Junior forward Caroline Bornemann’s reverse layup off an Adi Smith pass with 8.1 seconds remaining gave the University of Maine women’s basketball team a wild 50-49 win over defending America East champ and preseason favorite Albany at a raucous Memorial Gym in Orono on Saturday.
UMaine led by as many as 18 points but the Great Danes chipped away and took its first lead of the game with 1:46 left as Kayla Cooper split a pair of Black Bears and flipped in an off-balance shot to make it 47-46.
Smith answered with a layup with 45.2 seconds left but Cooper restored the lead with a baseline layup.
Bornemann then missed a wild shot but UMaine’s Olivia Rockwood grabbed the long rebound.
With 11.8 seconds left in the game and six seconds left on the shot clock, Jaycie Christopher inbounded the ball to Smith who found the wide open Bornemann under the basket.
The play was drawn up by UMaine assistant Courtney England.
“I just caught it and Caroline had a great back-door cut. She was open and it was a great finish,”said Smith.
“I’m not completely sure what happened. I kind of blocked it out but I think Adi saw my hand open and threw it and I saw a lane right under the basket. I just tried to get it in the hoop and, luckily, it went in,” said Bornemann.
“We got caught ball-watching on Smith and (Bornemann) just cut back door on us,” said Albany coach Colleen Mullen.
Albany had a chance to win it and drew up a play for Ellen Hahne to drive the lane but Hahne waited too long to get off her shot as time expired.
UMaine improved to 11-9 overall and 7-1 in the conference while Albany is 14-9 and 8-1 and had its eight-game winning streak snapped.
UMaine was again without reigning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Anne Simon (sprained ankle).
UMaine has now won seven of its last eight games and got a measure of revenge for last year’s 56-47 loss to Albany in the America East championship game in Orono.
Smith finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists. She also blocked two shots. Bornemann had nine points, six rebounds and three assists and Christopher had seven points and five rebounds.
Cooper had a game-high 23 points and six rebounds for Albany along with three blocked shots. Helene Haegerstrand had eight points and three rebounds and Fatima Lee had seven points.
Haegerstrand entered the game as Albany’s leading scorer with 15.1 points per game but shot just 4-for-15 from the floor and missed all six of her 3-point attempts.
She didn’t score in the second half.
Hahne finished with just three points, 10 below her average.
And Morgan Haney, who scored 20 in the title game a year ago, managed just four points.
Albany missed all 14 of its 3-point attempts.
“We started really strong but they’re a good team. We went on a run and they went on a run,” said Smith. “But we came out and pulled it out like we knew we could.
“We played within our offense and we got stops. We played Haegerstrand really well. We did a good job stopping their shooters,” said Smith. “We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and we’ve had a lot of close games and played hard teams so that prepared us for that moment and we came out on top this time.”
The Black Bears stunned the Great Danes by jumping out to a 20-2 lead and building a 22-6 lead after the first period.
Christopher had seven points and Smith had six and the Black Bears shot 50 percent from the floor and from beyond the 3-point arc.
The cold-shooting Great Danes were just 3-for-15 from the floor and missed both of its 3-point attempts.
UMaine was still maintaining a 16-point lead with 3:50 left in the half but Albany scored the final eight points of the half to pull within eight.
UMaine missed its last four shots of the half and turned the ball over twice during that span.
Smith had 12 first-half points and Bornemann and Christopher had seven each.
Cooper’s 10 points and Haegerstrand’s eight paced Albany with Lee contributing five off the bench.
The Great Danes continued to whittle away at the lead in the third period and were down by just three entering the fourth quarter.
Cooper scored 13 of her points in the second half.
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said there was no doubt in her mind that Albany was going to make a run to slice away at the deficit.
“I felt if we could keep the lead, we would be okay. And then when we let it go (but still came back to win), I’m so proud of this team. If you would have told me in October we’d be playing without Anne and Anna (Kahelin) and be in the position we’re in, I don’t know if I quite would have believed you,” said Vachon who was also referring to guard Anna Kahelin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game.
Mullen said she was “really proud” of the way her team came back from the 18-point deficit.
“Maine came out just firing on all cylinders. Really impressive with how they stepped up in Anne’s absence,” said Mullen. “We chipped away, kept our composure and tried to get stops and turn those into stop-scores-stops but it just wasn’t enough.”
Up next: UMaine will host Bryant on Wednesday at 7 p.m. while Albany will host UMass Lowell, also at 7.