A packed house had fallen silent.
Stony Brook — playing in its fifth America East Tournament final in six years, with no banners to show for it — had slipped into a 15-point hole against Vermont with 15:17 remaining in Saturday’s game. The Catamounts had taken control late in the first half, and the Seawolves were in danger of not only losing on their home floor but also of getting blown out.
Jeff Finkel, 54, had one thought racing through his mind.
Said the Stony Brook resident, “Here we go again.”
The Seawolves had gone 0-4 in this game in just about every agonizing way imaginable — from a buzzer-beating three-pointer in 2015 to a blown double-digit lead in 2011. The NCAA Tournament bid that comes with the America East championship trophy seemed as elusive as ever.
But then Jameel Warney — whose 43 points tied Taylor Coppenrath’s championship game record set in 2004 — went on a 6-0 spurt and Carson Puriefoy III (23 points) got hot from outside.
“Shots just weren’t falling,” said Bill Delvallez, 46, a Stony Brook resident who brought his sons Brody, 8, and Gavin, 6. “We just had to wait. They got hot, things change and you’ve got to be patient.”
With 3:14 left, Ahmad Walker’s free throw gave the Seawolves the lead for good at 69-68.
Stony Brook women’s basketball players Brittany Snow, Kim Hanlon and Elizabeth Manner watched as Puriefoy stole the ball and drew a foul with 11.5 seconds left and Stony Brook holding a 79-74 lead.
“You couldn’t help but smile and cheer because they were doing it,” Snow said. “It was finally coming true.”
Warney’s performance reminded Snow of when she met him four years ago.
“He just wanted it so bad,” she said. “He’s worked so hard to get here, and he definitely deserves it.”
And now the Seawolves will go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their 17 years of Division I play, looking to add to a program-record 26 wins. An America East team has not defeated a single-digit seed since No. 13 Vermont beat No. 4 Syracuse in 2005.
“You never know,” Finkel said, “it could be like Vermont a few years ago: Pull an upset.”