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WBB trounces Vermont on Senior Day

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By Aaron Cheris

Sports Editor 

sports.asp@gmail.com

March 3, 2015

Imani Tate (12) scored 27 points on Sunday. Photo by Aaron Cheris
Imani Tate (12) scored 27 points on Sunday. Photo by Aaron Cheris

   In what might have been their final game at SEFCU Arena, University at Albany women’s basketball seniors Sarah Royals and Margarita Rosario wanted to go out with a bang.

   They did just that, as UAlbany was able to beat Vermont 76-48 on Sunday afternoon to finish the regular season.

    “I’m just like a proud parent,” UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of her seniors. “They’re great leaders for us.”

   The win did not affect seeding for the upcoming America East Conference tournament. UAlbany (21-8, 14-2 America East) is locked into the two seed. Vermont (5-23, 2-14 America East) is now in the seven seed.

   “We want to get back, we want another game [at SEFCU Arena],” Royals said. “You can’t look past Vermont. Their seeding means absolutely nothing.”

   After Vermont freshman Sydney Smith made a three to open the game, UAlbany got rolling. The Great Danes went on a 9-0 run led by four points from Shereesha Richards, her only points of the first half.

   Later, UAlbany’s seniors combined to extend their lead. Rosario stole the ball in the defensive end, dribbled the length of the court, and found Royals sprinting to the basket for an open layup. A couple possessions later, Rosario drove to the basket herself and was fouled. She converted both free throws.

   “I knew that great things were going to happen,” Rosario said. “It all just depends on how hard we’re going to work. Winning is not granted, we’ve got to work for it.”

   Following a Vermont basket, Imani Tate made a steal for UAlbany, and then fed the ball to Zakiya Saunders. Sanders then threw it back to Tate for an easy basket. On the next UAlbany possession, Saunders made a long two-point jumper as the shot clock expired.       

   With about six minutes left in the half, UAlbany was in the bonus and took full advantage as Rosario made a couple free throws. Vermont wouldn’t go away, and they clawed back to only trail 30-22 at halftime. In the first half, UAlbany and Vermont combined for 29 turnovers.

   “I think everybody was just so excited for Sarah and Margarita,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of the sloppy play in the first half. “They were a little too hyped up at the beginning of the game.”

   The second half opened similar to the first, with Smith making a three for Vermont. Also like the first half, UAlbany was quick to respond.

   Less than a minute after making a couple free throws, Royals made a steal, drove to the basket, but missed a layup. However, she was quick to grab her own rebound and score to extend the Great Danes lead. Royals finished with 11 points.

   The Catamounts were able to keep the game close for most of the game, but eventually the Great Danes were too much to handle. The UAlbany lead rose to double digits when Imani Tate converted a jumper from the free throw line.

   Tate finished with a game-high 27 points and eight rebounds for UAlbany. Richards, last season’s America East Player of the Year, finished with 16 points including 10 made free throws.

   “Shereesha had three people on her, so that’s what opened up Imani,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “It’s better that we have balanced scoring anyway.”

   The final nail in the Catamounts’ coffin came with about seven minutes left when Rosario made a 3-pointer from the elbow. That was UAlbany’s lone 3-pointer on the afternoon. Rosario finished with seven points.

   As the clock wound down, both Rosario and Royals were each taken out of the game to a standing ovation and both returned to hugs and high-fives from teammates and coaches.

   The America East conference tournament begins next week in Binghamton. For UAlbany, the first round will be a rematch against Vermont on Friday, March 7 at 6 p.m. With the win and Maine’s loss on Sunday, UAlbany finished the regular season as co-champions of the America East.

   Despite two big wins over Vermont this season, a third game against the Catamounts is something the Great Danes won’t overlook. Royals summed it up best after the game.

   “It’s March so anything is possible,” Royals said. “We embrace that and we’re going to be ready.”   

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