The University of Maine women's basketball team competes against Providence College in November 2021. Credit: Seth Poplaski / UMaine Athletics

The University of Maine women’s basketball team has earned the top seed for the America East tournament and racked up its 10th straight win with a 49-45 victory over Albany at the SWFCU Arena in Albany on Wednesday night behind freshman Paula Gallego’s career-high 13 points.

UMaine is now 16-10 overall and 13-3 in league play while Albany is 19-9 and 12-5.

The Black Bears concluded the regular season 10-0 on the road in league play and their victory was their 11th straight over Albany.

It was Albany’s first home loss of the season after 13 wins.

Albany could end up with the same league record as UMaine with a home win over Stony Brook and two UMaine home losses to the University of Maryland Baltimore County over the weekend but since UMaine swept the series from Albany, it would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Stony Brook is leading the conference but is ineligible to play in the postseason tournament because an America East bylaw forbids teams that are leaving the league to play in the conference championships. Stony Brook is joining the Colonial Athletic Association next year.

However, Stony Brook lost to UMass Lowell 70-68 on Wednesday night and is now 14-3 in the conference, so the Black Bears could actually win or share the regular season title with the Seawolves.

Gallego, a native of Barcelona, Spain, who is the reigning America East Rookie of the Week, also grabbed three rebounds, made three steals and blocked a shot. She shot 5-for-8 from the floor including a 3-for-5 showing beyond the 3-point arc.

“Paula hit some huge threes,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon to Learfield Sports/Black Bear Sports Properties/The Ticket play-by-play man Don Shields.

“What a gritty performance,” added Vachon. “I am really happy with how we competed. We beat a really good team and this is a tough place to win.”

Junior guard Anne Simon scored 13 points and also had five rebounds and four steals. Maeve Carroll contributed seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. Alba Orois had seven points, two assists, two steals and a block and Caroline Bornemann chipped in with six points, five rebounds and five steals.

Lucia Descortes’ 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots, all game-highs, led Albany. Helene Haegerstrand had 12 points, five rebounds and a block and Grace Heeps had six points, two assists and two steals.

Ellen Hahne had four points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists but Kayla Cooper and Morgan Haney, who combined for 30 points in Albany’s 64-55 loss to UMaine on Feb. 9, were held to three points. Haney, who had 13 points in the previous game, had a 3-pointer but was 1-for-10 from the floor and Cooper didn’t score, although she did grab six rebounds.

Cooper, who had 17 points at the Memorial Gym in Orono, was 0-for-2 from the floor.

UMaine’s 9-0 run in the first quarter featured a three and a layup by Simon and layups by Carroll and Orois.

UMaine led by as many as 12 in the third period but the Great Danes climbed back into the game and Haney’s three with 5:51 left pulled them within 40-34.

Bornemann’s layup off a Carroll feed, Carroll’s free throw and Gallego’s inside basket off an Orois pass built the lead to 45-34 with 1:45 left.

An 8-1 Albany run capped by Heeps’ 3-pointer with 25 seconds left made it 46-42.

But Simon sank two foul shots and Carroll made a steal to sew up the victory.

UMaine will host UMBC at the Memorial Gym on Saturday at 1 p.m. and then at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Sunday at 1 p.m. to wrap up the regular season.

Albany hosts Stony Brook on Saturday at 4 p.m.