Albany coach Colleen Mullen holds up the net after Albany defeated Maine in an NCAA college basketball game for the America East Conference women's tournament championship Friday, March 11, 2022, in Orono, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

ORONO, Maine – Albany continued its championship-game magic against the University of Maine.

The Great Danes scored the game’s first four points and never trailed, building a 20-12 lead in the first period and a 10-point halftime bulge en route to upsetting the regular season champion Black Bears 56-47 at a sold-out and raucous Memorial Gym in Orono Friday night.

Albany has won the last three America East championship game matchups with the Black Bears and will advance to the NCAA Tournament with a 23-9 record while the Black Bears will play in the WNIT.

UMaine, 20-11, had its 14-game winning streak snapped after winning both regular season games against Albany.

Last year, it was Anastasia Warren of Stony Brook who had a career-high 31 points to subdue UMaine in the championship game at The Pit 64-60.  On Friday night, redshirt sophomore guard Morgan Haney did the Bears in with a career-high 20 points including 16 in the first half.

UMaine rallied to within five with 1:51 left in the game but Ellen Hahne’s 3-pointer off a Haney pass with 1:21 left gave the Great Danes a 49-41 lead and all but sewed up the win.

“The shot clock was winding down and I had an open look so I shot it,” Hahne said. “It was nice that it went in. We played for that shot and it was open.”

Haney had three rebounds to go with her 20 points. Hahne finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Helene Haegerstrand and Kayla Cooper had eight points each, while Cooper also had a game-high 12 rebounds and five assists. Haegerstrand also had four rebounds and three steals.

Anne Simon had 15 points for UMaine along with six rebounds and two steals. Caroline Bornemann added 13 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots and Maeve Carroll added nine points and nine rebounds along with three steals and three blocked shots. Alba Orois had seven points and four assists to go with two steals but also turned the ball over seven times. Carroll shot just 3-for-14 from the floor.

Albany, the second-stingiest defensive team in the country, allowing only 48.6 points per game, held UMaine to a 34 percent shooting performance from the floor and 23.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc with its tenacious man-to-man.

“We knew we had to focus on Simon, Carroll and Alba,” Hahne said of the UMaine trio. that combined to average 41.5 points in two playoff wins but had 31 between them on Friday with five coming in the last 31 seconds after the game had been decided.

The UMaine all-conference trio shot 12-for-37 from the floor (32.4 percent). Simon and Orios were 2-for-8 from long distance (25 percent).

Albany shot 41.5 percent and an impressive 57.1 percent from beyond the arc and outrebounded a smaller UMaine team 34-27.

“We just had a bad shooting night,” said Carroll, a graduate student forward. “I didn’t make layups like I normally do and we didn’t hit shots from the outside that we normally do.”

UMaine missed 14 layups, including six by Carroll and three by Simon.

The Great Danes scored just three baskets over a span of 12:37 in the second half but the Black Bears could only shave one point off Albany’s 10-point lead because they shot just 4-for-17 during that stretch.

UMaine Coach Amy Vachon pointed out that playing at The Pit isn’t easy for opposing teams, but Albany “came out on fire” and hit open shots.

“Congratulations to Albany. They flat-out won that game,” Vachon said. “It was really determined in that first quarter. For them to score 20 points is a lot of points for us to give up. We haven’t played that poorly defensively in a long time.”

Haney’s 16 first-half points were two more than her game career-high, which she has done twice in her career. She was 6-for-9 from the floor and nailed all four of her 3-point attempts after not hitting more three 3-pointers in a game this season and entering the game shooting 30.1 percent from long distance.

She missed her only three in the second half but went 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Her teammates realized she had the hot hand and kept feeding her the ball.

“I’m super grateful those shots went down but I also had teammates that created those shots for me with outstanding passes,” she said.

Albany shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half and was a blistering 7-for-10 from long range. Albany came into the game shooting 33 percent beyond the 3-point arc.The Great Danes had just one three in the second half, but it was Hahne’s clincher.

UMaine shot 41.7 percent from the floor and hit two of its five 3-point attempts over the first 20 minutes.

Albany coach Colleen Mullen said it was important for her team to “come out with confidence” and get off to a good start.

“Their full-court pressure had a lot of effect on us and it took us out of our offensive flow in both [regular season] games,” Mullen said. “Being able to control the tempo and score at the end of it gave us a lot of confidence.”

Cooper was chosen the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-tourney team by Hahne, UMaine’s Bornemann and Carroll and Vermont’s Emma Utterback.