On Wednesday night, the Binghamton women’s basketball team entered the America East (AE) playoffs as the No. 6 seed, facing a quarterfinals matchup against No. 3 seeded Maine. In a game that constantly stayed competitive with 15 lead changes over its course, BU could not deepen its run into the postseason, falling 64-54.

“Just really proud of this team,” said Binghamton head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. “I asked them to leave everything out there and play their hardest and don’t leave anything to chance, and they did. They just battled.”

The game’s back-and-forth nature was set in motion by a tight first quarter. Despite the Bearcats (13-17, 6-10 AE) only gaining the lead over the Black Bears (16-13, 11-5 AE) early in the opening 10 minutes, the visitors remained constantly on the tail of their opponents — never trailing by more than four points. This was helped by BU’s defensive efforts just as much as their offensive, particularly when senior guard Denai Bowman managed a steal to allow a fast-break opportunity, where redshirt freshman guard Jadyn Weltz converted to give Binghamton its only lead of the period. The close quarter was slightly stretched in its closing seconds as a Maine 3-pointer put the home team ahead 14-10.

The second quarter remained just as, if not more, competitive than the first as Binghamton found an early groove, going on a 7-0 run to put the score at 17-14 two minutes into the period. Bowman once again ran the show for the Bearcats, scoring eight of her team’s 14 points in the second. BU, however, could not hold onto the lead it had gained and entered the half trailing by one point, with the score at 25-24.

“We played a great lockdown first half,” Shapiro Ord said. “We turned them over 11 times in the first half. We were able to score 15 points on those turnovers. We did a lot of really good things and the kids, like I said, they just battled. It was a crazy atmosphere with the football players above us, and the place was packed and its a small venue, but the girls weren’t bothered by that, they didn’t care. Unfortunately, [in] the fourth quarter we didn’t turn them over as much in the second half, but it was just a hard-fought battle, and I’m really really proud of this group.”

In the third quarter, more Bearcats began getting involved in order to keep up with the constant scoring of the Black Bears. A 3-pointer by sophomore forward Genevieve Coleman and fast break efforts from redshirt freshman guard Ella Wanzer — as well as defensive work from senior guard Clare Traeger — highlighted the two-way hustle BU had to bring in order to stay alive. Bowman’s continuous effort and leadership on both ends of the court also contributed to an effective degree, but Maine was able to find a gap by the end of the third, gaining a five-point lead at 46-41 going into the final quarter.

“They’ve just been incredible young ladies to coach,” Shapiro Ord said. “The way they’ve grown since they’ve been here, it’s just awesome and that’s why I’m in the business, to help these players grow on and off the court. And their work ethic, [Bowman] and [Traeger], they are always in the gym, they are always trying to get better, they’re such high-character kids. They did whatever it took for this team, and this is a very, very close team — which I’m very proud of — and it’s because of their senior leaders. They’re great, great young ladies and I’m very lucky and blessed to have this opportunity to coach them and to coach a little bit longer.”

In the fourth quarter, however, the Black Bears and their home crowd of supporters were able to take control. Binghamton brought the score to a three-point game early on in the frame and showed signs of keeping the contest close, but the hosts continued to keep their foot on the gas, not conceding BU the lead for the rest of the game.

The game ended 64-54, ending Binghamton’s 2022-23 season while Maine advances to the next round of the AE tournament. The Bearcats were still able to honor some of their best performers this year in the AE awards. Bowman received an All-Second team selection, as well as joining Weltz on the All-Defensive team. Weltz was also honored alongside fellow redshirt freshman Wanzer. Both were selected to the All-Rookie team.

“I wanted to keep playing, and I feel like this team has so much ability,” Shapiro Ord said. “It’s such a young team that’s really fun to watch, and I’m excited to see how our future comes, but we’ve got so many young kids that didn’t have a lot of experience and made such big impacts, like Ella Wanzer and Jadyn Weltz — both being on the All-Rookie team. Our older kids, they did such a great job of embracing the process and that’s what it’s about, really loving the process and one step at a time. But just an incredible group of young ladies. Sad that it’s over again, but it’s back to work — the off-season is where you win championships.”