AUGUSTA — Hope Butler was a terrific all-around athlete at Oceanside High School as she toiled in soccer, basketball and lacrosse and, after graduation, decided to attend the University of Maine.

While her new educational institution certainly met Butler’s criteria for liberal studies, she still had a sports itch to scratch so she walked on to play for the school’s women’s basketball squad.

University of Maine in Augusta’s Hope Butler (11) shoots a foul shot in a game at the Augusta Civic Center. UMA Athletics/Jeff Lamb

Those involved with the Moose hoop program sure are pleased she did.

Butler, now a junior, has been the team’s point guard since her freshman year. In 23 games this season (before the national tournament), she averaged 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, shot 34.3 percent from the floor, 22.8 percent from three-point range and 63.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Wearing jersey number 11, the slender, lightning-quick, 5-foot 5-inch student-athlete also has helped UMA finish 17-8, including 12-2 in the Yankee Small College Conference, as the squad averaged 67 points.

And, to top it off, the Moose are the number seven team in the country for United States College Athletic Association Division II and have concluded their play in the national small college tournament, which began on Monday, March 7 against No. 10 Penn State Fayette of Lemont Furnace, Pa. in Richmond, Va.

At Statesman Hall on the Richard Bland College campus, the No. 7 Moose beat Penn State 54-48 in overtime, as UMA led 12-10 and 18-16 after the first two quarter breaks, but trailed 31-23 after three before the contest was tied 43-43 at the end of regulation. UMA outscored Penn State 11-5 in OT to grab the victory.

Butler, a Rockland native, finished with a team-tying high of 15 points, while she made two three-pointers, 5-of-6 free throws and added three rebounds and three steals.

On Tuesday, March 8, UMA lost to No. 2 Central Maine Community College of Auburn (the eventual national champion) 45-39, after the Moose led 11-4 and 19-16 at the first two breaks before being outscored 29-20 the rest of the way. Butler finished with 10 points and two steals.

Butler and UMA also played in a consolation game against No. 8 Penn State Beaver of Monaca, Pa. on Wednesday, March 9, and pulled out another exciting OT win, this time 62-59 at Statesman Hall. UMA trailed 9-7 and 18-17 at the first two breaks, but led 36-30 after three before the game was tied 53-53 at the end of regulation. The Moose outscored Beaver 9-6 in the extra time.

Butler finished with eight points and eight rebounds. She made 3-of-6 field goals, including 2-of-3 three-pointers.

Games could be streamed, at a cost, by clicking here.

Butler was a smooth operator on the court in high school for the Mariners and has elevated her game in college.

“Hope is a terrific player and amazing teammate,” said UMA coach Heath Cowan. “As our primary point guard she gets us started. Her leadership on the offensive and defensive side of the ball is critical to our success.”

“I really enjoy playing with my teammates at UMA,” Butler said. “We are a true family. Five of us have played together since I was a freshman in 2019-2020 and the newer players really fit in well and we love one another. We work hard to bring out the best in one another and with coach Heath’s leadership we have really been able to play to our best abilities. I think we really are ‘more than the sum of our parts’ when we are on.”

Butler said the addition of Cowan as coach has given the program consistency and clear direction. “When the season started this year, we were without a coach, and by the time Heath joined us in October I had had three coaches since coming to UMA. Heath really cares about all of us, but is also tough and makes us want to be better.”

The 20-year-old Butler was named to the YSCC second team this winter.

“She is a great student-athlete and has done a great job representing our women’s basketball team and athletic department,” said UMA athletic director Chris Hart of Butler.

University of Maine in Augusta’s Hope Butler. UMA Athletics/Jeff Lamb

Butler’s success started as a freshman when she averaged 12.6 points. She started in 21 games during the 2019-2020 season as led the Moose offense at point guard. In her first season as a Moose, Butler accumulated 278 points, 59 assists and 54 steals.

The Moose played only three games in 2020-21 due to the pandemic as many closer conference opponents did not participate. The national tournament also was canceled.

“I can only say that my success is because of my teammates,” Butler said, adding she is “proud” she received YSCC player of the week during her freshman and junior years,  USCAA player of the week her freshman season and all-conference this year, “but I could not have done that without everyone else.”

The daughter of Michele Butler and Jim Butler said a few of her notable Moose teammates are Madeline Suhr, the newly-named YSCC player of year and all-conference selection, who also is up for USCAA player of year, as well as Sydney Leblanc, YSCC all-conference. Cowan was named coach of  year.

Before the national tourney, Hope said: “We are so excited to go to Richmond and the national championships. UMA has never won a game at nationals, so that is our first goal. If we win, we will play [Central Maine Community College] for a third time. We have a good shot making it far in the tournament.”

Hope said she has fond memories of her time competing in Oceanside-area youth, middle school and high school sports. “From when I started in kindergarten to when I graduated from Oceanside in 2019, I grew up with the same kids from start to finish. My biggest memories are playing sports with those girls and being able to watch each other grow up into the very talented young women we all have become today.”