Late shot shocks Catamounts in title game

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

With one swish of the net as the final seconds ticked off, the University of Maryland Baltimore County broke the hearts of the Vermont Catamounts and their fans.

Jairus Lyles made a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds to go as the Retrievers celebrated the America East tournament title at Patrick Gym after a 65-62 win over the Catamounts.

The 3-pointer was part of Lyles’ career game, as he scored 27 points and went five for seven from three-point range.

Vermont led for most of the first half, but Lyles drained a three-pointer as time expired in the first half to send UMBC into the locker room with a 37-35 lead.

UVM came out strong in the second half, opening up a nine point lead thanks in part to their ability to get to the free throw line.

But like the Catamounts, who faced the same deficit in last year’s title game against Albany, UMBC arose from the dead just as the game seemed to be getting away from them.

Despite starting point guard and America East Defensive Player of the Year KJ Maura sitting on four fouls, the Retrievers roared back.

With 1:19 to go and Vermont leading, an out of bounds call on UMBC was overturned, giving the Retrievers possession. Lyles hit a floater from inside the lane to tie the game at 62.

For UVM’s turn, they looked to the America East Player of the Year, senior guard Trae Bell-Haynes, who had contributed to many past wins.

Bell-Haynes’ shot was blocked by Joe Sherburne, and UMBC had the ball with the shot clock off and less than 30 seconds to go. Lyles dribbled the ball just over half court, waiting for his shot.

Despite Bell-Haynes’s best efforts on defense, Lyles drained the biggest shot of his life. The Retrievers fans, who had made the trip from Maryland, erupted in joy, while the gold-clad UVM fans stood stunned.

“I thought he was going to drive it,” Bell-Haynes said. “I thought I contested it well, but he made a tough shot.”

Vermont turned it over on the inbound, and the Retrievers stormed to center court to celebrate.

Bell-Haynes finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Payton Henson ended with 14 points and junior guard Ernie Duncan had 10.

For UMBC, Lyles was the lone player in double figures.

“[UMBC were] the better team today,” head coach John Becker said. “They made the plays down the stretch, and at the ends of halves they did a really good job.”

The Retrievers head to the NCAA tournament, while the Catamounts will be playing in the National Invitational Tournament.