Adrienne Shibles, coach of the Bowdoin women’s basketball team, leads the 19-0 Polar Bears into a showdown against 18-0 Tufts on Friday evening in Brunswick. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

BRUNSWICK – In the past two seasons, the Bowdoin women’s basketball team finished second in the NCAA Division III tournament.

In the national polls this year, the Polar Bears are, sure enough, No. 2 in the country.

Bowdoin could grab the No. 1 ranking Friday night.

Top-ranked Tufts visits from Medford, Massachusetts, to face the Polar Bears at 7 p.m. at Morrell Gymnasium.

Bowdoin is 19-0, 5-0 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference; Tufts 18-0, 4-0.

“They’re an experienced team, gritty on the boards,” Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles said.

Shibles knows all about Tufts. While Bowdoin has reached the NCAA title game the past two years, it did not win the NESCAC championship either season; Tufts knocked out the Polar Bears both times, including last year’s final at Brunswick.

“As with all Tufts teams, their defense is strong,” Shibles said. “They’re putting up better numbers offensively; they seem to be playing looser.”

Tufts does have a new coach, former Jumbos assistant Jill Pace, replacing Carla Berube, who left to become Princeton’s head coach.

Bowdoin and Tufts look similar, with good balance led by a standout player.

Bowdoin averages 78 points a game with a 30-point winning margin. The Polar Bears’ closest game was a 50-39 win at Colby last week.

Tufts averages 73 points with a 23-point margin. Two weeks ago, the Jumbos beat seventh-ranked Amherst 48-46 in overtime.

Bowdoin is led by 5-foot-11 senior Maddie Hasson of South Portland. Hasson, an all-conference first-team selection last year, is averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. Hasson is one of three Bowdoin seniors, along with starting guard Samantha Roy and backup forward Olivia Ware.

“Our three seniors are phenomenal, selfless leaders,” Shibles said.

Tufts features 5-11 senior Erica DeCandido, who was also on the NEASC first team last year. She is strong underneath, averaging 8.3 rebounds to go with her 15.7 points a game.

“Incredible, tough player,” Shibles said, “offensively and defensively.”

Hasson and DeCandido are all-stars, but depth will likely decide Friday’s game. Shibles does not continually substitute like she did in previous years, but she uses plenty of players. Roy, a 5-4 spark plug, averages 10 points and 5.6 assists. Sophomore 5-9 guard Sela Kay (11.2 average) has 46 3-pointers. Junior 5-9 guard Moira Train of Cumberland (and Greely High), has 44 3-pointers, averaging 10.7 points a game.

“We do have a good balance of exterior play and – with Maddy – interior play,” Shibles said.

Helping Hasson in the post, Bowdoin uses one of two juniors, 6-foot Dorian Cohen or 6-2 Annie Maher.

The Polar Bears have cruised through their season so far, but Shibles believes her team is not content.

“I like their focus on improvement,” she said. “I love their work ethic and their cohesiveness.”

Friday night’s winner will have the inside track to home-court advantage for the NESCAC tournament. Bowdoin will have four games remaining, including next Friday at Amherst.

NOTES: Bowdoin has won 47 straight regular-season games. In the Polar Bears’ last 48 games at Morrell Gymnasium, they are 47-1, the one loss coming to Tufts in last year’s league championship game.

 

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