Prior Friday’s championship game tipoff, Shereesha Richards will be remembered as one of the best players the America East conference has ever seen. After the game, nothing could be more true.
The senior forward, the three-time conference player of the year, further cemented her legacy by pouring in a game-high 31 points on 11-for-18 shooting, powering top seed Albany to a 59-58 victory over the No. 2 Black Bears at SEFCU Arena.
“The way we defended Richards here looked a lot like the first time we played [this season] and we let her catch the ball on the blocks,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron. “When we played at Maine, we did a much better job of not allowing that and that was a big difference in their ability to score.”
It is the record fifth consecutive America East title for Albany (26-4), which earns the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Whew!” said Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson who, with her team trailing by five at halftime, made sure the Great Danes knew what they needed to do.
“I just said, ‘We’ve got to get the ball to Shereesha and we’ve got to get the ball to Imani (Tate),’” she said. “That’s what we did and they really went to work.”
The Black Bears (26-7) are not expected to receive NCAA at-large consideration, thus will earn the conference’s bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, in which it also competed last season. That helps temper the sadness of losing to Albany.
“We’ve had a good four years together and we’re excited that it’s not done and we’re looking forward to going to the NIT and making a run there,” Barron said.
Richards grabbed nine rebounds to complement her offensive production on the way to her third tournament Most Outstanding Player award. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Tate, Liz Wood and Sigi Koizar of UMaine and Stony Brook’s Brittany Snow.