Amid the confusion of bodies leaping and banging under Stony Brook’s basket, it was difficult to tell exactly who tipped a missed shot by Albany’s Ray Sanders with four seconds left in the America East championship game last March out to Great Danes guard Peter Hooley. But Seawolves center Jameel Warney has relived it again and again on social media.
“Over the months, I saw countless videos, and it’s clearly my hand,” Warney said Thursday after SBU completed preparations for its grudge match against Albany tonight at 9 o’clock at Island FCU Arena and on ESPNU. “It’s fundamentals to snag it with two hands, and it would have been a different result.
“I was tipping the ball out to whoever, just tipping it out to halfcourt. Unluckily, Hooley was there. It was right place, right time.”
Albany was 0-for-9 from three-point range and Hooley had made just two of 12 shots, but his feet were set and the shot was pure the moment it left his hand at the top of the arc. It bottomed out with 1.6 seconds left to give the Danes a 51-50 win and mark the third straight year they kept Stony Brook from achieving its first NCAA Tournament bid, the last two in the title game.
The story was poignant for Hooley, who missed several weeks at midseason to spend time in Australia with his mother, Sue, before she died of cancer. “Outside of me, it was a great story for him,” Warney said. “It was great to see him do it, but for us, it was just terrible.”
Once again, the America East race seems destined to come down to Stony Brook (14-4, 5-0) against Albany (15-5, 4-1). This is their first meeting of the season, and the Seawolves are seeking a school-record 11th straight win.
Both teams return most of their starters from a year ago. The Great Danes emphasize their backcourt of Evan Singletary (12.8 points), Hooley (12.5) and Sanders (11.0), and freshman guard Joe Cremo is contributing 10.9 points off the bench. For Stony Brook, seniors Warney (18.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) Carson Puriefoy III (13.6 points, 3.5 assists) and Rayshaun McGrew (10.8 points) have gotten a boost from the return of junior forward Ahmad Walker (11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists).
The rivalry is expected to pack the house even though SBU students don’t begin the second semester until Monday, but Warney said the Seawolves are treating the Danes like any other opponent.
“We have this chip on our shoulder to prove that we’re for real,” Warney said. “We’re playing every game like it’s March. So, just keep on plugging away and keep finding ways to win . . . We want to keep this streak alive. It’s more about us than any team that we’re playing.”