Created: 03/10/2014 9:15 PM WNYT.com
By: UAlbany Athletics & WNYT Sports
ALBANY, N.Y. – Coming into the season, the UAlbany women’s basketball team had a motto: A three-peat is earned, not given. That message proved true on Monday, as the Great Danes took down Stony Brook 70-46 at the SEFCU Arena for its third-straight America East title.
UAlbany (28-4) has earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and will find out where it is going during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 17th at 7 p.m.
“I am so proud of them, they had a day to get the gameplan, and it worked!” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who becomes just the third coach to win three America East women’s basketball titles, along with Joanne P. McCallie (Maine) and Joy Machodi (Northeastern). “I told these three [Shereesha Richards, Megan Craig and Sarah Royals], you need to make it happen, and all three of them did.”
Shereesha Richards earned America East Most Outstanding Player after shooting 11-for-15 from the field Monday, scoring 26 points with seven rebounds and four steals. In the tournament, the sophomore forward shot 65% from the field, scoring 63 points.
“We have been working hard since the summer, to know we accomplished this goal to go to the tournament again, we all did this together as a team,” said Richards.
Megan Craig joined Richards on the All-Tournament Team, finishing with seven points, six rebounds and two blocks against Stony Brook. She completed the tournament with 42 points.
“”I am proud of the grit and determination we had, we kept the same tempo throughout, and I am proud of everyone,” said Craig.
Sarah Royals nearly had a double-double, shooting 5-for-5 from the field and hitting nine free throws for 19 points and eight assists. She matched the tournament-record 24 assists in the three games (Amy Vachon, Maine, 1999).
“It is a great feeling, knowing all the sacrifices we made. We worked hard every day, and it all paid off,” said Royals.
Also nearly finishing with a double-double was Tammy Phillip who earned 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
UAlbany held its opponent to 24.5% shooting from the field, the lowest-ever for an America East championship game participant. The Great Danes shot 54.5% and improve to 25-0 this season when having a field goal percentage of at least 40%.
For Stony Brook (24-8), three players reached double figure scoring: Brittany Snow and Sabre Proctor each had 12 points, with the former adding eight rebounds, while Jessica Ogunnorin had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Started with a Royals layup on the opening possession, UAlbany used a pressure defense to force steals early, capped by a Richards swipe and score, building a 6-0 run to begin.
UAlbany’s defense kept Stony Brook out of the paint as it forced turnovers. The other way, UAlbany kept attacking the post, with Richards hitting her first four shots.
At 14-8 home team, Richards hit a layup, followed by Imani Tate and Royals hitting baskets. Richards hit two more layups despite being swarmed in the paint, completing the streak at 10-0 as UAlbany surged ahead 24-8 with 8:52 left in the 1st.
The defense paced the Great Danes, allowing just one Stony Brook basket in a span of over 10 minutes. Due to foul trouble, the team saw many of its reserves hold the floor, as Tate and Zakiya Saunders stood strong in UAlbany’s backcourt. Stony Brook hit a couple of free throws towards the end, but Tammy Phillip hit a long jumper with three seconds left in the period to go into halftime up 36-20.
Stony Brook hit the first three of the game to start the half. Layups by Craig and Phillip were matched by a 4-0 personal run by Brittany Snow, making the score 40-27 in the half’s opening four minutes.
Twice Stony Brook got to within 13 points as the action went back and forth, when at the 8:45 mark, Richards got a pair of fastbreak baskets in succession, leading to UAlbany to go up 54-37 with under eight minutes left.
The Great Danes did not trail by less than 15 the rest of the way. With the defense holding Stony Brook in check, UAlbany used the free throw line to build its lead. Allowing just one field goal in the final five minutes, UAlbany finished the game on a 12-3 burst to secure the title 70-46.
UAlbany defeated Binghamton and Hartford to reach the America East title game.
America East All-Tournament Team
--Shereesha Richards, UAlbany (Most Outstanding Player)
--Megan Craig, UAlbany
--Chikilra Goodman, Stony Brook
--Jessica Ogunnorin, Stony Brook
--Amber Bepko, Hartford