ORONO, Maine — Brittany Williams knew Saturday’s game against Stony Brook was going to be her last at Alfond Arena.
She wasn’t about to walk off the court with any regrets.
The senior guard from Rochester, N.Y., buried a momentum-changing 3-pointer and hit another long jumper to spark a late surge that lifted the Black Bears to a 45-40 victory on “Senior Day” at Alfond Arena.
“We just wanted to give our all, especially on senior night,” said Williams, who led UMaine with 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. “We didn’t want this to be a loss, especially our last time here.”
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears (7-22, 4-12 AE) snapped a six-game losing streak and head into the America East tournament as the No 8 seed. UMaine faces the same Stony Brook squad (4-25, 1-15 AE) in Thursday’s 6:05 p.m. first-round game at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, Conn.
“It’s a good way to go into the tournament and we’re playing them again,” said UMaine senior Sam Baranowski, who contributed nine points and nine rebounds. “I’m just excited. I want to win again.”
Williams and Baranowski were recognized before the game along with classmate Samantha Wheeler, who has missed most of the last two seasons because of concussions. However, Barron gave Wheeler her final start, then lifted her with a quick timeout 22 seconds into the game.
“This was more important for me to win at home for the seniors in this game because I think it made such a difference for their psyche,” Barron said. “That they came back and won was very satisfying to them, to me and to our fans.”
Freshman Danielle Walczak contributed eight points, including two late free throws, and eight boards. Ashleigh Roberts added four points and six rebounds and Courtney Anderson of Greene provided four points and five boards.
Stony Brook was led by eight points each from Tamiel Murray (7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Kellie Krueger, along with seven points and nine rebounds from Jessica Previlon.
The contest hinged on the Bears’ ability to make shots down the stretch. UMaine missed numerous close-range opportunities and open perimeter looks throughout the game.
Stony Brook appeared to be headed for its first victory since Jan. 2 after Sam Landers’ 3-pointer and a lay-in by Previlon gave the Seawolves a 39-32 lead with 7:26 to play.
Stony Brook would score only one point the rest of the way.
Baranowski helped turn the momentum with an offensive rebound basket that cut the deficit to five.
“The ball went in, spun around, went around to the other side of the rim, kind of sat there for a second and then fell in,” Barron explained. “That stopped the run, got us back within five and I turned to coach (Jill) Poe and said, ‘if we missed that, we were done.’”
The Bears wound up shooting only 29 percent (16-for-55), including 2-for-13 on 3-pointers.
Williams then exhibited her confidence and experience. She demanded the ball, took a pass from Baranowski and drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:59 left.
“I don’t know what happened, but something happened and then B-dub (Williams) was like, ‘not on senior night, we’re not going to let that happen tonight,’” Baranowski said. That’s just something to build off. If we can get in that mindset tonight, we can get in it any night.”
Previlon made a foul shot for SBU, but Williams answered by sticking an 18-footer late in a possession. Anderson followed suit, burying a long jumper with the shot clock winding down to put UMaine on top 41-40 with 1:19 remaining.
“They’ve done a lot for our team the whole, entire year,” Anderson said of the seniors.
“They needed to win this game and we needed to win this game for all of us,” she added.
The Seawolves missed their last two shots and the Bears rebounded, leading to two free throws each from Walczak and Anderson in the last 47 seconds to ice it.
“I thought we did a good job defensively for 40 minutes and I think toward the end they hit a couple shots and we got a little back on our heels,” said first-year SBU coach Beth O’Boyle. “I’ve got to give it to them, they went out and earned it.”
Each team led by as many as five points during a seesaw first half, but neither could assume control. SBU led 21-19 at halftime.