The most successful season in the history of the Stony Brook women’s basketball program came to an end on Thursday when the NCAA announced it was canceling the NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stony Brook was scheduled to play Maine in the America East Conference Tournament final on Friday night, with the winner earning an automatic bid into the tournament. Early Thursday, the conference announced that the game was canceled.
Stony Brook still would have qualified for the NCAA Tournament as the top remaining seed, but a few hours later, the NCAA Tournament also was canceled.
“I’m heartbroken for our student-athletes and coaches but understand that this is an unprecedented time that calls for unprecedented action,” athletic director Shawn Heilbron said.
That capped a day of disappointment for a team that enjoyed more success than any previous SBU women’s team had.
Stony Brook went 28-3, including 15-0 at home,and at one point owned the nation’s longest winning streak at 22 games. It was snapped by Maine on Feb. 23, and Stony Brook was looking forward to Friday’s rematch.
Heilbron stopped the team’s practice in late morning to break the news that the conference championship game was canceled.
“I literally just got off of the phone with the NCAA and there are no words,” Heilbron told the team, according to a video of the practice posted on the school’s Twitter page.
Earlier Thursday, the conference said it planned to play the game with significant limitations on how many people could attend. That changed quickly, as has been common this week with sports cancellations because of virus concerns.
Heilbron told the team he would plan a celebration of its season in the coming days and that a banner would be raised inside the on-campus arena to commemorate the school’s first tournament berth.
“While the sting of this moment is very real,” Heilbron said, “I am hopeful that it will ultimately be replaced by the enduring satisfaction that comes with earning a place in history as the first Stony Brook women’s basketball team to earn an America East championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament.”