Bowdoin’s Maddie Hasson pushes through Tufts’ Sofia Rosa (52) and makes a basket. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald 

BRUNSWICK — The No. 1 and No. 2 women’s basketball teams in NCAA Division III know each other well. Usually when Tufts and Bowdoin play each other, the match-up features two dominating defenses.

But an NBA-style game broke out Friday night at Morrell Gymnasium, as top-ranked Tufts beat the No. 2 Polar Bears 97-88 before a sold-out crowd of 1,400.

“It was just an awesome game – great crowd for women’s basketball and Division III,” said Tufts’ first-year coach, Jill Pace, a Bath native who played for Bowdoin (Class of 2012).

“(Bowdoin) did an excellent job offensively. We were able to get by.”

Both teams shot 77 percent in the first quarter, and both finished at 59 percent.

Bowdoin senior Maddie Hasson led all scorers with 29 points.

“Despite the fact that we both consider ourselves good defensive teams, both teams came out with a really strong mindset, ready to play,” Hasson said.

Tufts (19-0) took the lead in the New England Small College Athletic Conference standings, giving the Jumbos the inside track for home-court advantage in the league playoffs. Bowdoin dropped to 19-1.

Polar Bears Coach Adrienne Shibles would normally be pleased with an 88-point effort.

“Yes, absolutely,” Shibles said. “It wasn’t necessarily the game we expected on both ends. We know we can put up points, but traditionally we don’t against Tufts.”

The difference in the game?

Bowdoin students cheer after a basket. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

“Little things, a few turnovers and free throws,” Shibles said.

Bowdoin made 13 turnovers to Tufts’ eight. The Jumbo took advantages, scoring 20 points off turnovers, to Bowdoin’s six.

Tufts made 13 of 13 free throws, while Bowdoin was 13 of 21.

The Polar Bears came out firing, taking a 17-10 lead. Moira Train (17 points) hit two of her five 3-pointers early.

But the Jumbos weren’t going away.

“They came out punching and we needed an answer,” said 5-foot-11 forward Emily Briggs, who led Tufts with 23 points (10-of-14 shooting).

Bowdoin led 25-24 after the first quarter, but the next three minutes featured five lead changes. Tufts led 51-47 at halftime and stretched it to 67-59 in the third quarter.

Hasson willed Bowdoin back in it with countless drives in traffic. She scored 12 points in the third quarter. Bowdoin took a brief lead, 70-69, before Tufts finished the quarter with four straight points.

Every time Bowdoin threatened in the fourth quarter, Tufts answered, never surrendering the lead. Four Tufts players scored 19 points or more.

“We shot the ball extremely well,” Briggs said. “They were doubling the post and we were kicking it out, making the extra pass, and that really did it for us.”

Hasson said: “Down the stretch, we didn’t make the adjustments we needed to.”

Place, whose maiden name is Henrikson, was a freshman in Shibles’ first season as Bowdoin’s coach. She finished her college career with 1,085 points, ranking 12th on Bowdoin’s all-time list.

“It was fun to be back in this environment,” Place said. “I have such great memories from Bowdoin. Adrienne is a mentor of mine and a great friend.”

NOTES: Since 1999, when the d3hoops.com poll began, this is the 11th time a No. 1 and No. 2 team opposed each other, and Bowdoin has been involved in four of those games, two with Southern Maine. No. 1 Bowdoin beat No. 2 USM in a 2004 NCAA tournament game, and they were ranked 1-2 again the next fall when Bowdoin won again. In 2005, No. 1 Scranton beat No. 2 Bowdoin in an NCAA Elite Eight game. … Bowdoin has four regular-season games remaining, including Saturday’s home game against Bates. The Polar Bears face a tough road trip next weekend, at No. 7 Amherst and at Hamilton, which has an upset win over Amherst.

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