(Host) The University of Vermont Men’s basketball team suffered a crushing loss at home Saturday, losing to Albany for the second straight year in the America East title game.
UVM also missed its chance to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.
VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb was at the game, and at the somber press conference that followed.
(Lonergan) “I’m not gonna sugar coat it. That’s one of the toughest loses of my career right there. I’ve no problem saying it.”
(Wertlieb) That was UVM head coach, Mike Lonergan, who along with senior forward Martin Klimes and sophomore guard Mike Trimboli faced questions from the press after a heartbreaking loss to the Albany Great Danes at Patrick Gymnasium Saturday.
(Wertlieb) The back and forth contest came down to the final 30 seconds. UVM had the ball trailing by just one point, 60-59, and Coach Lonergan was playing for the final shot.
It never came. Using the same smothering defense that frustrated the Catamounts all afternoon, Albany stripped Mike Trimboli of the ball, and a mad scramble followed. UVM’s Marques Blakely seemed to recover the ball for a moment, but it slipped through his grasp, and Albany gained control as time ran out and their ecstatic fans flooded the UVM court.
(Announcer) “The final score: Albany, 60, Vermont 59. Albany is the Northeast Champions “
(Wertlieb) After a 13-game winning streak heading into the America East tournament, and a 25-win season that tied the school record for most victories, it was not the way graduating senior Martin Klimes wanted things to end.
(Klimes) “You know I’m very disappointed for me as a senior. I’m very disappointed for all of us because we’ve had a great year. It would have been a nice touch to capitalize on the great year, but the better team won today. Obviously Albany came in here, they played tough, they had a good game plan and executed it. You know, we were basically trailing most of the game. We always had to catch up. When they needed to make plays, they made plays. And we were incapable of making plays in the end.”
(Wertlieb) There was a bad omen for UVM right from the opening tip off. Senior Center Chris Holm sprained his ankle on the opening tip, and Coach Lonergan says while that can’t excuse his team’s sloppy play, including missed free throws at the end, it did affect their approach.
(Lonergan) “We didn’t get the ball inside. But I think that’s partly because Chris Holm wasn’t getting touches. And part of that was I kind of think he was limping around a little bit. But he didn’t have any shot attempts and only one rebound at halftime. Our whole game plan is to give the ball to Chris. That’s the whole game plan.”
(Wertlieb) Holm finished the game with just 8 points, and 4 rebounds. On the other side of the court, Albany forward Jamal Wilson scorched the Catamounts for 22 points and was named the games Most Valuable Player.
Coach Lonergan says he has no regrets about calling the final play as he did, waiting till the clock ticked down to take the last shot. He said when things started to go wrong, players lost their heads and didn’t take advantage of the 3 time-outs they still had.
(Lonergan) “We were screaming to call a time out. But the play didn’t really break down until Mike had the ball and started dribbling. I’ve got to see it on film. I don’t know if he could have. It just seems like we didn’t pick up loose ball and call time out. We just lost the ball and they were smart and threw it. That’s heart-breaking not to get a shot off.”
(Wertlieb) Guard Mike Trimboli says, as tough as the loss was, the Catamounts need to put it behind them, because they will be playing in the National Invitational Tournament.
(Trimboli) “We’ve got to keep our heads up. And uh, we can still make a name for ourselves in the NIT, and hopefully we’ll do that.”
(Wertlieb) Not the dance the Catamounts wanted to attend, but one they hope to enjoy once they get there.
For VPR news, I’m Mitch Wertlieb.