Jaden Clayton dribbles the ball against the University of albany on Saturday, Feb. 18. UMaine beat UAlbany 74-72. Credit: Adam Robinson / BDN

It was a scene so many have watched this season at the end of the University of Maine men’s basketball game Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gymnasium: Kellen Tynes making game-saving plays on the defensive end to earn the Black Bears a victory.

A block on a 3-pointer and a steal in the final seconds helped UMaine earn a 74-72 victory and secure a spot in the America East playoffs.

It will be UMaine’s first appearance in the America East tournament since the 2019-20 season when the Black Bears lost in the first round to Vermont.

“It feels good,” UMaine coach Chris Markwood said of making the conference playoffs. “Our program hasn’t been in a couple years and so you want to get back, and now we have some work to do to see where we can finish out. See who we play and all that. We have to keep plugging along.”

After a couple baskets from Gedi Juozapaitis, Albany’s Trey Hutcheson made two triples to bring the Great Danes back within 62-56 with 4:30 to play.

UMaine’s Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish blocked a shot at the rim that turned into an acrobatic layup from Jaden Clayton on the other end that put UMaine ahead 66-56, but Da’Kquan Davis answered with a deep 3-pointer to quiet the crowd.

Tynes was ready for Davis two possessions later and blocked his 3-pointer attempt and then was fouled. He made both free throws and the crowd, led by the UMaine football team behind the UMaine basket, exploded with cheers as the Black Bears held a 68-61 lead with just 52 seconds to play.

“I just knew he was coming off a pin down, credit to him he had a good game and I don’t know how much he had in the second half but I knew he was a shooter so I just chased him off and made him take a tough shot and I was able to block him,” Tynes said.

Davis hit yet another triple as part of his 21-point second half performance. Davis finished the game with a game-high 26 points and shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

After Wright-McLeish made one of two free throws with 21 seconds left, Davis made a quick 3-pointer to make it 71-69.

Clayton was then fouled and made one free throw, giving UMaine a three-point lead. At midcourt, Tynes made a steal on Albany’s next possession and made both free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining on the clock to seal the victory.

Tynes finished with 23 points, seven steals and six rebounds on the day. Tynes leads Division I in steals and steals per game.

“He played amazing,” Markwood said of Tynes. “He was seven of eight from the floor, was really poised there and was being himself on the defensive end. He was a game changer. He had the block, a lot of steals, he just makes winning plays.”

Davis made a three-quarter-court 3-pointer at the buzzer but Tynes’ free throws nullified the Hail Mary and UMaine secured its 11th victory of the season.

Juozapaitis scored 17 for the Black Bears.

UMaine used a raucous crowd on the way to its victory on Saturday and Markwood wants the men’s basketball program to help grow the fan base through its play.

“The energy was great,” Markwood said. “Once you get 10 people in here it’s loud but if you get a crowd in here, it’s amazing. I think our guys fed off of that. You saw a couple finishes by Kell and other guys, getting emotional, and anytime you get that environment you get a big lift. Our hope is that we can grow that through our product. That’s going to be the thing, we aren’t going to ask for people to come out if we aren’t giving them a product they deserve.”

The game was close from the start.

After trailing 23-20 with six minutes to play in the first half, the Black Bears went on a 13-0 run with Tynes scoring seven of the points off a layup, two free throws and a corner 3-pointer. Peter Filipovity hit two free throws to cap the run.

Hutcheson scored a 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play to stop the UMaine run, but right before the first-half buzzer Filipovity scored a corner 3-pointer to give the Black Bears a commanding 36-26 lead at the break.

A big difference in the first half was free throws.

UMaine shot a perfect 10-for-10 over the first 20 minutes while Albany wasn’t able to get to the line at all.

Right out of the halftime break, UMaine went on an 8-0 run that was finished by back-to-back layups from Tynes that put UMaine ahead 46-32.

Saturday was the first game back for Kristians Feierbergs since an ankle sprain against Albany on the road on Jan. 28. Feierbergs hit a corner 3-pointer that gave UMaine its biggest lead of the game, 51-34 with 13 minutes to go in the contest. The forward finished with five points and six rebounds.

Ata Turgut, the other forward that split time with Feierbergs and filled in in Feierbergs’ absence, had four points, four rebounds and a steal.

UMaine will play the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday, Feb. 22, on the road.

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.