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Women's Basketball Advances to AE Semifinals


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West Hartford, Conn. – Alicia Learn scored a career-high 19 points, as UAlbany held off Hartford, 52-50, in the quarterfinal round of the America East Conference Women’s Basketball Championship on Thursday, March 11 at Chase Family Arena.


Albany (13-15) will take on top-seed Maine (23-6) in the semifinals on Friday at 6:00 p.m. The Black Bears, who won the America East regular-season title, posted a 66-40 victory over New Hampshire in their quarterfinal match-up. Boston University, the No. 2 seed, and No. 7 Northeastern will tangle in the other semifinal. The winners will meet for the championship on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.


The Great Danes, who won both regular-season meetings with Hartford, trailed 26-23 at halftime. But Sarah Sweetland’s three-point field goal early in the final period ignited a run of 13 unanswered points. Learn, who made 8 of 15 field goals and grabbed seven rebounds, hit a baseline shot and a foul-line jumper in that span. Becky Ayers canned another jumper off an in-bounds play for a 36-27 lead with 15:05 remaining.


Hartford (18-12) would close the gap to two points on two occasions over the next eight minutes. Freshman guard Ikea Witt, who had 11 points and seven rebounds, converted two free throws to slice the deficit to 43-41 with 6:49 remaining.


The Great Danes, who were playing in their first postseason tournament game since 1999, regrouped with a pair of baskets. Maree Jones, who scored 10 points, used an inside move to score in the lane, before Jen Schumacher made a driving layup.


The Hawks were able to make one more move at the lead. Liz Stitch, a 5-foot-9 junior who had 14 points and a career-best 11 rebounds, buried one of her three 3-pointers to get her team within 49-46 with 2:49 left. After Hartford came up empty twice on offense, Schumacher and Jones each split two foul shots in the final 17 seconds to keep it a two-possession game. Stitch nailed a meaningless three-pointer at the end that produced the final score.


"We played with a lot of character with (Danielle) Hutcheson in foul trouble and Ayers not feeling well," said Albany coach Trina Patterson, whose team held Hartford to 25.5-percent shooting. "Sharon (Majors) and Lyndsay (Clark) gave us great minutes off the bench. Alicia Learn stepped up her game, and we played with a sense of passion."


Schumacher finished with eight points and four assists off the bench. Hutcheson, a first-team all-conference center, fouled out with 4:56 remaining, and had just three points and four rebounds. Ayers, who was averaging 13.0 points coming into the contest, played just 11 minutes due to flu-like symptoms.


"It feels great because we really wanted to win tonight and we played together as a team," said Learn, who scored in double figures for the 12th time this season. "I really had to take my game to another level with our top scorers out of the lineup."

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