Tyler Stephenson-Moore of the Stony Brook Seawolves shoots against the Charleston...

Tyler Stephenson-Moore of the Stony Brook Seawolves shoots against the Charleston Cougars during the first half on Tuesday in Washington. Credit: Jess Rapfogel

WASHINGTON — After advancing beyond the opening round, then working a double-overtime shift to move past the second seed in the quarterfinals and then surviving the Battle of Long Island in D.C. against third-seeded Hofstra in the semis, the CAA Tournament’s biggest surprise faced its biggest test.

Seventh-seeded Stony Brook would have to win for the fourth straight day to claim an automatic entry pass into the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves also would have to topple the tallest obstacle in order to do it, top-seeded Charleston. The defending champion Cougars were riding the gale-force momentum of an 11-game winning streak into the final.

No team had ever emerged from the tiring grind and claimed four games in four days to secure the CAA title. No team had ever taken down the top three seeds to win first prize in this tournament. And the Seawolves had gone 0-for-6 all-time against Charleston.

So it seemed like a big ask for them to win Tuesday night inside the Entertainment & Sports Arena. As it turned out, they almost did.

Stony Brook pulled off a stirring comeback to force OT, but it couldn’t finish the job. Charleston ended up cutting down the nets after outlasting the Seawolves, 82-79.

“Congrats to Charleston, great team,” Stony Brook coach Geno Ford said. “They’ve got a great program and they deserved to win. The irony is, I thought we deserved to win, too. But that’s just how it works.”

Tyler Stephenson-Moore, the Seawolves’ grad guard out of Long Island Lutheran, hit seven threes and scored 26 points.

Charleston (27-7) became the first repeat winner in the conference since 2017. Reyne Smith powered the Cougars with six threes and 23 points. The junior guard was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to go back-to-back,” Smith said.

In just its second season since taking a mid-major leap from America East to the CAA, it was a real achievement for Stony Brook to be one of the last two teams standing. The Seawolves fell to 20-15 after going 11-22 last season.

“We were 13th in the league in budget when we came into the league and you can’t win like that,” Ford said. “We’ve tried to do things to make sure we can be competitive.”

After beating Hofstra, 63-59, they found themselves in a 73-73 tie after regulation. Smith drove to give Charleston the first points of overtime. Stony Brook had two empty possessions and then Smith drained a three from the right side for a 78-73 lead.

The margin moved to six. Stephenson-Moore cut it to 79-76 with a three — 1:01 left.

Smith missed a three-point try. The Seawolves had a chance. Stephenson-Moore couldn’t connect on a three with about 13 seconds remaining. Smith was fouled with 10 seconds on the clock and made both ends of a one-and-one.

Aaron Clarke swished a three at the 4.3 mark to slice it 81-79. Smith was fouled and made one of two at the line with 3.5 to go.

Then Dean Noll’s three-quarter-court heave for the tie hit the backboard — game over.

“I think we clearly ran out of gas in overtime,” Ford said.

Stony Brook led, 40-35, at the intermission, but found itself trailing by nine with 5:01 left. The Seawolves weren’t done.

Clarke drained a three and followed with a layup to cap a 9-0 burst, and it was 73-73 with 2:11 left. After a series of empty possessions, Clarke put up a three that could have sent Stony Brook into March Madness. But it missed.

“Sports are cruel,” Ford said. “I feel bad for the guys.”

Still, the ball went out of bounds with 12.1 on the clock. A review overturned the call on the floor.

Stony Brook ball.

But Clarke was stripped of it by Smith. A Charleston heave fell short. The Seawolves held the Cougars scoreless for the final five minutes — OT.

“That wasn’t a seventh seed,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “They’ve been an absolute beast of a team the last three weeks or so.”

The Seawolves had four grad starters.

“We’ve got some good pieces,” Ford said. “But we’ve got to reboot the thing.”


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