Peter Hooley leapt on top of the media table as Albany fans crowded behind him, scouring the SEFCU Arena hardwood in celebration. Kameron Mitchell and Rayshaun McGrew stood in disbelief with hands above their heads at what had just unfolded. After controlling the majority of the second half, the Seawolves could only watch as a last-second Peter Hooley three gave the Great Danes a one-point lead and once again killed Stony Brook’s dreams of an NCAA Tournament berth. Final score: Albany 51, Stony Brook 50.
“Credit to Albany, they buckled down towards the end of the game and we made some mistakes,” Carson Puriefoy said following the loss. “He hit a tough shot. Sometimes that happens.”
With under two minutes to play and the Seawolves up five, Jameel Warney was able to get the ball under the rim but was fouled and missed both free throws. Missed chances at the stripe would be the nail in the coffin for SBU, as the team as a whole shot just 10-19 from the line. Sam Rowley, who finished with 12 points after an 0-of-7 first half, scored on the other end to cut the Danes deficit to three with 1:01 remaining.
An inbounds pass to Puriefoy, who had taken over the game with three pull-up threes in the final minutes, then slipped through the guard’s grasp, handing the ball back to Albany. Mike Rowley was fouled on an offensive rebound and hit both free throws to cut the deficit to one.
Puriefoy sunk one-of-two free throws. Ray Sanders then missed a layup to tie the game and the ball was tipped out to Hooley at the top of the key to sink the dagger, Albany’s first trey of the night.
Outside of Puriefoy (23 points) and Warney (20 points and 11 rebounds), Stony Brook scored just seven points on 2-of-19 shooting in the contest. The game ended as it began, with SBU flustered and sluggish play dominating. The score was tied at two points apiece until the 13:17 mark, with both teams playing stifling defense.
“That’s our core value, playing defense,” Warney said. “Our offense didn’t come for a while in the first half. Then once the offense came we were pretty good.”
The Seawolves were held back early on by junior Rayshaun McGrew picking up a couple of fouls and the raucous crowd forcing Head Coach Steve Pikiell to come out to near halfcourt just to call a play. Despite this and 1-of-14 shooting out of the gate, Stony Brook kept it close.
Albany’s largest first-half lead of six quickly dissipated when the Seawolves forcefed Warney the ball. Warney immediately went to work, taking advantage of the Great Danes’ conservative coverage and scoring 12 first-half points. Aiding in the boost in offense was Pikiell inserting Scott King at the four, helping spread the floor for Warney. Behind a 7-0 run to close the half, Stony Brook went into halftime ahead 20-16 following a three by Puriefoy.
Albany opened the second half with a revived effort to score down low and did so effectively. However, the Danes still could not contain Warney on the other end of the floor.
Looking to deny Warney and grind the Seawolves offense to a halt, Albany switched to a zone around the 16-minute mark. Although zone defenses hurt past Stony Brook offenses, this was not the case today. The Seawolves kept in stride, even taking their biggest lead of the night at seven.
The Danes would not go away easily, though. The zone did keep Warney at bay, while both teams missed shots they have made all season. Almost symbolically, a kicked ball smacked the scoreboard hanging from the ceiling, much to the amusement of the crowd.
Albany’s late game push and last-second score sealed Stony Brook’s fate yet again and now, the Seawolves will head back to Long Island to regroup, with their entire team returning next year.
“Just came down to the last ten seconds,” Warney said. “We’ll be back next year.”
But to SBU fans, hearing “next year” come March has become redundant and unbearable.