After defeating No. 4 Bryant in the America East (AE) quarterfinals, the Binghamton women’s basketball team squared off against No. 1 Maine in the AE semifinals on Monday night, falling in the contest 64-58. Despite leading for the majority of the game, the Bearcats came up short after being outscored 24-13 in the fourth quarter and were eliminated from the AE playoffs by the Black Bears for the second straight season.

“We played a great game the whole time,” said Binghamton head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. ”[Maine is] a tough, tough place to play. Unfortunately, [Maine] came out on top … it was just a heart wrenching, heartbreaking loss because we were just so locked in.”

Binghamton (14-16, 9-9 AE) went up 4-0 to begin the game as redshirt sophomore guard Ella Wanzer and junior forward Genevieve Coleman scored inside, but Maine (24-9, 16-2 AE) responded with a 6-0 run of its own. The back and forth continued with redshirt sophomore guard Jadyn Weltz draining a three-pointer and freshman forward Kendall Bennett laying one in to make it 9-8. The Black Bears then gained momentum late in the quarter to take a 15-13 lead at the end of the first.

”We just were connected and taking care of everything,” Shapiro Ord said. “[Maine’s] points were off of our turnovers, which is really hard, and that was [what] kind of what kept them in the game. But our girls came out and did a great job with the game plan.”

Maine and Binghamton exchanged baskets to start the second quarter as the hosts maintained a 17-15 lead, before freshman guard Bella Pucci knotted it at 17 after knocking down two free throws. With the game tied again at 19-19, BU scored four straight points, courtesy of baskets from Bennett and Weltz, to take a 23-19 lead. The Bearcats held the Black Bears to four points on 2-of-17 shooting in the second quarter to bring a four point advantage into halftime.

”[The message at halftime was] to just keep taking care of the ball,” Shapiro Ord said. “[The goal was] to keep rebounding the basketball and [to] not give them extra opportunities. [Maine is] a really good shooting team, and [we had to] stay locked in on defense.”

Maine came out of halftime hitting two free throws to cut the BU lead to 23-21. Weltz responded with another three-pointer to extend Binghamton’s lead to five. Down the stretch, a 7-2 run, spearheaded by Weltz, gave BU a 35-27 lead. Later in the period, graduate student guard Denai Bowman made back to back layups to give BU its first double digit advantage at 39-29. However, the Black Bears stayed within striking distance, cutting the Bearcats’ lead to five at 45-40 going into the fourth quarter.

“[Weltz] left it out there — she was tremendous,” Shapiro Ord said. “She was shooting, she was scoring [and] she was taking it to the basket. [Weltz] and [Bowman] — it was like back to back to back with those two scoring. On both ends of the floor, [Weltz] and [Bowman] played tremendous.”

Opening up the fourth quarter, Bowman completed a three point play to give BU a 48-40 lead. Later in the frame, the momentum then shifted as Maine took advantage of second chance opportunities and went on a 12-0 run to capture the lead at 55-51. The Black Bears scored 11 points off BU turnovers in the quarter. Weltz got BU back on the board with a layup along with two free throws to cut the Maine lead to 57-55. With 10 seconds remaining, Weltz hit a three pointer to make it a three point game. However, Black Bears pulled away, icing the game at the charity stripe to secure a 64-58 victory.

“Second chance opportunities of off of our turnovers really hurt us,” Shapiro Ord said. “[Maine] had some offensive boards that lead points for them … [Maine’s graduate student guard Anne Simon] really picked it up. It was a physical game.”

Binghamton’s season ends at the hands of the Black Bears for the second year straight, after falling to Maine in the AE quarterfinals to end its 2022-23 season. On a positive note, Binghamton garnered three all-conference selections. Bowman and Weltz were both named to the AE all-conference second team and Coleman captured a spot on the AE all-conference third team. In addition, Bowman also earned AE all defensive honors for the fourth time in her illustrious career at BU.

“I’m just so proud,” Shapiro Ord said. “[Bowman] for her five years, getting [all defensive team] for four years … is incredible … what she’s accomplished and what she’s done for the program is awesome. Such a bright future for [Weltz], only a sophomore, and [Coleman] … I’m just really excited for what’s to come but very proud of every one of them.”

Ultimately, while disappointed, Shapiro Ord is proud of how her team battled against top seeded Maine. Going into next year, with the loss of Bowman, Shapiro Ord expressed that Bowman’s absence will be difficult to fill. However, she is confident that as the team continues to grow together and with players learning from their experiences this past year, they will be in strong shape going into next season.

“To keep keeping at it and keep grinding is a testament to them of how hard they work and how hard they want it,” Shapiro Ord said. “A focus will be from the beginning. In summer, [the focus is] a lot of offense, but also rebounding and just continuing to grow together as a unit and just sticking together. This team has really tremendous young ladies, and they work really hard.”