BANGOR, Maine – Castleton stretched its lead as high as 19 points early in the fourth quarter and held off a late Maine Maritime rally to advance to its eighth straight NAC Title game with a 69-55 victory on Friday afternoon.
The Spartans shot 42.3 percent from the floor in the contest and recorded 11 steals as they improved to 21-5 overall. The Mariners made 31.9 percent of their attempts and went just 2-for-8 from downtown but did own a 39-24 rebounding edge.
Four Castleton players scored in double figures, led by Jade Desroches and Bryanna duPont with 16 points apiece. duPont added eight rebounds and three assists while Desroches recorded four assists and four steals. Amanda Beatty was strong inside with 15 points, four rebounds and three steals while Makayla Farrara chipped in 12 points.
Alayne Felix scored a game-high 21 points with six rebounds while Kristi Wiley added 11 rebounds, 11 points, four assists and three steals before fouling out. Megan McLean chipped in six points and six rebounds.
The Spartans jumped out a 9-3 lead on a layup by duPont, forcing a Maritime timeout. Castleton kept working and extended its lead to 17-8 on another layup by duPont with 3:52 left in the period off a nice feed from Taylor Raiche. The teams traded baskets over the final three minutes andMorgan Raiche blocked a jumper at the buzzer for a 19-12 lead after one quarter.
An early Mariner basket trimmed the deficit to five, but Castleton responded with the next six to push its lead to 25-14 at 7:25. The teams went back-and-forth over the next six minutes, and a free throw from Desroches made it 33-22 with 44 seconds left. However, McLean converted a free throw with 20 seconds left and then forced a turnover five seconds later. A basket by the Mariners with 12 seconds left them down just 33-25 at the break.
Castleton scored the first five points of the third quarter to stretch its lead to 38-25 just 1:29 into the period. The Mariners did trim the deficit to eight points two minutes later, but Lindsay Saboresponded with a three. The Spartans extended their lead to 14 points in the final two minutes and led 55-41 after three quarters.
Four minutes into the fourth Castleton extended their lead to 19 points, 60-41, at 6:15 on a triple by Farrara off a feed from Sabo. However, MMA responded with the next seven points to cut it to 60-48 just two minutes later. The Spartans countered with a run of their to pull in front 66-51 on a duPont layup with 2:06 left and the Mariners couldn't get closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Castleton now advances to face the winner of New England College and Husson on Saturday at 2 pm with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line.