Maine advances to America East semifinals


PORTLAND, Maine -- The University of Maine women's basketball team outscored Binghamton 39-18 in the second half to help lead the Black Bears to a 57-40 America East quarterfinal win on Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena.

Maine will take on No. 1 New Hampshire in Sunday's America East semifinal at 2 PM.

Sigi Koizar led the Black Bears' scoring attack, posting 14 of her game-high 16 points in the second quarter alone. Koizar added five steals as part of Maine's defensive attack which featured 15 total steals as it forced 24 Binghamton turnovers.

Koizar was joined in double-digits by Blanca Millan, who posted 12 of her 14 points in the second half. Anita Kelava capped Maine's double-digit scorers with 10 points to go along with eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

As much as she helped on the offensive end it was Millan's defense that may have stolen the show. The freshman guard held First Team All-Conference selection Imani Watkins to seven points on 3-for-14 shooting. Millan also snatched four steals while her defensive pressure contributed to Watkins' game-high nine turnovers.

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves for the Black Bears. After going 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the first half, Maine shot 55.5 percent from the floor over the final 20-minutes, including a 4-for-5 showing from downtown.

The first half featured nine lead changes and three ties as the Bearcats carried a 22-18 lead into the break.

While Binghamton did its damage from outside over the opening 20-minutes, Maine controlled action down low. The Black Bears outscored Binghamton 14-2 in the paint but were outrebounded 21-13.

Neither team led by more than a pair in the first quarter. A triple by Rebecca Carmody put the Bearcats on top by a pair before Maine regained the lead with a 4-0 run. Blanca Millan forced a steal and cashed in on the opposite end before Laia Sole's offensive put back gave the Black Bears a 12-10 lead after one.

With the game tied early in the second, the Black Bears put together another 4-0 sprint to take their largest lead of the opening half. An offensive board from Anita Kelava turned into a bucket by the freshman before a bucket from Koizar put Maine up, 18-14.

However, the Bearcats closed the half on an 8-0 run, with triples from Imani Watkins and Jasmine Sina, to take a four point edge at halftime.

The lead would change just once in the second half. Binghamton grabbed its largest lead of the game when Carmody's triple early in the third quarter put it up five.

Maine responded with a 13-4 run as Millan's 3-pointer with 5:06 to play in the third period gave Maine a 33-29 edge.

The Black Bears, who went on to outscore Binghamton 23-12 in the third, closed the quarter on an 8-3 run and led 41-34 heading to the final period.

Maine rattled off the first eight points of the fourth quarter, extending its lead all the way out to 15 when Koizar pulled down a board before racing down court and stroking a jumper.

Binghamton could not get any closer than 12 the rest of the way. Maine finished the game riding a 5-0 run as Julie Brosseau's 3-pointer extended the lead out to 17 in what would prove to be the final, 57-40.

Maine returns to the America East semifinals for the third-straight year as it takes on No. 1 New Hampshire on Sunday, March 5 at 2 p.m.

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