CASTLETON, Vt. – For the seventh time in the 16 years that Castleton University has been a member of the North Atlantic Conference, the Spartans will host the NAC Women's Basketball Tournament semifinals and finals this weekend, Feb. 23-24, at Glenbrook Gymnasium.
Top seed Castleton hosts fourth seed Maine Maritime in the first semifinal of the tournament Friday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. The second semifinal between second seed Colby-Sawyer and third seed Husson Friday at 8 p.m., as well as the championship game Saturday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m., will also take place at Glenbrook Gym.
Castleton won the NAC regular season title with a 16-2 league record as part of a 21-4 overall record, the sixth time in the past seven seasons the Spartans have won at least 20 games. The Spartans finished the regular season with seven wins in their last eight games, capped by a 69-36 victory over Green Mountain last Saturday to clinch home court advantage for the tournament.
Led by NAC Coach of the Year Tim Barrett, the Spartans have once again depended on tough defense for their success, sitting in ninth in Division III in scoring defense by allowing just 49.3 points per game. Opponents have found it difficult to make field goals against the Spartans, as Castleton is 13th in the country in field goal percentage defense at 32.2 percent.
Castleton is also taking advantage of its scoring opportunities, shooting 74.6 percent as a team from the free throw line, currently 17th in the country. Spurring that high percentage is First Team All-NAC performer Makayla Farrara, who has made 36 consecutive free throw attempts to move into fifth in Division III in free throw percentage at 90 percent.
Farrara leads the Spartans in scoring at 14.3 points per game, followed by fellow First Team All-NAC selection Amanda Beatty with 12.1 points per contest. Ashlie Fay, the NAC Defensive Player of the Year, leads Castleton with 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.0 steals per game, plus she is in the top 50 in the country in five different statistical categories (42nd in total assists, 44th in assist-to-turnover ratio, 45th in steals per game, 47th in assists per game, 49th in total steals).
Maine Maritime advanced to the semifinals with a 57-37 victory over Lyndon Tuesday night, improving to 19-7 overall. The Mariners have won 12 of their last 13 games, with all but one of those victories coming by double digits. As a team, Maine Maritime is scoring 64.4 points and allowing 51.2 points per game, plus the Mariners are shooting 40.0 percent from the field, including 31.4 percent from behind the three-point line, and 65.4 percent from the free throw line.
Alayne Felix earned First Team All-NAC recognition after leading the Mariners with 16.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, plus she is shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 79.2 percent from the free throw line. Melinda Ogden is contributing 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, and Megan McLean leads the team with 3.5 assists per game to go along with 7.0 points per contest.
Castleton swept the series from Maine Maritime during the regular season, starting with a 65-57 victory Dec. 8, led by Alexis Quenneville with 19 points. The Spartans also won the rematch Jan. 27, 65-54, with Beatty scoring 13 points and Fay contributing seven points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and one blocked shot.
This will be the eighth meeting between Castleton and Maine Maritime in the NAC Tournament, with the Spartans winning five of the first seven contests. Friday's game will be the seventh straight time the Spartans and the Mariners are meeting in the semifinals, with Castleton winning the last four games between the two teams after Maine Maritime prevailed in both 2006 and 2007.
As the second seed, Colby-Sawyer also enjoyed a bye into the semifinals after posting a 15-3 record within the NAC as part of a 20-5 overall mark. Like Castleton, Colby-Sawyer also possesses a strong defense, as the Chargers are 11th in Division III in field goal percentage defense at 32.0 percent and 19th in both scoring defense, allowing just 50.4 points per game, and three-point field goal percentage defense at 24.9 percent.
Three Chargers received Second Team All-NAC recognition, including leading scorer and rebounder Tianna Sugars with 14.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Lexie Hamilton is scoring 13.2 points per game, plus she is third in Division III with 6.8 assists per contest, while Emmani Robinson is contributing 12.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, plus she is shooting 54.6 percent from the field.
After winning the conference tournament as host in each of the past two seasons, Husson entered this year's tournament as the third seed and advanced to the semifinals with a 56-45 victory over New England College Tuesday night. The Eagles are 17-9 overall, winning nine of their last 10 games, as they are scoring 66.7 points and allowing 59.1 points per game, plus they are shooting 38.3 percent from the field, including 28.6 percent from behind the three-point line, and 67.5 percent from the free throw line.
Kenzie Worcester is a First Team All-NAC honoree after averaging 19.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game during the regular season, plus she is shooting 50.6 percent from the field, including 39.5 percent from behind the three-point line, and 82.6 percent from the free throw line. Sami Ireland received Second Team All-NAC honors after contributing 9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds.
Colby-Sawyer swept the regular season series from Husson, squeaking out a 54-53 victory in Maine on Jan. 12 before defeating the Eagles Feb. 3 in New Hampshire, 80-72. Castleton split its games with both Colby-Sawyer and Husson this season, while Maine Maritime split with Colby-Sawyer but was swept by Husson.
Tickets for each day of the tournament are $4 for adults and $2 for students, with children under 12 receiving free admission. The Northeast Sports Network (www.nsnsports.net/colleges/castleton/) will stream all three games over the weekend, and live stats will also be available through the Castleton athletics website (www.castletonsports.com).