Albany Captures Third Straight WBB Title
ALBANY, N.Y. – The top-seeded University at Albany Great Danes became just the fourth program in America East history to capture three-straight tournament titles, earning a, 70-46, victory over second-seeded Stony Brook in the 2014 championship game on Monday at SEFCU Arena.
Albany joins Maine (1995-98), Vermont (1992-94) and Northeastern (1985-87) as the only teams to win three-straight titles. Led by tournament Most Outstanding Player, Shereesha Richards, the Great Danes played stifling defense to earn the conference’s automatic berth to the 2014 NCAA tournament. Richards, who scored a game-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, was joined on the All-Tournament Team by junior Megan Craig.
Also earning All-Tournament selections were Stony Brook’s Jessica Ogunnorin and Chikilra Goodman along with Hartford’s Amber Bepko.
Albany, which led the America East in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense, held Stony Brook to 24.5% shooting for the game, the lowest field goal percentage in a final in tournament history. The Great Danes coupled that by forcing 22 turnovers , 18 by way of the steal, which is the most recorded in a title contest.
Junior guard Sarah Royals finished with 19 points and eight assists in the final, matching a tournament record set by Maine’s Amy Vachon back in 1999 with 24 total helpers. Tammy Phillip added 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Stony Brook had three players in double figures with Sabre Proctor and Brittany Snow scoring 12 apiece. Ogunnorin added 10 and seven rebounds.
The Great Danes zone defense held Stony Brook to 21% shooting (5-of-24) in the first half, to take a 36-20 lead into the break.
Albany set the tone early, forcing four turnovers through the first three minutes to take a 6-0 lead and force a quick SBU timeout. Albany finished the half with eight steals, scoring nine points off 10 Stony Brook turnovers.
A 10-0 run that featured eight points from the Player of the Year, Richards, built the advantage to 24-8 at the 8:52 mark. The sophomore had 12 in the first half despite sitting the final 6:23 due to foul trouble. Her frontcourt partner, Craig, also sat for the final 8:29 wit two fouls, but Albany still outscored the Seawolves 24-6 in the paint.
Tammy Phillip’s steal and score with 4:29 left in the half gave the top-seeded Great Danes their largest lead of the opening 20 minutes, 31-14. Stony Brook cut the deficit back to 13 with a pair of Ogunnorin free throws and a Proctor layup before Albany scored five of the final seven points of the half.
Proctor opened the second half with the first and only 3-pointer for either side, cutting the deficit to 13 with 19:11 to go. The junior would get the Seawolves as close as 12 following a layup with 15:49 remaining, but Stony Brook could come any closer.
Following an Ogunnorin jumper with 7:29 left that kept Stony Brook within 15 at 54-39, Albany outscored the Seawolves 16-4 the rest of the way to earn the program’s third America East crown.
Head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson puts herself on a short list of coaches to win three-straight tournament titles, joining Maine’s Joanne P. McCallie (1995-98) and Vermont’s Cathy Inglese (1985-87).
Stony Brook earns the conference’s automatic bid to the WNIT, the team’s first postseason appearance since 2006. Albany will find out its opponent in the 2014 NCAA Championship during the selection show on Monday, March 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
Jessica Ogunnorin, Stony Brook
Chikilra Goodman, Stony Brook
Megan Craig, Albany
Shereesha Richards, Albany
Amber Bepko, Hartford
Most Outstanding Player
Shereesha Richards, Albany