Albany, Hartford Advance; Will Meet in Semifinals
ALBANY, N.Y. - Fifth-seeded Hartford and top-seeded Albany setup a 2013 title game rematch in Sunday's 2014 America East Women's Basketball Championship semifinals, as both advanced with victories in the second quarterfinal session at SEFCU Arena on Friday night. Albany used a late run to get past No. 8 Bighamton, 77-59, and Hartford won an overtime thriller over No.4 Maine, 63-62. The 2014 semifinals will be played on Sunday, March 9, with No. 1 Albany and No. 5 Hartford at 11 a.m. following by No. 2 Stony Brook and No. 3 New Hampshire at 1:15 p.m.
Shereesha Richards and Imani Tate each scored 18 points as top-seeded Albany pulled away from a second half charge by eighth-seeded Binghamton to defeat the Bearcats, 77-59, in the third quarterfinal of the 2014 America East Women's Basketball Championship at SEFCU Arena Friday evening.
The two-time defending champion Great Danes move on to the semifinals Sunday at 11 a.m. (ESPN3) when they will face the winner of the final quarterfinal between #4 Maine and #5 Hartford. Albany (26-4) now has won six-straight games in the tournament and advances to the semifinals for the third straight season after making just two trips in its first 10 seasons in the conference.
Richards, the 2014 America East Player of the Year, scored nine in the first 20 minutes as Albany shot a blistering 65% (22-for-34) en route to a 47-27 halftime lead, the fifth highest shooting percentage in a half in an America East tournament game.
The gritty Bearcats, who lost to Albany by 51 points in their last meeting rallied after the break as Stephanie Jensen hit back-to-back threes in an 8-0 run to start the second half. The teams traded hoops before four points by Binghamton's Kandace Newry and a pair of free throws by Vaneesha Paulk made it a 10-point game with six minutes left.
Albany had struggled from the floor in the second half making just three of its first 18 shots before Tate hit three straight as they regained control of the contest. A freshman reserve guard, Tate came into the game averaging just under four points per game but led an excellent effort off the bench as Albany's non-starters accounted for 30 points.
Albany shot 55% for the game and out-rebounded the Bearcats by a 44-24 margin with Tate hauling down a game-high nine. Albany's other first team all-conference selection, center Megan Craig added 12 points along with Sarah Royals, who also had eight assists. Royals also set a new single-season assist record for the Great Danes, now with 141 on the campaign.
Binghamton (5-25) was paced by Sherae Swinson led all scorers with 21 points, 13 in the second half comeback bid. She also shot 10-for-19 from the floor as the Bearcats were 42% for the game. Morgan Murphy added 13 and seven boards.Freshman Deanna Mayza tallied four of her 12 points in the game's last 16 seconds as fifth-seeded Hartford edged fourth-seeded Maine, 63-62 in an overtime thriller in the fourth quarterfinal of the 2014 America East Women's Basketball Championship at SEFCU Arena Friday evening.
After winning the tournament's first overtime game since the 2009 quarters, the Hawks move on to the semifinals for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons and will face two-time defending champion and top seeded Albany Sunday at 11 a.m. (ESPN3).
Tied at 52-all after regulation, Liz Wood's trey gave Maine a one-point edge before the Hawks answered with a long ball by Shanise Bultron to go on top 59-57. They extended the lead to four on a shot-clock beating basket by Mayza with 16 seconds left, and forced a defensive stop at the other end. Mayza added two more free throws with 6.1 seconds left before Maine's Sigi Koizar's trey at 0.2 on the clock made the final margin.
Hartford led from the onset making its first five shots including two threes and maintained the advantage for the game's first 26-plus minutes. The remainder of the thriller featured eight ties and eight lead changes with four lead changes coming in OT.
The Black Bears' Lauren Bodine drilled a three-pointer right before halftime to cut Hartford's big early lead to 28-23 at the break. The Hawks held Maine in the first 20 minutes to just 28% from the floor and 5-for-18 from three-point range while hitting four-of-six of their own three-pointers and 48% overall.
The Hawks came out of halftime like the start of the game and quickly regained a double-digit lead on Morgan Lumb's three-pointer before Maine's perimeter offense came alive. The Black Bears came all the way back to tie the game at 35-35 on a trey by Ashleigh Roberts. Three minutes later a driving layup by Roberts made it 39-38 to give Maine its first lead.
Another bucket by Roberts tied it at 50-50 with 3:18 to go before Alyssa Englert gave Hartford a two-point edge with a layup with two minutes left. Maine answered with a Sigi Koizar put-back with 1:14 to go to tie it at 52-all and forced a Hartford turnover on the next possession. The Hawks got the ball back on a steal by Lumb with nine seconds to go but a miss on the last shot of regulation forced an extra session.
Amber Bepko finished with 16 points with four three-pointers to lead the Hawks. In addition to Mayza, who went six-for-seven from the line, Alyssa Englert added 10 including a big bucket in overtime. The Hawks finished with a 43% effort from the field in 45 minutes.
Roberts led all scorers with 20 on nine-of-16 shooting in her final college game. Bodine and Liz Wood each added 11 as Maine wrapped up its season at 16-14, a huge improvement over its four wins a year ago.
The Black Bears hit nine three-pointers on the night in 32 attempts and finished with an America East single-season record 231, eclipsing the previous record of 223 set by UMBC in 2007-08. Their 32 attempts in the game tied a conference tournament single-game mark.