Stony Brook Women’s Basketball will look to win its first Division I championship in school history when the team travels to Portland to participate in the America East Championship Tournament.
The Seawolves rebounded from their previous season, in which they went an underwhelming 5-11 in conference play and finished with a 12-18 overall record. With the addition of several key factors on the hardwood, the team capped off the season with a five-game win streak to go 10-6, finishing fourth in the conference, and 18-11 overall.
The team’s most effective offensive weapon is its junior starting backcourt. The dynamic duo of guards Shania ‘Shorty’ Johnson and Jerell Matthews controlled the tempo of the Seawolves’ offense this season. Together, the two statistically led the team in almost every offensive category including minutes played, field goal percentage and three-point shots made.
“I think Jerell and Shorty really push the pace of our offense and try to make plays — big plays for us,” head coach Caroline McCombs said following a Seawolves victory over UMass Lowell.
Johnson transitioned to playing Division I basketball following two seasons of Division II action at Monroe College. The playmaker finished third in the conference with 105 field goals in 574 minutes played, finished second with 284 points in conference play and led the America East in 3-pointers made with 90 overall, setting a school record in the process. Johnson was awarded the title of America East Player of the Week twice in the season due to her dominance on the hardwood.
As for Matthews, she exceeded the expectations set by McCombs earlier in the season. Matthews worked on disrupting her opponent’s shots defensively and setting her feet to shoot quickly on offense over the offseason, becoming one of the most versatile players in the America East.
The guard ended the season in the top five of the conference leaderboards in several categories: fifth in points scored with 244 points, fourth in field goals made with 105 and third in 3-pointers with 39.
Another factor contributing to the team’s success is their ability to rebound, averaging around 38 rebounds per game. The team finished third with 1,091 rebounds in the season and ranked second with 381 offensive rebounds.
Junior forward Cheyenne Clark has played a big piece in the Seawolves’ rebounding success, grabbing 273 total rebounds, pitting her behind Binghamton senior forward Alyssa James for second on the conference leaderboard.
Stony Brook’s first step to becoming America East champions is going against the New Hampshire Wildcats for the second consecutive year. Last year, the then-No. 1-ranked Wildcats defeated the then-No. 8-ranked Seawolves 58-49 in Portland.
“We had a good experience [last year],” McCombs said in an interview with America East TV. “Obviously, you want to win that ballgame. I think we competed at a high level against New Hampshire and I thought the city of Portland did a good job of hosting an event and getting people to the game.”
The teams split their regular season matchups this season, each going 1-1. The Seawolves won the last matchup 62-56 on Feb. 17 in the midst of their five-game winning streak to end the season. The No. 4-ranked Seawolves have stepped up their workouts this week in preparation for the No. 5-ranked Wildcats.
“I feel like a lot of things have been going well for us so far,” Matthews said following a shoot-around Thursday morning. “We have definitely been connected, practicing hard every day, going at it, keeping that same confidence every day and practice has really gotten us far. So, I think if we keep that up we that up, we will be in very good shape for the tournament.”
The two teams will face off on Saturday, March 3 at 2:15 p.m. in the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine.