Albany Captures Program's First Title To Punch NCAA Ticket
ALBANY, N.Y.-- Tournament Most Outstanding Player Ebone Henry helped lead number two seeded University at Albany capture its first-ever America East Women's Basketball Championship in as many title game appearances and punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes earned the title Saturday night at SEFCU Arena with their 10th straight win, 69-61 over No. 5 UMBC.
Henry, a junior guard, and teammate senior Cassandra Callaway each scored 23 points in Albany's win. Also named the Defensive Player of the Year, Henry averaged 16.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 3.3 spg in the tournament to take home the championship's top individual honor.
The Great Danes (23-9), in the midst of the program's first 20-win season since joining the Division I ranks, will find out their postseason fate Monday night at 7 p.m. during the NCAA Selection Special live on ESPN.
"When the buzzer went off, I was speechless. I really think my mind went blank," said Henry. "I would've never thought we'd be in this position. We're going dancing."
Albany junior forward Julie Forster led all players with 13 rebounds while adding two assists, two blocks and three steals. Forster, Callaway and Henry were all named to the all-tournament team.
UMBC seniors Erin Brown and Michelle Kurowski rounded out the all-tournament team and were two of the four Retrievers to score in double-digits in Saturday night's title game. Brown finished with 10 points and six rebounds, Kurowski tallied 10 points, four rebounds and five assists, and classmate Tope Obajolu scored a team-high 16 points.
Albany, the top defensive team in the conference during the regular season, forced 16 UMBC turnovers and held the Retrievers to 3-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. UMBC outrebounded Albany 37-33 and both teams shot about even (UMBC, 45 percent; Albany, 45.5 percent) from the floor.
The Great Danes nearly led from wire-to-wire with their only deficits being 2-1 and 4-3 in the first few minutes of the game. Henry and Callaway each drained three-pointers early in the game to build up an 11-4 advantage for the home team at the 15:04 mark of the first half.
Albany led 34-27 at halftime, with Callaway and Henry already in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively, and the Great Danes shooting 52 percent from the field.
UMBC (17-15) clawed its way back to tie the game at 48 a piece with 7:53 remaining on a Kristin Coles jumper. The Retrievers were still within one, 52-51 with 5:29 remaining before Albany embarked on an 11-3 run over the next three and a half minutes to seal the win.
Callaway hit all four of her free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds, and senior Adrienne Jones put the exclamation mark on the victory with a made layup off a long baseline inbounds pass with just nine seconds left.