The Stony Brook Seawolves felt they got cheated a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic cost them a chance to host the University of Maine in the America East women’s basketball championship game.
They didn’t get cheated on Friday night. Stony Brook received a career-high 31 points from junior guard Annie Warren to stun the top-seeded Black Bears 64-60 in the conference title game at the Memorial Gym in Orono.
It is the first America East title for the second-seeded Seawolves (15-5), who earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“This feels so good,” Warren said. “We worked so hard last year [only to not have a chance to play a title game] and we worked even harder this year.
“And we just did it,” she said.
Top-seeded UMaine, which was led by Blanca Millan’s 20 points, finished at 17-3. Maeve Carroll scored 13 and freshman Alba Orois added eight.
“They’re a great team,” UMaine coach Amy Vachon said. “It’s definitely disappointing for us, but Stony Brook played a great game.”
Stony Brook erased three 11-point deficits in the second quarter to overtake the Black Bears.
UMaine trailed by as many as six early in the fourth quarter, but rallied to take a 56-55 lead with 2:33 remaining on two Carroll free throws.
Kent State transfer Asiah Dingle (20 points) answered with a drive to the basket 25 seconds later. And after UMaine’s Anne Simon missed a 3-pointer, Dingle (4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) grabbed the rebound and Warren converted a conventional three-point play to make it 60-56 with 1:37 to go.
Millan closed the gap with two free throws and, after the teams swapped turnovers, Dingle scored off another drive to make it 62-58 with 31 seconds to play.
Millan answered with a basket four seconds later then UMaine’s Fanny Wadling made a steal. India Pagan blocked Dor Saar’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, but Wadling chased down the rebound. Millan had a chance to tie it but missed a close-rage shot with two seconds left and Warren added a pair of free throws.
Warren shot 11-for-18 from the floor, including a 4-for-9 showing from the 3-point arc. She also grabbed nine rebounds and made four assists.
“My teammates kept giving me the ball and they told me to keep shooting,” Warren said. “They believed in me and that gave me confidence.”
The third-team All-America East selection was averaging 10.1 points per game.
Stony Brook outrebounded UMaine 42-22, including a 15-7 edge on the offensive boards.
“They got a lot of offensive rebounds and that hurt. And Annie Warren played a great first half [with 17 points] to get them back in it,” Vachon said. “In the third quarter, we struggled to score.”
UMaine shot just 3-for-13 from the floor in the period.
“We had to get stops on defense because that gets our offense going,” Warren said.
A 13-5 run by Stony Brook, featuring 11 points by Warren, closed out the first half and pulled Stony Brook within three.
Stony Brook held UMaine scoreless for 6:42 in the third period to build a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Coach Caroline McCombs liked the way her team played defense in the final five minutes of the second quarter and talked at halftime about maintaining that mindset.
“We told them to stay in front of your player, guard the ball and don’t let them shoot threes,” McCombs said.
Vachon second-guessed herself for sitting Millan and Carroll in the second quarter after each picked up their second fouls. Stony Brook wound up with some open 3-pointers and converted.
“I’ll kick myself a lot about that decision. I didn’t want them to pick up a third foul,” Vachon said.
Stony Brook entered the game with the nation’s second-stingiest defense, allowing only 50.2 points per game.
UMaine shot just 4-for-20 from the 3-point arc and was 11-for-53 from long range in their three games against Stony Brook this season.
Dingle shot 10-for-16 from the floor and Pagan posted seven rebounds and four points.
Millan registered seven rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Black Bears. Carroll had four rebounds and three assists but played only 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
Simon finished with seven points, four steals and three assists, Saar notched five points, three rebounds and three assists and Wadling produced four points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.