CLICK HERE to read original article, written by Press Herald Staff Writer Kevin Thomas
The Monks keep shooting – and winning – while seeking three straight conference titles and NCAA tourney appearances.
STANDISH — During this 10-game winning streak the Saint Joseph's College women's basketball team is riding, the Monks have put in some fine performances.
"We played pretty well," said Coach Mike McDevitt in a rare allowance.
But then there are games like Tuesday night. "We're all very vulnerable," McDevitt said.
Oh, the Monks won, running their record to 11-1 overall and 4-0 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. But the 64-57 victory over Johnson & Wales (6-6, 2-1) was tougher than it had to be. The Wildcats trailed by only three with one minute left before Saint Joseph's pulled away.
"Not that we took that for granted … but you can see we're more human when you don't shoot it well," McDevitt said. "Good lesson learned."
It's likely a lesson the coach will harp on in Wednesday's practice.
"Coach doesn't let us let up. Practice is sometimes harder than the games," said senior forward Brianne Maloney of South Portland.
Exactly, chimed in junior Hannah Marks of Waldoboro. "We compete hard in practice," she said. "We feel confident but we know we have to work. I think that's what makes us pretty good."
The Monks could be headed for a best-ever season under McDevitt. That's saying something, considering this is McDevitt's 25th season in Standish with a 489-185 career record.
Saint Joseph's has 13 games left, including an anticipated Jan. 22 nonconference home game against the University of New England.
The Monks have the talent to match or exceed the past two seasons – 24-5 and 23-6 records, both with conference titles and NCAA tournament invitations.
This year's powerhouse is no surprise, not with four stellar juniors who have been starters or often-used regulars since they were freshmen – 5-foot-6 guard Kelsi McNamara (West Newbury, Massachusetts), the 5-10 Marks, 5-7 guard Julia Champagne (Brunswick) and 5-10 Emily Benway (Rochester, New Hampshire).
"We have a group that's pretty solid with a lot of experience," said McNamara, who leads the team with a 17.8 scoring average, 28 3-pointers and 58 assists.
McNamara is the daughter of a coach (John McNamara of Pentucket Regional High), who has sent two other children to Maine. Erin McNamara was a captain for the University of Southern Maine basketball team (Class of '14) and Corey McNamara was an all-star baseball pitcher for the Monks, graduating in 2016.
Kelsi McNamara has 1,084 career points. While usually deadly from the 3-point arc, she was 1 of 9 on Tuesday but still managed 18 points and five assists.
"Kelsi drives and she gets others open shots," Champagne said.
Marks got open Tuesday and scored 16 (4 of 7 on 3-pointers).
These Monks normally can shoot – including a school record 14 3-pointers against Husson last month. When they don't, Benway is there. She also scored 16 on Tuesday, with 13 rebounds (five offensive).
It's a balanced team. The four juniors all average double figures. The other starter, 5-9 senior Regan McFerran of Albany, New York., averages 7.7. Sophomore guard Julia Quinn of Fryeburg averages 6.5, and Maloney is good for 4.1 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
"The experience certainly is allowing us to play – at times – at a higher level," McDevitt said. "The learning curve was a lot shorter because of the returnees. We're probably a little further ahead than last year."
McNamara is the key. She scored her first two baskets Tuesday on drives. On the first, she flew past her defender and got an open look. On the second, McNamara – who can't weigh more than 100 pounds – bulled into traffic, kept control of the ball and put it in.
"She's a coach's kid. She's got basketball IQ and competitiveness," McDevitt said.
"She has the courage to go in there. She doesn't care who she's going against. Every shot she takes, she thinks it's going in. If it doesn't, she has the confidence to shoot it again."
This is a confident team. It has routed Maine rivals USM (69-41) and Colby (79-50), and was impressive in a 69-55 win at conference rival Emmanuel – the team Saint Joseph's defeated in the past two conference championship games.
That might make the Monks the favorite for a third straight title, but McDevitt will make sure his players learn a few lessons before they think about that.
Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 474-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.