Irwin Secures Program Record as Women's Basketball Stumbles at UNE

Irwin Secures Program Record as Women's Basketball Stumbles at UNE

BIDDEFORD, Maine - The Curry College women's basketball team dropped their second straight Commonwealth Coast Conference match up as they fell to the University of New England Nor'easters by a score of 72-63 in Biddeford, Maine on Wednesday night. The Colonels fall to fifth in the conference standings at 7-4 with a 10-9 overall record. The Nor'easters improve to 10-11 overall while tying Western New England for the third spot in the CCC standings at 8-4.

Curry won the opening tip, but soon saw the type of game which lay ahead, as the defense combined to force a trio each of missed field goals and turnovers, before a steal from senior Molly Plunkett (Quincy, Mass.) gave way to a layup by freshman center Peyton Perine (Fairfax, Va.) for the first points of the game. After a missed triple by Plunkett, UNE took their first lead of the night at 5-3 on a three of their own from junior Jocelyn Chaput (Nashua, N.H.). Perine had the hot hand for the guests, putting in their next four points on a pair of baskets, but it was Plunkett who kept at it from behind the arc, giving the lead back to Curry at 10-7 off a helper from junior Sam Bamford (Easton, Mass.). Bamford continued to make her mark on the contest, forcing several jump balls on the defensive end, while tacking on a couple more assists. UNE would stay close whoever, as a three pointer from freshman Amanda Leal (Tyngsboro, Mass.) was followed by a triple from UNE's guard Sadie Nelson (Windham, Maine) and a Madalyn Sanborn (Lyndonville, Vt.) jumper to cut the Curry lead to one at 15-14. As the quarter wound down, with just over a minute to go, the UNE crowd saw a piece of Curry history. Following a missed Leal jumper from the top of the key, senior captain Emily Irwin (Billerica, Mass.) collected an offensive rebound and found the basket amidst traffic for a put back layup. With the basket, Irwin became the all-time leading scorer in Curry Women's Basketball history, with 1,466 points over her career with the Colonels. The bucket put Curry ahead once again, but it would be the last points the visitors would score in the frame, as UNE ended the quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 21-17 advantage into the break.

The Colonels would get the ball to start the second quarter and made it count as Irwin found Plunkett for an early three to cut the lead to one at 21-20. Curry would again struggle, though, as the Nor'easters defense would keep them scoreless from the floor over the next four minutes, benefitting only from a pair of Irwin free throws, as the hosts extended their lead to eight, before Irwin dished out another helper, this time finding Leal for a triple with 5:46 left to play in the half. Despite playing from behind, the Colonels' defense stayed aggressive, surrendering just three points over four minutes as the offense methodically chipped away at the lead, tying the game at 33 thanks to back to back baskets by Bamford and Perine. The Nor'easters did not stay down long though, as Chaput found junior Ashley Coneys (Dover, N.H.) to retake a two point lead. These would be the last points of the half as the teams came up inaccurate from distance over the final minute, which sent the hosts to the intermission with a slim 35-33 advantage.

Curry once again opened the frame with possession, but each team squandered their first chance with the ball as the half started with a pair of turnovers. The contest became tied once more when Perine drained another jumper, but a pair of fouls on Bamford sent Abby Cavallaro (South Portland, Maine) to the free throw line, where she converted both shots to retake the lead. This lead would grow to six before a pair of Leal free throws put Curry back on the board with 6:52 left in the third. The game stayed close at 41-37 over nearly three minutes of play, with both teams forcing several missed shots and turnovers, but Plunkett broke the drought with a jumper to bring Curry back to within one possession. A basket by Sierra Tartre (Kennebunk, Maine) gave a two-possession edge back to the Nor'easters, but it didn't last long as threes from Irwin and sophomore Maeve Foley (Wethersfield, Conn.) gave Curry their first lead of the half at 45-43. Chaput and Cavallaro would combine to score the next five points for UNE to retake the lead, but another Plunkett triple coupled with a converted free throw from Irwin sent the game into the deciding period with the hosts up just one at 50-49.

The teams put forward an exciting end to a close contest, as the match up saw five tie scores and six lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Perine started the scoring in the frame with a pair of free throws to take the lead, but a Cavallaro three gave the advantage right back to UNE. Just over two minutes later, Perine would put in a layup to pull the deficit back to one, before Irwin put in a pair from the charity stripe to take a 56-55 lead. UNE again would answer with a basket of their own, as Sabrina Johnson (Merrimack, N.H.) got a helper from Chaput. Johnson would again find the score sheet with a bucket with 4:15 remaining in regulation to go up 60-58. The Colonels knotted the score on their next possession with a layup underneath from Perine, but Nelson found Coneys behind the arc to break what would be the final tie of the evening. Trailing by four with just under two and a half to play, Irwin found the hoop again to bring the Colonels to within a possession at 65-63, but the jumper of their own from Coneys to reinstate the four point margin. One of Curry's defensive weapons, Bamford, got whistled for her fifth personal, as she fouled out on the offensive side of the ball on an illegal screen call. UNE took advantage of the missing piece, as they chewed clock and converted from the free throw line to seal their guests' fate. Shooting woes that hurt the Colonels earlier in the match up came back to rear its ugly head over the final minutes of the match up, as Irwin's basket would stand as their last points, as the Nor'easters finished with a 72-63 conference win.

Both Coneys and Cavallaro paced the hosts with 18 points apiece, while Chaput poured in 16 to go along with a team high five helpers. Coneys and Johnson ruled the boards, each pulling in nine rebounds. Curry saw impressive offensive efforts from several starters, as four players posted double digit scoring days in Leal (10), Plunkett (11), Irwin (16), and Perine, who registered a game high 21 points while posting nine boards of her own. Bamford recorded five assists despite only playing 22 minutes, while Irwin snatched five steals.

Curry will play next on Saturday, February 2 at 1:00 p.m. at Western New England in more CCC action, as the Colonels look to build on a January 12 victory over WNE. The Nor'easters will also continue league play as they travel to face Salve Regina, also on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., their first match up with the Seahawks since a 29 point UNE win earlier this month.

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