hawks to 23 points below their average. She had nine rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots to go with 12 points.

She said a Jan. 27 loss at Roger Williams after surrendering a 16-point lead weighed heavily.

“We lost (in Rhode Island) so I think that was a little in the back of our minds, thinking about how that game went,” said Shaw. “We were very prepared for this game. We knew every one of their plays. We really focused on the defensive end and I think that carried us through.”

The Hawks were held to 27.3 percent shooting, including 15 percent on 3-pointers.

“We talked before the game that Roger Williams can out-work people,” Ewing said. “We said we aren’t going to be outworked today no matter what. I think we were the first to the floor for loose balls. We hustled. We scrapped. I think we had the right mindset for 40 minutes.”

The Nor’easters have dropped their opening NCAA tournament game the past two seasons, but Ewing feels this team has a chance to get beyond the second round, which it never has done.

“I think this team, the way we are playing now, how things are coming together and jelling on both ends, I think this team can make some noise in the NCAA tournament,” he said.

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