Stony Brook, Vermont Earn Date in America East Championship Game With Thrilling Wins
Stony Brook got a last-second tip in from Dallis Joyner as time expired to beat fourth-seeded Albany, 57-55, in the first semifinal of the day while Vermont outlasted sixth-seeded Hartford, 77-73 in double overtime, in the second semifinal. The two teams will decide the 2012 champion on Saturday, March 10 at Stony Brook Arena at 11:02 a.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
In the first semifinal, the Seawolves (22-8), who are seeking their first league title, outrebounded the Great Danes, 45-26, en route to earning their second straight championship game appearance. The regular-season champions jumped out to an early 14-7 on Albany, which was trying for its third title-game appearance. The Seawolves extended that lead to seven when Bryan Dougher canned a three-pointer to make it 17-10 with 13:39 left.
The Great Danes (19-14) responded with a 9-0 run on three-pointers by Mike Black, Gerardo Suero and Jayson Guerrier, and grabbed a 24-23 lead on Suero's layup with 7:36 left. That lead was extended to 3:12 later on Luke Devlin's three, one of seven the Danes canned in the half. The Seawolves, one the top defensive teams in the country, held Albany scoreless for the rest of the period and tied the game at 31 before the break.
First-team all-conference choice Bryan Dougher hit the first two baskets of the second half, but Albany countered with seven straight points, including a three-pointer by Guerrier, which gave his team a 42-37 lead at the 16:38 mark. The Seawolves dominated the middle portion of the stanza, scoring 16 of the game's next 21 points to take a 53-47 lead with 5:08 to play. But the Great Danes, who had won four of its last five entering the tournament, did not go quietly and tied the game at at 55 on Jacob Iati's three, his first points of the game, with 37 seconds left.
That allowed Stony Brook to have one last chance. Dave Coley's game-winning attempt, an 18-foot jumper, just beat the shot clock, but missed and Joyner tipped it back in to secure the finals appearance. Dougher led Stony Brook with 15 points while Joyner added 14 and eight rebounds. Suero paced Albany with a game-high 17 points.
"Albany was terrific today and it was a great college basketball game, fortunately we came out on top," said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell. "Guys stepped up and we played great defense. I’m real pleased with the outcome and we look forward to going home.”
The second semifinal, which featured 26 ties and 11 lead changes, ended with Vermont (22-11) earning its seventh title game appearance since 2003. The Catamounts, winners of 14 of their last 15 games, took a four-point lead (17-13) 8:12 into the first half, which was the largest by either team at that point on a Clancy Rugg free throw.
Hartford (9-22), which was trying to reach the championship game for just the second time in school history, rallied by scoring 13 of the game's next 18 points. Andres Torres, who had a game-high tying 18 points before fouling out, drained a three pointer with six minutes left to give the Hawks a 26-22 lead.
The two teams bookended the halves with runs. Vermont closed the first on an 11-0 spurt to take a 38-30 lead into the break. Then, Hartford scored the first seven points of the second and led 39-38 with 15:47 left. That's when America East Rookie of the Year Four McGlynn left his imprint on the game, scoring 13 of his 16 points in a 2:45 span and gave Vermont a 53-46 lead, its largest of the game, with 10:32 remaining.
But the Hawks did not go away, using an 11-0 run that was capped by Genesis Maciel's three from the right side to take a 57-53 advantage with 6:10 left. Vermont was able to even the score and took one point lead with 1:12 left. The two teams swapped the lead by trading free throws before Mark Nwakamma's jumper gave Hartford a 62-60 lead with 33 second left. Hartford appeared to be heading to Stony Brook, but Luke Apfeld slipped through the defense and delivered a dunk with nine seconds left to send the game overtime tied at 62.
Vermont thwarted defeat again in the first extra session as Sandro Carissimo, who notched 18 points, hit a short jumper with eight seconds left to tie the game at 68. Yolonzo Moore II almost won it for Hartford, but his runner fell of the rim and the game went to a second extra session, the first tournament game to do so since 1983.
Moore hit a key basket in the second OT, giving his team a 73-71 lead with 1:43 left. But the resilient Cats hit back-to-back layups by Matt Glass and Carissimo, who hit his with just 12 seconds left to give his team a 75-73 lead with 12 ticks left. Maciel missed a three on the other end and Luke Apfeld sank two free throws on the other end to seal it. Maciel had 15 points for Hartford, while Mark Nwakamma added 14 points and eight rebounds. Glass and Apfeld joined Carissimo and McGlynn in twin figures with 15 and 13, respectively.
“(I) tip my hat to Hartford, that was a heck of a game, just a great basketball game," said Vermont head coach John Becker. "It was a great college environment and it was really just great to be part of it.”