Seawolves topple Maine for first-ever NCAA Tournament berth

Champs
Courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics

It’s the moment the Stony Brook Seawolves women’s basketball team has been waiting for since 1999 when joining to Division I and since last season when they won the America East Regular Season title for the first time in school history: an America East Championship victory and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

The Seawolves entered the America East Championship, playing for the first time since 2014 and for the third time in school history after the opportunity to play last season was squandered by COVID-19. The 2020 America East Women’s Basketball Championship was meant to take place at IFCU Arena at Stony Brook between the #1-seed Stony Brook Seawolves and the #2-seed Maine Black Bears. Unfortunately, on March 12, a day before the championship was suppose to take place, the America East Championship was cancelled along with the rest of the 2019-20 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments and seasons. But, both teams finally got the opportunity to play to win the conference, but at Maine as they won the regular-season title this season, playing all their tournament games at Memorial Gymnasium.

Both teams came off a 20-point win against their respective opponents in the semifinal round. In the first few minutes of the game, Stony Brook had as much as a 10-6 lead midway through the first quarter, but then Blanca Millan, the America East Player of the Year, along with Maeve Carroll and Alba Orois, made big plays offensively and defensively to give the Black Bears as much as a 36-25 lead midway through the second quarter. However, Stony Brook ended the first half on an 8-2 run.

Entering the second half, the Seawolves continued their run by taking a 42-38 lead before a media timeout at the 4:11 mark of the 3rd quarter. After that, both teams traded buckets that led to the end of the third quarter with Stony Brook maintaining their 45-43 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Seawolves got the first bucket of the 4th quarter from senior F India Pagan, who had 4 points total in the championship game. By midway through the quarter, critical shots were beginning to made, including shots by Anastasia Warren, who had a career-high 31 points after surpassing her season-high 21 points against New Hampshire earlier this season and her previous career-high 24 points at New Hampshire last season. Along with Warren, Asiah Dingle used her speed throughout the game to run inside the paint and make quick layups, including a clutch layup with 31 seconds left that gave Stony Brook a 62-58 lead. After Millan immediately responded for Maine, a timeout was called and Maine forced a turnover to take possession and a have a chance to tie or win the championship. However, Dor Saar’s go-ahead 3 was blocked by Pagan and Blanca Millan’s layup inside the paint was too strong and Dingle picked up the rebound to throw to Warren. Warren sealed the game with a pair of go-ahead free throws with 0.7 seconds left to give the Seawolves the victory 64-60.

Asiah Dingle, Anastasia Warren, and Hailey Zeise of Stony Brook were named to the America East All-Tournament team, with Warren winning the Tournament MVP after a career performance in the championship game. Blanca Millan and Maeve Carroll were also named to the All-Tournament team. Blanca Millan had a team-high 20 points and Maeve Carroll, who played with 4 fouls late in the game, had the second-most points on the team with 13.

Stony Brook wins the 5th playoff meeting all-time with Maine after dropping the last two to the Black Bears and wins the season series 2-1 after both teams split the series at IFCU arena on Valentine’s Day weekend. With the win, the Seawolves punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and will prepare to play their opponent to be determined in San Antonio, Texas.

The Seawolves, like every other team destined for this season’s tournament, will learn who they’ll play, where, and when when they watch the NCAA Women’s Basketball selection show at 7pm on Monday night on ESPN. In Charlie Creme’s Bracketology a day after the Seawolves won the championship, the Seawolves are projected to be a #15 seed facing the projected #2-seed Baylor Lady Bears, who are considered one of the powerhouses in the nation coming out of the Power 5 Big 12 conference. The Maine Black Bears will not advance to the NCAA Tournament, but due to winning their conference regular-season title, they will receive an automatic bid into the WNIT.

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