The University of Albany’s Great Dane women’s basketball team saw the University of Maine’s youthful Black Bears erase a 10-point second-half deficit in their America East semifinal on Sunday afternoon in Troy, New York, but graduate student guard Ellen Hahne hit her only 3-pointer of the game with 2:26 left to expand the lead to 68-64 and the Black Bears never scored again as Albany triumphed 72-64.
Second seed Albany improved to 21-10 and will travel to meet top seed Vermont, 24-6 and winner of 16 in a row, in Friday’s championship game with the winner earning the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Game time in Burlington, Vt. is 5:00.
It was Albany’s seventh straight win and 10th in a row at the McDonough Sports Complex in Troy where the team is playing while SEFCU Arena in Albany is being renovated.
UMaine concluded a 16-14 campaign and had its streak of seven consecutive championship game appearances snapped.
It was the ninth team the two teams had met in the playoffs with each winning four apiece over the previous eight.
But Albany had never beaten UMaine in the semifinals, going 0-3 against the Black Bears.
Albany shot a blistering 61.7 percent from the floor and was even better beyond the 3-point arc at 62.5 percent.
UMaine shot 46.4 percent and 37.5 percent, respectively.
Anne Simon’s layup with 5:06 remaining tied the game for the Black Bears 59-59.
Helene Haegerstrand’s jumper gave the Great Danes the lead for good 27 seconds later.
Adi Smith’s free throw cut the lead to 61-60 and the two teams swapped baskets with Smith’s jumper with 2:44 remaining slicing the Albany lead to 65-64.
But Hahne’s 3-pointer off a Kayla Cooper pass triggered a 7-0 run to close out the game as UMaine missed its last six shots and turned the ball over once.
Following Hahne’s three, Albany didn’t score again until Haegerstrand sank a free throw with 33 seconds remaining.
She added two more foul shots and Morgan Haney had one to close out the scoring.
Junior guard Cooper, an All-America East first team selection, paced the Great Danes with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Fellow first-team pick Haegerstand, a senior forward, had 13 points and seven rebounds and Hahne finished with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists. Junior guard Haney added nine points, four rebounds and three assists and senior guard Fatima Lee produced eight points including a 3-pointer to close out the first half and give Albany a 36-31 lead and a basket to end the third period which gave Albany a 55-49 advantage.
Senior guard Simon, a second team All-America East choice playing in just her fourth game after missing eight due to a recurring high ankle sprain, poured in 23 points for the Black Bears and she also had four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.
Simon is the school’s 11th all-time leading scorer with 1,357 points.
The Luxembourg native has a year of eligibility remaining but has said she hasn’t decided whether or not she will return.
Sophomore forward and America East Player of the Year Adi Smith finished with 19 points and eight rebounds despite playing just seven minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls in the first quarter.
Sophomore guard Sera Hodgson had eight points, junior forward Caroline Bornemann produced six points and three rebounds and junior guard Olivia Rockwood had six points.
“I was really proud of our team,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “We played well, we fought hard. Albany made big shots. They shot 62 percent from the floor and they haven’t done that in a very long time.
“If you had told me we would score 64 points against Albany, I would think we would have won hands down,” Vachon added. “They played a great game and we played a great game.”
Albany entered the game averaging 58.7 points per game while holding opponents to 54.6 ppg which was 14th best in the nation among 350 teams.