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3-Pete: Hooley sends UAlbany to NCAA Tournament

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By Aaron Cheris

Sports Editor

sports.asp@gmail.com        

March 15, 2015

Photo by Brandon Phillips.  A SEFCU Arena sellout watched Peter Hooley's heroics.
Photo by Brandon Phillips.
A SEFCU Arena sellout watched Peter Hooley’s heroics.

Hollywood couldn’t write a script as good as this one.

Just weeks after being in Australia when his mother passed away, University at Albany junior Peter Hooley found himself with the ball in his hands during the closing seconds of the America East Championship game. With time running down, Hooley drained a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to send UAlbany to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

The 51-50 win over Stony Brook (23-11) on Saturday afternoon finished a record setting conference season for UAlbany (24-8). The Great Danes finished 18-1 in America East play, including three victories in the conference tournament. But this one will long be remembered for how it finished.

“When you have angels watching, you can do anything,” Hooley said.

“I don’t think we could’ve drawn up a more fitting ending,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “Than for the ball to end up in Peter’s hands, for him to let it go, and for Sue to jump out and slam it down for us,” Brown continued, referencing Hooley’s mother.

With an 11 a.m. tipoff, both teams struggled to get baskets early. At the first media timeout, the score was tied at two. Halfway through the first half, the score was a futile 6-4 Great Danes.

“I don’t think the first 10 minutes were fun if you were watching on TV,” Brown said. “We had some struggles.”

For most of the game, it appeared as though the visiting Seawolves would be the ones celebrating at the end. At halftime, they led 20-16 after shooting just 32 percent from the field. UAlbany struggled even more, as they were just 6 for 29 from the field in the first half.

“I thought Stony Brook played tremendous, I thought they played terrific,” Brown said. “Hats off to coach [Steve] Pikiell and his kids for a great year and for really taking it to us for most of this game.”

In the second half, Stony Brook was able to extend their lead to eight, thanks mostly to strong play by Carson Puriefoy and America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney. Warney and Puriefoy combined for 43 of Stony Brook’s 50 points.

The back and forth action began early in the second half as Evan Singletary scored for UAlbany, but was answered by Warney less than a minute later. For most of the second half, any time UAlbany was able to cut into the Stony Brook lead, Puriefoy or Warney answered back to silence many in the SEFCU Arena crowd.

With just under three minutes remaining, Puriefoy made a 3-pointer to give the Seawolves a 47-40 lead. At that point, it seemed to many like the visitors would be cutting down the SEFCU Arena net, but it wasn’t meant to be. Stony Brook has never made the NCAA Tournament.

“Just hang around, we’ll find a way, stay the course,” Brown said about his message to his team in the final minutes. “Don’t waiver from what we’ve done as a team for the 18 conference games that we played and don’t waiver as an individual player from what you’ve done for those 18 games.”

With 23 seconds remaining, Mike Rowley made two free throws to cut Stony Brook’s lead to just one point. After Puriefoy made 1 of 2 on the other end, the Great Danes knew they would have a chance for at least a tie.

“We just know that no matter what the score is or how long is left, we’ve always got a chance,” Sam Rowley said. “We just find a way.”

On the final play, Ray Sanders drove to the basket and couldn’t get a layup to fall, which set the stage for Hooley’s heroics.

“Ray [Sanders] drove and put up a shot. Then Sam Rowley got a hand on it and tipped it back. I saw it rolling towards me, and Sam pointed to the rim. I guess he wanted me to throw it to him,” Hooley said. “But I decided to shoot it anyway.”

For the first 39 minutes of the game, UAlbany did not make a 3-pointer. But Hooley didn’t let that get in his way. Hooley’s three was a perfect swish, and UAlbany had the lead.

Once Sanders knocked away Stony Brook’s last attempt, it was over. UAlbany’s fans stormed the SEFCU Arena court, and Hooley fell to his knees at the scorers table, overcome with emotion.

Sam Rowley finished with 14 points, while Singletary had 11 and Hooley had 10 for the Great Danes.

Hooley was named Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive year. His game winning shot also earned the number one spot in SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

Up next, UAlbany will find out where they are playing on Selection Sunday, with the bracket being revealed on Sunday, March 15 at 6 p.m.

“I don’t think we can be any worse than a 14 [seed] now,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter where we go. I think it’s going to be a tremendous challenge wherever we go.”

Photo by Brandon Phillips.  UAlbany coach Will Brown cut down the net for the fifth time in his career.
Photo by Brandon Phillips.
UAlbany coach Will Brown cut down the net for the fifth time in his career.

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