The No. 1 Stony Brook Seawolves defeated the No. 7 Hartford Hawks in their home game semifinal to advance to the America East Championship for the third consecutive year. No. 3 Vermont managed to pull out a win against No. 4 New Hampshire to set up its second championship appearance in the last 3 years.
RayShaun McGrew started the game off on the right foot for the Seawolves, hitting their first four points of the game. His quick start seemed to set a fire under the team.
"He's the heart and soul of the team," said Jameel Warney. "We know what he's capable of... He's one of the best big men in this conference."
But it wasn't all McGrew for the game. Warney and Carson Puriefoy slowly became the go-to guys for most of the game. While Puriefoy may not have had the best first half, only scoring three points, he ended the game with a double-double scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
"I was disappointed with myself in the first half. I thought I didn't play well," said Puriefoy. "I just wanted to come out in the second half and be aggressive and help my teammates out, since I thought they carried me in the first half."
While Hartford may have scored the first points of the game, that was the only time they ever lead. The half time score wasn't too disconcerting Hartford. Being only down by five while shooting 43% to your opponents 34% is something the Hawks could definitely overcome. Coming in as a designated three point shooting team, even Stony Brook's head coach knew that their five point lead at the half didn't count the Hawks out just yet.
"Hartford is playing very well," said Steve Pikiell. "Very Dangerous team. Any team that shoots that many threes is never out of the game."
Unfortunately for Hartford, their shots didn't quite fall and they didn't get the amount of stops they were looking for.
"I just wasn't making shots." said Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas, who despite his own opinion, ended the game with 18 points. Not quite like his 30+ games he's had, but a valiant effort nonetheless. "During the game you're gonna make mistakes, I feel like we couldn't make too many mistakes and focus on getting stops."
Though the Seawolves have made it to the title game yet again, they've yet to reach the NCAA tournament. Maybe this year will be the year they overcome the odds and hit the big dance.
"I think they have a really good big man and a really good guard, and they have a couple shooters. Just a good team overall," said Thomas.
Hartford's Gallagher has high hopes for Stony Brook: "I think they're a Sweet 16 type of team, definitely a first win if they can win Saturday... They win this Saturday they're going to be so dangerous."
The Seawolves await the arrival of the Vermont Catamounts on Saturday for the 11 a.mm tipoff at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena to decide who in the America East is going dancing.