ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany women's basketball team paid its four seniors the honor they deserved Saturday at the SEFCU Arena, where they not only defeated Stony Brook 60-49, but they also closed out a perfect America East record for the first time in program history since joining the league in the 2000-01 season.
The senior night win earned the Great Danes a 16-0 league record, an achievement that has occurred just seven times for any America East team. This season the Danes claimed absolute dominance in the league, having won the last 15 games by an average margin of nearly 25 points.
It seemed as though they would reach that average again Saturday, when they took a commanding 56-35 lead with less than seven minutes remaining, but the Seawolves narrowed in the stretch, despite never taking the lead at any point in the second half. When it came down to the wire, it was the seniors who shined to earn their win on their night.
Senior guard Ebone Henry stepped up to lead her squad with 15 points and six assists. Senior forward Julie Forster knocked down eight points and led the team with eight boards. As a class, the Dane seniors, also including Keyana Williams and Lindsey Lowrie, combined for 27 of the team's 60 points.
"We are where we are because of the four seniors. Period," said head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. "If I didn't have four seniors that wanted to win this as much as I do, then we wouldn't be here."
Still, they had their work cut out for them early in the first, seemingly underestimating their opponent out of the gates. Following an early 6-4 Stony Brook lead, UAlbany (16-0 in league play, 25-3 overall) went on a 20-3 run that the Seawolves(6-10 in league play, 14-15 overall) were unable to ever recover from.
While UAlbany seniors accounted for the
final 12 points of the half, their efforts were largely backed by sophomore
center Megan Craig. Capitalizing on the clear size mismatch at 6'8", Craig
added eight points to the board during UAlbany's big run heading into intermission,
extending their lead to 35-23. Craig finished with 13 and fellow
underclassman teammate, freshman
forward Shereesha Richards added 12 to the UAlbany total.
The 12-point gap didn't hinder Stony Brook from starting the second strong. The Seawolves started off with an 8-0 run, narrowing the deficit to just four points. The Seawolves were led by junior guard Chikilra Goodman, who knocked down a career-high 19 points.
Living up to her record-breaking reputation, Henry, UAlbany's all-time leading scorer, ended that stint with a three-point play to put the Danes back up to a 40-31 lead. Over the next stretch of 16 possessions, UAlbany held Stony Brook to 1-for-10 shooting, blocked three shots and forced seven Seawolves turnovers.
It was Henry's leadership and dynamic offensive performance that reenergized her team to spark a 15-2 run, earning her squad a commanding lead for the finish.
Up next in postseason play, UAlbany will head to the 2013 America East Conference Tournament, where they will claim home court advantage when they face No.8 seed Maine at 6:00 p.m., Friday, March 8 in a quarterfinal match-up.