WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – UMBC Women's basketball senior Michelle Kurowski (Hicksville, N.Y./Hicksville) sank two free throws with one second left to lift No. 5-seed UMBC (16-14) past No. 4-seed New Hampshire (16-13), 59-57, in the America East Quarterfinals, Friday afternoon at Chase Family Arena.
Kurowski, the America East active scoring leader with 1,655 career points, finished with nine points against the Wildcats, but none were bigger than her final two from the charity stripe.
With the teams knotted at 57 following an off-balance runner by freshmanLauren Chase (Bowie, Md./Riverdale Baptist), senior Erin Brown(Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) drew an offensive foul on Denise Beliveau, giving the Retrievers the ball with 25 seconds left.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Chase ran the clock down to seven seconds before finding Kurowski on a backdoor cut to the basket where she was fouled. Her two free throws broke the fourth tie of the game and gave UMBC the win.
The Retrievers and Wildcats met three times this season with UMBC taking two wins. Over the course of the contests the teams were separated by only 12 total points.
The Retrievers opened their conference tournament account brightly, racing to an early, 7-0, lead behind five points from Brown. The senior forward finished the game with a team-high 15 points along with junior Kristin Coles (Charles Town, W.Va./Notre Dame Academy/American). Senior Topé Obajolu was also in double figures with 12 points for UMBC.
After the Wildcats cut the lead to three, 7-4, UMBC ran off five straight points to widen the margin to eight, 12-4, on two free throws from Chase at the 13:30 mark. The half ebbed and flowed from there, with both teams making countering runs.
New Hampshire took its first lead of the contest, 25-24, on a lay-up by Kelley Flynn, to cap a 10-4 run by the Wildcats. The Retrievers claimed the halftime lead, however, after Coles slashed to the bucket for a lay-up with just over a minute remaining.
The two teams traded baskets out of the break, stealing the lead from each other five times in the first five minutes.
Down, 41-38, with 13:42 left in the game, the Retrievers made their move. Coles led the 11-0 charge, bookending the run with two layups, the second coming with 10:07 left.
New Hampshire chipped away at the lead however, and tied the game at 53 with 3:31 remaining.
After Chase gave UMBC the lead, UNH's Kelsey Hogan connected on two free throws, giving the Wildcats the lead. Abby LaRosa added to the lead, pushing it to three, 57-54, with two more free throws at the 1:29 mark.
Coles and Chase then hit a lay-in each, setting up Brown's defensive and Kurowski's offensive heroics.
With the win, UMBC advances to Sunday's America East Championship Semifinal against No. 1-seed and regular season champions Boston U. In the first quarterfinal of the day, the Terriers defeated No. 8-seed Maine, 52-43.
Boston U. swept the season series, defeating UMBC by six points, 59-53, at the RAC Arena and by five points, 61-56, at Case Gymnasium in Massachusetts. The winner of Sunday's game advances to the final, to be held at the highest remaining seed's gym with an NCAA berth on the line. Sunday's tip-off between the Retrievers and Terriers is set for 11 a.m. at the Chase Family Arena on the campus of the University of Hartford.