Vestal, N.Y.-Seventh-seeded UMBC capped its Cinderella run through the America East Women's Basketball Championship with a thrilling 48-46 victory over No. 1 Hartford on Sunday Evening at the Binghamton University Events Center. Freshman guard Carlee Cassidy scored a team-high 14 points to lead the Retrievers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The Hawks jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but UMBC tied the score at 17-17 on two free throws by senior forward Sharri Rohde at the 7:01 mark. On Hartford's next possession, Diana Delva made a lay-up and the ensuing free throw, but Cassidy hit consecutive three-pointers to give UMBC a 23-20 lead, which they never relinquished, as they took a 25-24 advantage into halftime.
The Retrievers scored the first seven points of the second half to take control of the game and opened a 12-point lead, 42-30, with less than 10 minutes remaining.
UMBC did not score in the final six minutes of play, and the Hawks chipped away, cutting their deficit to just two points with 28 seconds remaining. But Delva missed four free throws in the final 14 seconds, and a three-point attempt by Courtney Gomez at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced out to seal the 48-46 victory and UMBC's first-ever conference championship.
Cassidy led the Retrievers with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three-point range. Junior forward Amanda Robinson added 10 points and two blocks.
Hartford was led by Danielle Hood, who scored 17 points, while Delva added 11.
After the game, Robinson was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games. She was joined on the All-Championship team by Rohde and Cassidy, as well as Hood and Binghamton's Laura Sario.
UMBC completed its improbable championship run by beating the top three-seeded teams in the nine-team tournament, taking down No. 2 Stony Brook in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Vermont in the semifinals and top-seeded Hartford in the championship game.
The Retrievers had never won an America East Tournament game heading into the season, and become the lowest seed to ever win the America East title. The previous low was Hartford, who captured the crown in 2002 as the fifth seed.
UMBC last reached a league title game in 2003 as a member of the Northeast Conference. Also seeded seventh, the Retrievers took down No. 2 Quinnipiac and No. 3 Monmouth before falling in the championship game to top-seeded St. Francis (Pa.). It was UMBC's last season in the NEC and head coach Phil Stern's first at the Retriever helm.
The Retrievers will learn their seed, opponent and destination for the NCAA Tournament on Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN's Selection Show.