CGA women win their 12th straight

New London - Not too long ago, Coast Guard Academy looked nothing like the inspired and unselfish basketball team that cruised to a convincing New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference quarterfinals victory on Wednesday night.

Before the Bears reached this stage in their development, they needed a jolt from coach Alex Ivansheck.

Ivansheck kicked the Bears out of their team locker room following a loss at MIT on Jan. 17.

"She showed us that we had to earn our uniform and earn the name...," junior Meghan Fornaro said. "(Her message) was we weren't playing like a team.We were playing like individuals. If we wanted to earn back the team locker room, we had to come together as a team."

Coast Guard (19-7) hasn't lost since, extending its school record setting winning streak to 12 straight with an 81-56 rout of sixth-seeded MIT Wednesday. It will be hard for the Bears to top their performance.

They shared the basketball, assisting on a remarkable 27 of 32 field goals. They buried 10 of their first 15 3-pointers before missing their final five attempts. They hustled for loose balls and rebounds.

In its previous game, Coast Guard needed to rally from a 20-point deficit to beat MIT, 58-55, in the regular-season finale on Saturday.

There was no suspense this time. After trailing by five in the first four minutes, they seized control with a 20-3 spurt and eventually built an 18-point halftime lead. They never let up in the second half.

"We played with a lot of confidence tonight," Fornaro said.

After the game, the Bears could be heard celebrating their win in their team locker room. They've come along way since Ivansheck's wake-up call.

"They've responded," Ivansheck said. "We've got kids diving out of bounds and fighting hard. We've just become a lot more physical. We had it in us but we just weren't getting it yet.

"I think it took awhile. At first, they all thought I was crazy. I wanted to hear feedback from them. The days following we really had good communication and they were able to see the pieces fall into place."

The third-seeded Bears received contributions for a variety of players on Wednesday.

Fornaro, the team's leading scorer, finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and junior Torie Sutherland had 13 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Gill Gerton had a career-best 18 points and 10 rebounds and fellow reserve Dani Knox added 12 points.

Coast Guard advances to the NEWMAC semifinals for the first time since the 2007-08 season. The Bears will face second-seeded Wheaton at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Springfield College. They won both regular season meetings.

"You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and that's what we're doing," Gerton said. "We've really had a chance to grow as a team. The Florida trip helped us with our chemistry and the hardships taught us to trust each other more."

Coast Guard believes it is capable of winning the NEWMAC championship.

"They're hungry and they want it and they believe...," Ivansheck said. "I told the girls this, I don't care who we play or when we play, I'll play anyone."

g.keefe@theday.com Twitter: @GavinKeefe

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