West Hartford, Conn.-- The America East Conference named its women’s basketball all-conference teams and major award winners Thursday afternoon at the annual awards reception held on the University of Hartford campus, site of the 2011 America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship presented by Newman’s Own. The four pieces of individual hardware went to four different schools and were highlighted by 2011 Player of the Year Chantell Alford from Boston University.
The conference office also awarded the Coach of the Year to UMBC’s Phil Stern, the Rookie of the Year to Binghamton University’s Jasbriell Swain and the Defensive Player of the Year to University at Albany’s Ebone Henry. This year’s all-conference teams, including the all-academic team, are a young group consisting of five sophomores and just four seniors.
Alford, a guard out of West Haven, Conn., is just the sixth sophomore to take home the league’s top individual award. After capping off an outstanding freshman campaign with the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, Alford avoided a sophomore slump this season averaging a league-leading 15 points per game. A two-time Player of the Week, Alford scored 20 or more points six times. She was seventh in America East with a .426 field-goal percentage which ranked first among guards. Alford, a first-team and all-defensive team pick, also ranked 11th with 2.75 assists per game, sixth with a .792 free-throw percentage, fourth with 2.07 steals per game and 10th with 19 blocks (0.68 bpg). Adding another element to her game, Alford can also hit the three, ranking second with a .424 shooting percentage from beyond the arc and fifth with 1.89 made treys per game.
Stern, in his ninth season in Catonsville, led the Retrievers to the top seed and the program’s first-ever America East regular season crown. UMBC, which exceeded expectations after the coaches predicted it to finish fifth in the preseason poll, finished with a 13-3 conference record and a 19-10 overall mark. The Retrievers’ 19 wins are the most for the program since moving to Division I. This is Stern’s first America East Coach of the Year accolade.
Swain, a freshman guard out of Memphis, Tenn., has started all 29 games for the Bearcats this year and has won five Rookie of the Week awards from the league office. She is strong on the glass, averaging 7.9 rebounds per game, and had a 17-rebound performance against UMBC on February 2. Swain also ranks among the league leaders with 8.1 points, 1.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game, and has tallied six double-doubles.
Henry, a guard, is a first-team all-conference selection after earning all-rookie honors a year ago. The San Diego, Calif. native is second in America East and 42nd in Division I with 2.6 steals per game and leads a Great Danes squad which has forced opponents into 19.4 turnovers per game. Henry and the Albany defense has limited foes to 56.8 points per game, ranked 51st in the NCAA. She also averages 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Two Retrievers joined Alford and Henry on the all-conference first team. Junior forward Erin Brown (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) and sophomore Michelle Kurowski (Hicksville, N.Y./Hicksville) helped lead UMBC to a first-place finish during the regular season. Binghamton junior point guard Andrea Holmes (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), the conference’s active leader in career assists, rounded out the five-member first team.
The second-team selections were Binghamton junior forward Viive Rebane (Tallinn, Estonia/Audentes School), Boston U. sophomore guard Mo Moran (Hopewell Junction, N.Y./John Jay), New Hampshire junior forward Denise Beliveau (Framingham, Mass./Framingham), Stony Brook senior forward Kirsten Jeter (Elmont, N.Y./Elmont) and Vermont senior forward Tonya Young (Canaan, N.H./Mascoma Valley Regional).
Third-team honors went to Albany sophomore forward Julie Forster (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington), Boston U. senior center Kerry Cashman (Newfields, N.H./Exeter), Boston U. junior guard Alex Young (Hickory, N.C./St. Stephens), Hartford sophomore forward Ruthanne Doherty (Richmond, Va./L.C. Bird) and UMBC junior center Topé Obajolu (Randallstown, Md./Archbishop Carroll).
Forster, Henry, Alford, Obajolu and Jeter were all also named to the all-defensive team.
Swain headlined the all-rookie team as a unanimous selection along with University of Maine guard Ashleigh Roberts (Wilmington, Del./Concord). Joining them on the squad were Boston U. forward Rashidat Agboola (Methuen, Mass./Methuen), Hartford forward Taylor Clark (Sayre, Pa./Athens Area) and New Hampshire point guard Kelsey Hogan (Nashua, N.H./Nashua North).
Of the five all-academic selections, as voted on by conference sports information directors, faculty athletic representatives and academic counselors, three received Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District distinction earlier this season. Forster and Hartford senior Mary Silvia (Reading, Mass./Reading) were unanimous selections, while Beliveau, Kurowski and Rebane were also honored for both their work in the classroom and on the court.
All of the award winners will compete at the 2011 America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship presented by Newman’s Own beginning with tonight’s first-round game. All first, quarterfinal and semifinal games will be held at University of Hartford’s Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, with the championship game being held on Saturday, March 12 and hosted by the highest remaining seed.