Top sports stories of 2022: No. 10 — CMCC women’s basketball wins 3rd national title

The U.S. Small College National Champion Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team poses in the school’s gymnasium in March after arriving in Auburn after driving from a tournament in Virginia. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal sports staff has voted for the top sports stories of 2022 and will be counting down the top 10 through the end of the year.

The Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team continues to compete on the national stage in 2022.

In March, the program won its third straight USA Collegiate Athletic Association Division II national championship. CMCC also won in 2017 and 2019.

With the 2020-21 season canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mustangs entered the 2021-22 season with just one returner and 16 newcomers.

Despite the players’ lack of college basketball experience, Central Maine was determined to win a title from the start of the season.

“It was really fun and interesting because we’re all so young,” Strachan said after the team returned from the USCCA nationals. “I expected to go all the way, I think we all did, but I don’t think other teams did. We have had some challenges along the way. Some team issues, at the beginning we had some silly girl stuff, but we got through it all and we pulled it off.”

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Strachan, who played at Lewiston High School, followed in his mother’s footsteps to Central Maine State and played a key role as a freshman, leading the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and earning first-team USCAA All-American honors.

Central Maine finished the season 28-3, with two of those losses coming against the Yankee Small Collegiate Conference and Instate University of Maine-Augusta.

Sarah Pauley leads Central Maine Community College’s national championship women’s basketball team in a March home salute in the lobby of Kirk Hall on the school’s Auburn campus, as well as in their gymnasium. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

As fate would have it, the Mustangs and Moose met in the quarterfinals of the USCCA National Tournament in Richmond, Virginia after Central Maine won the YSCC title for the 5th straight year. Central Maine moved into the winner’s bracket with a 45-39 win over UMaine-Augusta.

Elisa Brault, the only player on the Mustangs’ roster to be named to the USCAA Second Team in 2019-20, led the team with 19 points.

“It was a special win and we played with a lot of confidence,” CMCC coach Andrew Morong said after the match. “As far as confidence goes, we’ve been really building and this game was the nail in the coffin and cemented everything for us.”

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Brawl remained the offensive catalyst in the semifinals, leading the team with 15 points in a 70-56 win over Cincinnati-Clermont. Luna Love and Safena Te Nana-Williams scored 12 points each.

Lewiston graduate Mya Nicholas, who played just one minute in the semifinals but did not play in the quarterfinals, represented the Mustangs in the national championship game, leading the Mustangs with 13 points in a 63-35 win over Penn State Schuylkill.

“I left it all on the field,” Nicholas said after the team returned from Virginia. “I knew it was the last game and I knew I had to leave everything and do what I had to do for my teammates.”

Morong said Strachan, Mia Nicholas and her twin Jamya Nicholas, Oxford Hills’ Jade Smedberg and Mountain Valley’s Kierstyn Lyons were all area standouts who were part of the Mustangs’ successful season.

“Mya, Jamya, Emily and Jade have all done different things for us,” Morong said. “Emily’s the shooter, Jade’s the defensive specialist, Jamaya’s our knife, Mya — who’s been talking about coming into the game and taking advantage of the moment — combined for a team-high 13 points in 30 seconds in the previous two games. I am very proud that four of your local children have been involved in the success of the program and it is special to the community.”

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The Mustangs, who are off to a 14-0 start to the 2022-23 season, are seeking their fourth straight state championship.

Luna Love, left, Kaleigh Thompson, center, and Kierstin Lyons of the Central Maine College women’s basketball team sit next to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II women’s basketball national championship trophy March 24 at Auburn College. to celebrate a third straight state championship in five years. The Mustangs defeated Penn State Schuylkill to win the title on March 10. Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque spoke at the event. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


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