The University of Maine women’s basketball team went into its title game Friday evening with significant momentum. Having just beaten the University of Albany by 20 points in the semifinals, the team entered this game with a dominant 17-2 record. However, the Black Bears understood that Stony Brook, one of the two teams to beat UMaine in the regular season, would be a challenge. UMaine played two very close games against the Seawolves in February, splitting the weekend with one win and one loss for each team. This title game grudge match would be in Orono to determine the champions of the America East Conference and who would receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
A tight first quarter made it seem as though the game would come down to the wire. Towards the end of the first quarter and early in the second quarter, UMaine went on a run for 10 unanswered points to take their biggest lead of the night at 31-20. The Black Bears would maintain the lead until the end of the first half, when Stony Brook would go on a run of their own, outscoring the Black Bears 19-2. This run extended into the third quarter, and saw Maine go scoreless for over seven minutes of play.
Stony Brook’s’ lead would be its biggest at 6 points in the third quarter, but Maine was able to cut the lead down to 2 going into the fourth, setting the stage for a dramatic ending. Stony Brook had a 5-point lead late in the quarter until UMaine went on a 10-4 run led by fifth-year guard and America East Conference Player of the Year Blanca Millan. The Black Bears were able to cut the lead back down to 1 with 2:33 left in the game. Stony Brook would respond with 5 straight points, and a score of 60-56. Millan would score a bucket to put the Black Bears down 2 with 31 seconds left.
With 31 seconds left, the Black Bears had a chance to tie or take the lead. UMaine fifth-year forward Fanny Wadling would create a turnover and a 3-point opportunity for fourth-year guard Dor Saar, that the latter would unfortunately miss. Millan, displaying trademark tenacity, picked up a clutch offensive rebound, but her layup attempt would not fall. Stony Brook third-year guard Anastasia Warren got the defensive rebound off the missed layup, got fouled and hit two free throws to win the game for Stony Brook with a score of 64-60. This win earned Stony Brook their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Warren essentially willed the Seawolves to their first title. She tallied 31 points on 11 of 18 shots from the field, along with 9 rebounds. Her clutch play at the end also sealed the game for Stony Brook, and she was the player of the game without a doubt. Only one other player on the team scored more than 5 points, and that was third-year guard Asiah Dingle who had 20 points on 10 of 16 shots from the field. UMaine struggled to defend Stony Brook’s’ dynamic duo throughout the game. They hit 21 of Stony Brook’s 27 made field goals in the game.
The Black Bears were led in scoring by Blanca Millan who had 20 points, while shooting eight for 15 from the field. She also had a team high seven rebounds. She was doing it all, and made some key buckets for her team down the stretch, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter. She ends her career a two-time America East Player of the Year, a two-time America East Defender of the Year, a two-time America East Champion and No. 5 on the all time scoring list for the University of Maine — a true legend of the program.