Despite a season filled with cancelled games and empty arenas, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team is right back where it was one year ago.
The second-seeded Seawolves earned the chance to play No. 1 seed Maine in the America East finals with a 75-55 throttling of the UMass Lowell River Hawks this Sunday. They played their best statistical game of the season, setting highs in points, blocks, steals and assists.
“I’m just really proud of our group today,” head coach Caroline McCombs said in a postgame press conference. “I think UMass Lowell did a great job of throwing lots of different defenses at us and we were able to respond. We were hitting from a lot of cylinders today.”
Junior guard Anastasia Warren drained three three-pointers in the first half, helping Stony Brook outscore UMass Lowell 21-8 in the second quarter. The River Hawks never recovered from that run, and trailed by double digits the entire second half. Warren finished with 11 points on 44% shooting.
“[It was] just having confidence, believing in myself, knowing that I’ve been putting in the work to do this,” Warren said in a postgame press conference. “And my team having confidence in me, knowing that I’m gonna knock it down when they pass it to me.”
Junior guard Asiah Dingle led the team with 14 points and a season-high six steals and seven assists. She brought an extra dose of her usual energy, firing up her team’s bench and making Island Federal Arena sound almost as if it were filled to capacity.
Equally impressive was senior forward Leighah-Amori Wool, who came off the bench to notch 11 rebounds — the most by a Seawolves player this season. She and the rest of the bench combined for 30 points, an impressive showing even for the deepest roster in the conference.
“They can’t block us,” Warren said. “They don’t know who to guard. Somebody’s going to end up open, and they’re gonna knock a shot down.”
UMass Lowell seemed content to control the paint and allow the Seawolves to take perimeter shots for much of the first half. When the interior opened up after Warren’s three-pointers forced them to abandon that strategy, senior forward India Pagan put together a six-point third quarter that put the game entirely out of reach.
The fourth quarter was spent running down the timer, though hard drives from Dingle and sophomore guard Gigi Gonzalez as the shot clock expired allowed Stony Brook to keep their offense rolling.
There’s more than a little déjà vu surrounding this year’s America East finals. Stony Brook was set to face Maine in the championship game last March, before COVID-19 concerns forced a cancellation. Twelve months later, they get their shot at redemption.
“We’re excited. It’s been a long journey,” McCombs said. “We did all the little things and all the work to have an opportunity to play in this championship game, so I’m just really proud of our players. I know how much it means to them.”
The Seawolves split their only series with Maine this year. The Black Bears, who are 17-2 this season, have made the championship game for the sixth straight year. The finals will take place Friday, March 12 at 4 p.m. on ESPNU. The winner will earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which Stony Brook has never played in.