ALBANY -- Not to get maudlin about it, but it was hard for anyone who witnessed Peter Hooley's game-winning three-pointer in Albany's 51-50 America East title win over Stony Brook on Saturday not to feel as if it might have been touched by an angel.
That was the dominant emotion for Hooley's teammates and coach Will Brown, who saw the pain Hooley endured during the past year as his mother, Sue, fought a valiant but losing battle with colon cancer.
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Hooley flew home to Australia to be at her bedside at midseason, and the Great Danes bonded and went 8-0 in his absence. Brown has brought Hooley off the bench since his return, and he often has struggled. He did Saturday, too, shooting 2-for-12 before the ball found him at the top of the arc for the winning shot with 1.6 seconds left.
"I don't think we could have drawn up a more fitting ending than for the ball to end up in Peter Hooley's hands, for him to let it go and for Sue to jump out and slam-dunk it through the hoops for us," said Brown, who won the America East title for the third straight season. "Once I saw it was in Peter's hands and saw it come out of his hands, I knew it was going in."
Hooley, the tournament's most outstanding player for the second straight year, made a clinching three-pointer with a minute left in the Great Danes' 69-60 win at Stony Brook in last year's title game. This time the Seawolves built a seven-point lead with less than two minutes left behind Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy III, who totaled 43 points.
"Warney was shooting jump hooks and Puriefoy played terrific, but we weathered the storm," Hooley said. "Coach said throughout the week to stay the course. It's a long game, the longest game of your life. We weren't going to give up."
Describing his teammate's feat, fellow Australian Sam Rowley said, "I'm just proud. You couldn't write this stuff.
"It's unbelievable to do it within the game. But you take into account the context of everything that's happened, and it's just beyond words. I'm proud that he could do this for his mum, for his family, for the fans, for the team, for the coaches, for everybody."
Describing the moment, Hooley smiled and said, "When you've got angels watching, you can do anything.''