West Hartford, Conn. - Nineteen points from Defensive Player of the Year Ebone Henry led UAlbany to a 58-50 victory over Binghamton in the America East Conference Women's Basketball quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon at Chase Family Arena. With the win over the Bearcats, UAlbany advances to the program's first-ever America East Conference Championship game. The Great Danes will host fifth-seeded UMBC on Saturday at 8 p.m. at SEFCU Arena.
UAlbany jumped out to a 13-6 lead seven minutes into the game on a 3-pointer by Henry. Binghamton cut the advantage to three, 13-10, with back-to-back jumpers by Mallory Lawes and Andrea Holmes. A bucket from Viive Rebane pulled the Bearcats to within one, with just over 10 minutes to play, but UAlbany went on an 8-0 run to take a 20-12 lead on a layup by Cassandra Callaway. Binghamton responded, continuing the trend of runs in the first half, and closed the gap back to five, 23-18, on another Rebane jumper. The Bearcat senior would add one final bucket just before time expired, cutting the UAlbany advantage to three, 23-20, as the teams hit the locker room.
Henry led the Great Danes out of halftime and scored the first five points, putting UAlbany up by eight, 28-20, at 18:41. Holmes ended the run for Binghamton, but UAlbany's offense remained hot, as the Great Danes pulled ahead, 38-27, on a trey by Callaway with just under 15 minutes to play. Lindsey Lowrie sank a long range shot next, while a conventional three-point play by Henry gave UAlbany its largest lead of the game, 44-27, with 11:35 left to play.
Binghamton rallied back to cut the deficit to single digits, as Holmes was fouled on a good jumper and hit the ensuing free throw, pulling to within 50-41 with 5:40 left to play. The teams exchanged baskets and free throws, as UAlbany clung to a nine-point lead with under two minutes to go. Orla O'Reilly would not let the Bearcats fade, however, nailing a 3-pointer, before Holmes hit two free throws to pull Binghamton to within four, 54-50, with just a minute to go. UAlbany was not about to let the victory and ensuing championship game slip away, as Adrienne Jones converted a fast-break layup and Henry dropped in two free throws to seal up the win.
Holmes led Binghamton (13-18) with 17 points, while Rebane posted a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Jasbriell Swain also finished with a double-double for the Bearcts, totaling 12 points and 11 boards.
Lowrie finished with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, while Julie Forster controlled the boards, pulling down 11 rebounds while chipping in with seven points, three assists, two steals and a block. UAlbany forced Binghamton into 22 turnovers, including 13 steals, led by Henry's four thefts.
"Will power. The team had will power and determination today," said head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who has orchestrated an incredible turnaround in just two seasons with the UAlbany program. "We focus on one game at a time. That's been our motto all season. We are very excited, but also very humble that we are in this position. We have a tough opponent ahead."
UAlbany (21-9) will host UMBC at 8 p.m. on Saturday for the America East Championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The game will also be available on ESPN3.
"Phil [Stern] is a great coach and he's going to chess-match this game and come prepared, so are we," said Abrahamson-Henderson, whose team swept UMBC in the regular season. "And they've got some great seniors and players that don't want to go home just yet. We're not going to think about that right now. We're going to enjoy this, go to the men's game and cheer them on like crazy, and then take a nice day off. We are going to enjoy this journey and then we'll get back to business."