America East Title Rolls Away from the Cats

The scene on the court said it all: the ball bouncing harmlessly at the other end of the court, Albany players and fans jumping in jubilation at center court, and UVM sophomore guard Mike Trimboli in a ball on his knees at the top of the key.

After such an electric, heart pounding game the scoreboard simply could not harness the emotion of this 60-59 America East championship game.

It was one that ended in anticlimactic fashion as the Cats had the ball for the last 33 seconds with a chance to win, but failed to get off a single shot.

The Great Danes went home with an NCAA tournament bid locked up for the second year in a row, while the Catamounts were left runners up at the hands of the Danes for the second straight year.

After trailing by five at the half, UVM managed to claw their way back into a tied ball game with just under eight minutes to go on a Chris Holm free throw, setting off an incredible back and forth finish.

It was only fitting that the game winning bucket came from Albany’s Jamar Wilson, the reigning two time America East Player of the Year.

Wilson finished with a game high 22 points and was the Albany’s go to guy throughout the game.

“[Wilson] made a lot of great plays down the stretch, that’s what great players do,” Vermont head coach Mike Loergan said after the game.

Uncharacteristically, Vermont was outrebounded by their opponent for the first time in a long time. Albany held a 33-32 edge on the glass. Holm (12.2 rebounds per game), the Cats’ leader on the boards, sprained his ankle on the tip off and was left far less effective for the remainder of the game, finishing with only four.

“We got by all year having some of our weaknesses, but we rebounded well,” Lonergan said. “We didn’t rebound well today, which exposed our foul shooting.”

The Catamounts shot 67.3 percent from the free throw stripe coming into the game, but only went 11 for 19 from the line against the Danes.

Freshman Marqus Blakely and Trimboli led UVM with 10 points on the day and fifth year senior Martin Klimes, in his last home game, added nine points to go along with a team high seven rebounds.

Early on it was Blakely’s high wire act that got the fans into the game. The loudest point in the game came with just over eight minutes left in the first half.

Blakely stole the ball around midcourt and pushed it up the court toward the basket, taking flight from 12 feet out and slamming home a Jordanesque dunk over Albany’s 6 foot 8 Brent Wilson, and sending the crowd into a thundering frenzy.

“Our fans were tremendous, the Albany fans were tremendous,” Lonergan said. ” It was a great atmosphere.”

Regardless of the highlights from the season and the game, the loss will leave a bit-ter taste in the Cats’ mouths for a long time to come.

For Klimes and Holm it was their last game in Patrick Gym. For the rest of the team and coaching staff, they know they must start anew next fall with this as a disappointing memory.

Getting past this loss will not be an easy task.

“It’s going to take me a month, maybe longer,” Lonergan said. “That loss will stay with me a long time.”