It is an exciting season for residents of the Green Mountain State when either the men's or women's basketball team from UVM win the America East Championship, and earn a berth in the Division I NCAA Championship tournament. The 2009-2010 basketball season was given extra special status last weekend when both Catamount squads captured America East Championships, and both are headed for the big dance. Go Cats!
Marqus Blakely recorded a double-double of 24 points and 18 rebounds to lead University of Vermont to an 83-70 win over Boston University to claim its fourth America East Men's Basketball Championship last Saturday at Patrick Gym in Burlington, Vermont.
Vermont built up an 42-31 lead at the half, and then survived a second half scare provided by the fourth seeded Boston College Eagles in the second half. Trailing 50-38 early in the second half the Eagles put together a 15-4 run, and with 10:20 left in the game Boston College had cut the Cats lead to 54-53, but they would never take the lead. UVM put together a 7-0 run to lead 61-53 lead, with 5:48 left. The Eagles wouldn't get that close again.
Boston College's Corey Lowe led all scorers with 24 points, while Jake O'Brien contributed another 17 in a losing effort. The fourth seeded Eagles, who finished the year at 19-13, also received 11 points from Carlos Strong.
Blakely, Vermont's leading scorer in the title game, who averaged 16.7 points and 11.7 rebounds for the tournament was named the Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player. The Catamounts also got double-digit scoring from Nick Vier and Maurice Joseph who knocked down 15 and 13 points respectively.
The Conference Championship was the fourth in the past eight seasons. They enter the NCAA tournament with a club record 25 wins (25-8) and they were given the number 16 seed in their regional. They will face the top seeded Syracuse Orangemen this Friday night at 9:30 in the opening round. The game will be televised by CBS-TV.
Meanwhile also last Saturday the preseason favorite lady Catamounts were busy making those early season predictions a reality by defeating the top seeded Hartford Hawks 55-50 in the Conference Championship. It was UVM's second consecutive Conference Championship.
Hartford, who were ranked 21 in the country, and entered last Sunday's Conference Championship on a 20 game winning streak, was forced to play without their senior big girl Erica Beverly. Beverly had suffered a season-ending tear to the ACL in her right knee in a semifinal win over Stony Brook. Her absence allowed the Catamounts to control the inside game, and they capitalized on that in the opening half and held a commanding 35-17 halftime lead.
But the Hawks were far from cooked. Trailing 47-31 late in the second half Hartford put together a 15-4 run to cut Vermint's lead to 51-46 with 4:40 left in the game. But the Cats wouldn't allow Hartford to get any closer than four points the rest of the way, hanging on to claim the 55-50 win.
Hartford was paced by Diana Delva with 18 points. Delva was the Haws lone representative on the All-Tournament team. Hartford winds up their season with a 27-4 record.
UVM was led by Courtnay Pilypaitis with 20 points. The senior center was named to the All-Tournament team, and chosen as the tournaments Most Outstanding Player. Alissa Sheftic, who joined Pilypaitis on the All-Tournament team, added 10 points and eight rebounds to the huge win. UVM will enter the NCAA record with a 26-6 record. As of this printing they had not yet been seeded for the National tournament.