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Midnight for Cinderella: Seawolves Lose in Championship Game

For the majority of the America East Championship game, it looked as though the Seawolves would be able to complete the Cinderella-story and make it to the big dance. But it just wasn’t meant to be, as John Holland exploded for 27 points to lead Boston University to a 56-54 win, ruining the fairy tale-ending Stony Brook was hoping for.

Holland, the America East Player of the Year, scored 23 of his points in the second half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and made 10 of 11 shots from the free throw line. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

“Boston University obviously had the best player on the floor and he won the basketball game down the stretch,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “But I’m proud of our guys; our program is in a good place. We’ll be back.”

Leonard Hayes (Voorhees, N.J.) led the Seawolves with 14 points and nine rebounds. Bryan Dougher (Scotch Plains, N.J.) added 12 points and five rebounds.

In his final game as a Seawolf, Chris Martin (Springfield Gardens, N.Y.) scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out a game-high three assists.

Stony Brook played stifling defense in the first half, holding the Terriers to 22 percent from the field on 6-of-27 shooting. Holland was held to just four points.

Hayes scored all of his points in the opening half on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. But despite his hot hand and Stony Brook’s hard-nosed defense, the Terriers were able to remain in striking distance after hitting 11 of 14 shots from the free throw line. They would go into halftime down seven, at 30-23.

The Seawolves came out firing after the break, as back-to-back layups from Martin would give them a 15-point lead at 41-26.

But that is when Holland took over, scoring the game’s next 12 points to dwindle the lead down to 41-40 with just over 10 minutes left and igniting the BU crowd. Holland would also switch to guarding Hayes on defense, holding him scoreless in the second half.

Stony Brook would continue to cling to the lead late in the game, but the Terriers got to the free throw line eight times in the final four minutes of the game. With 1:03 left, Martin drove to the bucket trying to draw contact, but no call was made and Dallis Joyner (Norfolk, Va.) was called for a foul on Holland while attempting to grab the offensive rebound. Holland sank both free throws to tie the game at 54, marking the first time the Seawolves weren’t in the lead.

On Stony Brook’s next possession, Dougher lost the ball and Holland jumped on it. A held ball was called with the possession arrow pointing to the Terriers.

BU would hold for the last shot. D.J. Irving found Holland on a back-door cut and Joyner slid over to help on defense with his hands in the air. Holland drove right at him, and despite an apparent traveling violation, no call was made. Instead, the referees called Joyner on a pushing foul despite his arms being extended above his head. Holland calmly sank both free throws to give BU its first lead of the game at 56-54 with 2.4 seconds left.

With no timeouts left, Martin in-bounded the ball to Dougher who then heaved up a prayer from halfcourt that clanked off the rim. The BU fans stormed the court in celebration as the visibly heartbroken Seawolves headed to the locker room.

“We played well for the first 35 minutes of the game,” said Martin, who was deeply saddened by the loss. “We just fell apart. I don’t know what else to say.”

Martin ends his amazing career at Stony Brook with some great performances after returning from a knee injury, earning a spot on the America East Championship All-Tournament team along with Hayes.

This will be BU’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2002. The Terriers only had two assists as a team and shot 2-of-19 from three-point land. But they shot 24-of-29 from the free throw line, and that proved to be the difference.

“One of our keys was to keep them off the free throw line,” Pikiell said. “I knew we could defend them, but we can’t defend the free throw line.

Pikiell was disappointed after the loss, but he tried to remain positive while looking ahead to next year, noting the experience the younger players received this season and the expected return of redshirt junior forward Tommy Brenton, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Stony Brook has a lot of positives to take away from the 2010-11 season. Despite entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed, the Seawolves made it to their first-ever America East Championship final. Going into this season as the youngest team in the conference, they will probably be the most experienced team next year as 12 of their 13 players will be returning.

“We’ll be back, I promise you that, and we’ll come with some experience,” Pikiell said. “We’ve come a long way. I feel good about where our program is.”

 

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