There is nothing worse than watching your opponent celebrate a championship on your court.
It’s a hollow feeling that you will always remember.
The University of Maine women’s basketball team had to endure that humiliation a year ago when Stony Brook upset the top-seeded Black Bears in the America East championship game at Memorial Gym in Orono last March, 64-60.
The Black Bears will seek revenge on Sunday when the Seawolves invade the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor for a 1 p.m. contest.
The Seawolves, under first-year head coach and former James Madison associate head coach Ashley Langford, are 10-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference. UMaine is 5-8 and 2-1.
Both teams lost to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, although Stony Brook was without four players due to COVID-19 protocols.
UMaine graduate student forward Maeve Carroll said that loss still stings.
“Last year didn’t end the way we wanted it to. We didn’t play our best in the championship game,” Carroll said. “That’s part of the reason the loss still resonates.”
Stony Brook’s victory last year deprived the Black Bears of their third NCAA tournament appearance in four years. Stony Brook lost to eventual NCAA tournament runner up Arizona 79-44 in a first round game.
The teams were supposed to meet for the title in 2019-20 at the Island Federal Arena in Stony Brook, New York, but COVID-19 canceled the season.
“We’re really excited for this game. This is a great opportunity for us,” Carroll said. “We’ve been the top two teams in the conference the last two years. That’s why it is such a big game for us.”
UMaine is coming off a solid 65-44 road win over winless Hartford on Wednesday night.
Stony Brook had its Wednesday game at the University of Maryland Baltimore County postponed due to COVID-19 protocols at UMBC.
The Seawolves last played on Jan. 2 when they beat Hartford 77-39.
With two-time All-America East second teamer Carroll and All-America East first team junior guard Anne Simon as the only returning starters off last year’s team, UMaine head coach Amy Vachons considers her team still a work in progress.
“I am looking for consistency every game,” Vachon said. “It’s important to know what you’re going to get [from each player] and what they can do.”
She knows she can rely on Simon, Carroll and sophomore point guard Alba Orois, who are the team’s leading scorers at 16 points per game, 11.4 and 10.2, respectively. Carroll leads the team in rebounding (8.9 rpg), Simon is tops in steals (2.7) and Orois is the assists leader (4.8).
While Simon, Carroll and Orois are shooting 41.8 percent from the floor, the rest of the team is shooting just 31 percent.
“We have to be more consistent offensively,” Vachon said. “We scored 28 points in the first quarter at Hartford and seven in the second quarter. Having four or five players who can score would help.”
Sophomore forward Caroline Bornemann has come alive of late. Bornemann had never scored in double figures until she netted 15 points against Dartmouth on Dec. 19. She has now scored in double figures in three of her last four games, averaging 11.7 ppg.
Stony Brook is much more experienced than UMaine and it has five players averaging in double figures with two being graduate students and two others being seniors.
Junior guard Gigi Gonzalez (13.1 ppg), senior guard Anastasia Warren (12.4 ppg), graduate student forward India Pagan (12.1 ppg), senior guard Earlette Scott (11.6 ppg) and graduate student forward Leighah-Amori Wool (10.5 ppg) have led the way for Stony Brook.
Pagan and Warren are two-time All-America East selections.
Warren scored a career-high 31 points against UMaine and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“They’re a great team that has threats at every position which makes them so hard to defend. They have people who can do multiple things and they always have good shooters,” Carroll said.
“They’re going to want to speed up the pace but we can’t get into a track meet with them. We have to take care of the ball and execute offensively.”
Stony Brook’s 69.8 points and 40.7 rebounds per game lead the conference.