UMBC Beats Hartford Advancing to the America East Championship Game
By: Ethan Hennessy
After Hartford held the lead for most of the game early on. UMBC got hot thanks to an LJ Owens three and Szymon Wojcik fastbreak dunk. The retrievers took a 17-14 lead into the under 12 media timeout. UMBC’s hot shooting allowed them to hold onto the lead for most of the remainder of the first half as they shot 45% from the field and 50% from the three through the first 15 minutes of the game. Wojcik was doing great work for the retrievers around the four-minute mark he blocked a shot into the stands on the defensive end and seconds later he had another two-handed dunk. The teams were tied at 33 heading into halftime. Jim Ferry said after the game “I thought our guys wanted to win so bad that they were pressing early… but I thought after halftime we settled down”.
Darnell Rodgers hit a three for UMBC right out of the break, but Hartford kept pace. With 13:27 remaining in the game UMBC clinged to a two point lead 46-42. Jared Kimbrough was the main reason the Hawks were able to hang around because by this point in the game he recorded 12 points and nine rebounds.
Keondre Kennedy and LJ Ownes hit timely threes for for UMBC to extend the retriever lead to seven at the 9:38 mark. The crowd at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena was behind their team all night. At the under eight media timeout UMBC extended the lead up to ten and John Gallagher was not happy with how things were going as he could be seen yelling at the refs.
UMBC pulled away in the closing minutes and showed why they were the second seed in the America East winning the game 80-60. Syzmon Wojcik led the way for UMBC with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and two blocks. He was one of five retrievers in double figures. “If this isn’t the biggest transformation in a year in this conference then I don’t know what is” Jim Ferry said about Szymon. He went on to say “Szymon has been all over the place… he is really blosoming for us at the right time”.
John Gallagher head coach of Hartford was asked what he was saying to his players as they subbed out of the game in the closing minutes and he said “He told his players look what we’ve done. We took the neighborhoods to the NCAA Tournament. Look what we’ve done the past five years. It was a 7-9 job and now its a top five. I basically told them how much I love them.”
For Hartford their season comes to an end. For UMBC they will travel to Vermont, a team that beat them soundly twice this season, for the America East Championship at 11 AM in Patrick Gymnasium on Saturday with a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line in what has become the America East’s best rivalry.