Last Year the University at Albany went to top-seeded Vermont's home court to beat it out for its #Chance2Dance. And this year the Great Danes went all the way to Stony Brook to do it again.
They were attempting to be the first 4-seed to win two championship titles in a row, and they did.
Before I even made it inside Pritchard Gymnasium, I saw the intensity of this game. There were people outside looking for extra tickets. I know it's a small gym, but ...
Once the contest became a two-possession game, Stony Brook knew it was over. Their only option was to foul and try to get the ball back. But with both teams over the limit, a foul gave Albany two free throws, which, in the end, gave them the game.
"These kids deserve all the credit in the world," said Albany head coach Will Brown. "They really came together as a group. I'm proud of them. I really am."
The game started off badly for Albany; a 9-0 run for the Seawolves would rattle just about anyone. But the Danes held it together, most of them remembering last year's start to the title game at Vermont. I even heard Peter Hooley literally remind his coach of it as he ran by: "Coach, don't worry, we were down 10-0 at Vermont'."
Once the Danes got going, there was no stopping them. Hooley went 2 for 3 from beyond the arc in the first half. But more than that, it was his three with 1:03 left that sealed the deal for the Great Danes.
"At the most important time he stepped up and made a big three. We made those free throws down the stretch."
Albany was still up 58-56 after a jumper from Carson Puriefoy brought the Seawolves back within one possession. But Hooley didn't like that idea. He hit a three that pretty much solidified their win. Up 61-56.
When Hooley was asked about that three he said "The only one that went in for like 35 minutes? Everyone had been stepping up when Sam got fouled out because he was playing tremendous. I got the ball in my hands... I just stepped back and Coach always had confidence in me."
What Coach Brown is most proud of is Hooley's toughness. With major distractions back home with his family, he was still able to push that behind for the game.
"One of the biggest reasons I'm so proud of that young man right now is his mother and father are both... his mother's very ill, father had a bad, bad accident on the farm last week and had major, major surgery. And with all those distractions, the way he played says a lot about the young man and his toughness."
Once Hooley hit the infamous trey it started to look grim for Stony Brook. They didn't have much of a choice but to foul. And against a team that missed only one free throw the entire game, there was no turning back.
Joh Puk made some game winning free throws that pulled the Great Danes ahead just enough to break out of the clutches of the Stony Brook Seawolves.
"John Puk was awesome in the last five minutes."
Albany did the unthinkable again to make their way back to the NCAA tournament. Coach Brown had one thing to say about that,
"We're a one bid league. We are. It's always been that way, alright, so I don't think guys that play in the Big 10, that finish seventh in the regular season, that go to the NCAA tournament appreciate the NCAA tournament. it means the world to everybody at our level to have that opportunity."
The Great Danes will have to stay tuned on Selection Sunday to see where they head and what seed they place for the big dance.