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4-Peat: UAlbany WBB wins America East title over Hartford

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By Aaron Williams

Staff Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com 

March 13, 2015

Photo by Steve McLaughlin/America East.  The champions.
Photo by Steve McLaughlin/America East.
Champions.

The University at Albany women’s basketball team cut down the net after their fourth straight America East Championship as they beat the Hartford Hawks 84-75 in a thrilling victory at SEFCU Arena on Friday afternoon.

Junior forward Shereesha Richards led all scorers with 28. In addition to six rebounds, two assists and three steals she also became the all-time leading scorer in UAlbany women’s basketball history. When asked about the accolade, Richards said, “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.” Hartford is no stranger to Richards as she scored 39 points when the two teams met in January.

The Great Danes (24-8) started the game off with a full court press causing Hartford (16-17) to turn the ball over three times in the first five minutes. By game’s end, the Danes racked up 11 steals in total.

“We turned it up defensively,” UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said in the post-game press conference.

The Hawks experienced two disheartening injuries in the first half to sophomore guard Morgan Lumb and senior Amber Bepko. Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti acknowledged that losing two of her guards was a devastating blow to the team.

Deanna Mayza, a sophomore guard for the Hawks, shouldered much of the weight in the game finishing with 22 points and five assists in 34 minutes of action. Senior forward Cherelle Moore kept the game close by totaling 22 points, seven rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.

“We knew Mayza and Cherelle would step up and they did,” UAlbany senior guard Sarah Royals said in response to a comment about their performances in lieu of the injuries sustained by Hartford.

Hartford came out hitting on all cylinders to start the second half bringing them to within in five points of UAlbany. Cherelle Moore was instrumental in leading the spark scoring six of the first nine points to start the second half. Three turnovers by UAlbany also contributed to their success early in the half.

Their run was short lived, however, thanks to UAlbany sophomore guard Imani Tate’s confident play. She finished the game with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. “I know I have to step up and make shots,” she said when referencing the expectations that her teammates have for her. “I went out and I played hard.”

Royals, one of two seniors on UAlbany’s roster who have been with the team each of the four seasons they have taken home the America East title (the other being Margarita Rosario), played well recording eight points, four rebounds, eight assists and two steals. The eight points helped Royals get to 1,000 for her career. Royals and Rosario will finish their UAlbany careers without having lost an America East Tournament game.

When asked about the 4-peat, overcome with the excitement of the win, Royals simply said, “The feeling never gets old.”

“I’m just proud,” Abrahamson-Henderson said after a long sigh of relief. “A lot of credit to Hartford. We knew that they would come in and play hard.”

The UAlbany women’s basketball team is set to make their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. “I’m looking forward to going back,” Richards exclaimed making it her third straight time going to the big dance.

The Great Danes will find out where they’re headed for the NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

Click here for photos from UAlbany’s win over Hartford.

Photo by Aaron Cheris.  UAlbany's coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson celebrated the win with the fans.
Photo by Aaron Cheris.
UAlbany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson celebrated the win with the fans.

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