Stony Brook (27-3, 14-2) downed Albany (9-21, 5-11) just four days earlier in the regular season finale. Now, it was win or go home, and the Great Danes fought for their season’s survival. On the back of a 15-point comeback, the Seawolves fought harder.
With sophomore guard Anastasia Warren scoring seven out of Stony Brook’s last nine points in overtime, the Seawolves survived No. 8-seeded Albany in an America East quarterfinal game 54-49 at Island Federal Arena on Wednesday, March 4.
Early on, the Seawolves looked like they would be sent home in a monumental upset. A 20-5 lead with 7:23 left in the second quarter had Stony Brook reeling and Albany ecstatic after three consecutive makes from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We just didn’t make shots,” head coach Caroline McCombs said in a postgame press conference. “It wasn’t the plays that we were running. I thought we had open shots. I think we’ve got to get in the gym and get back to work. I don’t know if we were nervous, first [playoff] game, but they just didn’t fall. They just didn’t fall for us.”
Graduate forward Cheyenne Clark had other ideas concerning the potential upset.
“In order to light the fire in others, you have to be lit yourself,” Clark said, quoting NBA star Michael Jordan’s trainer Tim S. Grover. She needed to be energetic to propel her team to fight back into the game, and they did.
Clark scored six points after the deficit went to 20-5 and helped the Seawolves go into halftime down three. The second half would prove tumultuous to say the least.
After a back-and-forth third quarter that saw the Seawolves regain some of their composure on offense, Albany still stubbornly held a lead that they would not give up until late in overtime. Throughout much of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Great Danes would pull the upset. However, Stony Brook had one more trick up their sleeve for regulation.
Graduate guard Kaela Hilaire would provide a clutch steal with just seconds left but missed the layup on the other end. Thankfully for Stony Brook, junior guard Hailey Zeise would save the day and finish the job behind Hilaire, giving them their first tie of the game since 0-0 and sending the game to overtime 45-45.
Overtime saw Warren take over and finish the job, gaining their first lead all game with 1:24 left and advancing to the America East semifinals shortly after.
“[I’m] really proud of our team,” McCombs said. “We had a lot of things that didn’t go our way and [we] didn’t even take the lead until the end of the game and we showed a lot of grit, we showed a lot of toughness. We are who we are.”
Clark had another double-double, her fourth of the season. With her eight against Albany, she broke the single-season record for offensive rebounds set in the 1991-1992 season at 128.
Junior forward India Pagan warmed up for Wednesday’s matchup but did not play. McCombs said, ”I don’t know yet,” when asked if Pagan would be available for Sunday’s semifinal game.
Stony Brook averages 58 points per game without Pagan — 7.7 less compared to 65.7 points per game with her this season.
The Seawolves will stay home to face the No. 4-seeded Binghamton Bearcats in the America East Semifinals on Sunday, March 8 at 4 p.m.
Stony Brook currently holds the series lead over the Bearcats 24-23, and the winner will face either No. 2-seeded Maine or No. 3-seeded UMass Lowell in the America East Championship with a berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.