Bowdoin College junior center Anne Maher (21) defends against Hamilton’s Emma Sehring during Saturday’s NESCAC women’s basketball quarterfinal inside Morrell Gymnasium in Brunswick. The Polar Bears rallied in the second half for a 77-63 victory and faces Amherst in the semifinals next weekend at Medford, Mass. (Bob Conn / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — For two-and-a-half quarters, the sixth-seeded Hamilton Continentals’ women’s basketball team shot lights out inside Morrell Gymnasium against No. 3 Bowdoin.

After making better than 60% of their shots in the opening half and starting the second half off with a 14-9 run for a 49-44 lead, the Continentals appeared destined for a monumental upset of the fifth-ranked Division III team in the nation.

This is when the Polar Bears found it, using their talents inside the paint in creating chances, making their free throws and rolling off a 28-5 run en route to a 77-63 victory and a spot in next weekend’s semifinal with Amherst.

For Bowdoin, it wasn’t the ability to shoot lights out from 3-point range that made the difference against Hamilton. Forwards Maddie Hasson, Anne Maher and Dorian Cohen helped the Polar Bears grab 28 offensive rebounds, leading to second- and third-chance points in the paint. In all, Bowdoin held a 47-30 rebounding edge.

“Maddie, Dorian, Anne, they were phenomenal, and Sam (Roy) getting in there for rebounds. It was the difference maker,” said Bowdoin coach Adrienne Shibles.

Hasson led the way, grabbing 16 rebounds in all, with 12 coming off the offensive glass. She tallied a game-high 23 points, with Sela Kay adding 15, and Ali Meade and Maher each picking up 10. Cohen added five points and 10 boards.

Bowdoin junior guard Moria Train, left, dribbles toward the basket in front of Hamilton’s Carly O’Hern on Saturday in Brunswick. (Bob Conn / The Times Record)

“We have incredible shooters from the outside, but those aren’t going to fall every night. We were ready to grind it out, and we bring that intensity every day on the boards in practice. We work hard to bring that into a game,” said Hasson, who had a busy night in front of her as she dressed quickly to head to Cross Insurance Arena in Portland to watch her alma-mater

Bowdoin senior guard Samantha Roy (1) fingertips the ball toward the basket in Saturday’s NESCAC women’s basketball quarterfinal in Brunswick. (Brian Beard / Brian Beard

Bowdoin College senior forward Maddie Hasson (15) drives to the basket against Hamilton on Saturday in Brunswick. Hasson led the Polar Bears with 23 points and 16 rebounds in a 77-63 NESCAC quarterfinal victory over the Continentals. (Brian Beard / Brian Beard

South Portland High School play for the AA boys and girls regional basketball titles. “We knew coming in that they are a dangerous team, with guards that can get to the paint. When we got up by 15, we knew we couldn’t relax. They are a really good team and we adjusted to their tendencies really well.”

First half

The first quarter featured four ties and four lead changes. Bowdoin held an 11-7 lead after a free throw by Hasson, but Hamilton’s Kelcie Zarle drained her first of four 3-pointers to bring the Continentals into an 11-11 deadlock.

Kay was hot for Bowdoin, swishing a pair of treys and scoring eight points, while Hasson had six points as the Polar Bears held an 18-17 lead after a 10 minutes.

Bowdoin came out strong to open the second quarter, with Hasson putting back her own miss and Moira Train hitting a long 3-pointer for a 23-17 Polar Bears advantage.

Once again, Hamilton fought back. Zarle, who had 15 first-half points, continued to hit shots. She was 6-of-8, including a perfect 3-for-3 from long distance as the Continentals clawed into a 35-35 halftime deadlock.

After shooting 61.5% (14-of-23) in the first half, Hamilton started the third quarter with a flurry. Leading 42-41, Scout Lansing hit a pair of free throws, with Liz Arnold draining a 3-pointer and Kayla Glemaud working hard inside for two points as the Continentals grabbed their largest lead of the game, 49-44, with 5:19 remaining in the quarter.

After a Bowdoin timeout, the Polar Bears found their stride. Hasson and Cohen made a pair each at the foul line, and Kay was fouled and calmly sank two free throws for a 50-49 Bowdoin lead.

The Polar Bears kept it going. Maher scored inside off a Hasson feed. Moments later, Roy found Maher for two more points underneath the basket as a 12-0 run gave the Polar Bears a 56-49 lead.

The Bowdoin bench erupts during the second half of Saturday’s NESCAC women’s basketball quarterfinal inside Morrell Gymnasium in Brunswick. (Brian Beard / Brian Beard

Over a nine-minute stretch, Bowdoin turned a five-point deficit into an 18-point lead, 72-54, with six minutes left in the game. The Polar Bears made 18-of-20 free throws in the second half and out-rebounded the Continentals 27-15 after halftime.

“We locked down the defense, and we made an adjustment, switching on every screen, so we had Maddie guarding Kelcie Zarle (just three points in the second half), and I thought in that moment to make that adjustment on the fly bothered (Hamilton),” said Shibles. “That defense created offense for us.”

Arnold chipped in 15 points and 11 rebounds for Hamilton (15-10), while Glemaud added 10 points.

Now comes the rematch with Amherst, which handed the Polar Bears a 59-46 setback on Feb. 7. In that game, Bowdoin fell behind 16-0 in the opening quarter and never recovered. But, the Polar Bears bounced back, winning their final two games before Saturday’s win over Hamilton.

“We refocused on a lot of the little things,” Shibles said. “We went over what we did well, and figured out what we needed to do more of. That is the great thing about failure is that you can learn from it and move forward.”

“As soon as we left that gym, we wanted another shot at Amherst,” said Hasson, who made a prediction. “I would not count on that (being outscored 16-0 in the opening quarter) happening again. We are looking forward to the opportunity to go against Amherst again. We take what we learn from losses and try to improve on that. We were able to shake it off, knowing we had to be ready to go the next day.”

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