The amazing ride continues for the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team, which is the No. 1 team in the nation according to two of the major Division III polls.
Coach Gary Fifield’s Huskies are 13-1 coming off Tuesday night’s Little East Conference victory over Rhode Island College. They are ranked first in both the D3hoops.com poll and the USA Today/ESPN/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Coaches Poll.
Southern Maine has won four straight after suffering a loss at Salem State (Mass.) on Dec. 17.
A quartet of former eastern Maine high school standouts are leading the way for the Huskies.
Ashley Marble of Topsfield (Woodland) is USM’s top scorer (16.4 points per game) and rebounder (10.1 rpg). The 5-foot-9 senior forward is shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line and 52 percent from 3-point range.
Donna Cowing, a senior from Weeks Mills (Erskine Academy), is averaging 8.9 ppg while shooting 79 percent from the foul line. The fiery guard leads the team with 30 steals (2.1 spg) and ranks second with 36 assists (2.6 apg).
Calais native Katie Frost is another of the Huskies’ standouts. The senior guard has contributed 7.2 ppg while shooting 83 percent on her free throws. She tops USM with 71 assists (5.1 apg).
Katie Sibley, a junior guard, hails from Boothbay. She has posted 5.9 ppg and is an 80 percent free-throw shooter.
The Huskies also get contributions from junior guard Lindsey Welch of Newport (Nokomis).
Southern Maine is shooting for its 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth and is hoping to return to the Final Four after advancing there last season.
Happy returns for Phillips
A year ago, Walter Phillips was a man without a program, and not really a heck of a lot of direction, either.
The 2002 BDN All-Maine basketball second-team member and former Deering High School guard has become a vital member of the University of Southern Maine men’s team after a year away from organized ball.
“After I got out of Bridgton Academy, I went to a junior college in Massachusetts,” said the Portland native. “Then I was out of school for about a year and that was kind of tough. I gained a lot of weight, about 35 pounds.”
Then came a call from USM coach Karl Henrickson, who heard about Phillips from a mutual friend and asked about his interest in returning to college.
“Coach and I kind of connected really well. I believed in what he was talking about, and he got me in shape, Phillips recalled. “It was a wrap from there. He’s just a great coach.”
The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard is the 9-5 Huskies’ second-leading scorer with 12 points per game and also is averaging 3.4 rebounds.
“This was the right fit for me. I love the system and the way this all feels,” Phillips said.
Phillips is also getting into the flow as a passer (team-leading 4.6 assists per game) and defensive presence.
“Walter’s a big-time athlete with a huge upside,” Henrickson said. “He’s a guy that when he comes down the floor, he’s such a threat that he draws people to him and opens up other guys.”
Jordan shines at Wheaton
Matt Jordan of Ellsworth had a strong performance last weekend while competing for the Wheaton College (Mass.) men’s swimming and diving team.
The sophomore earned two individual victories and swam on a winning relay squad in the Lyons’ meet against Coast Guard.
Jordan won the 100-yard backstroke in 54.90 seconds and claimed the 200-yard individual medley in 2:06.00. He also helped Wheaton’s 200-yard medley relay squad, one that also included Belfast junior Matt Hurley, take a win in 1:38.60.
Gallant staying busy at Tufts
Aaron Gallant of Bangor has been busy during his freshman year at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
While immersed in a competitive academic environment, Gallant is amidst his second season as a varsity athlete.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder saw action in one game as a defensive back for the Jumbos’ 2-6 football team last fall.
Now, Gallant is on the Tufts men’s basketball roster. The tenacious guard has appeared in eight games for the 9-2 Jumbos, averaging 1.1 points and 3.8 minutes per contest.