Guard Peter Hooley scored 26 points and fourth-seeded Albany used its home-court advantage to end the 11-game winning streak of top-seeded Vermont, 67-58, in the semifinals of the America East Conference Tournament Sunday at in Guilderland, N.Y.
Albany (17-14), the defending champion in the America East, advances to the title game Saturday at second-seeded Stony Brook or third-seeded Hartford. The Great Danes split their two regular season games against both teams, with all four games won by the home team.
Whichever the opponent for Albany, it will try to find a way to cool off Hooley, who has scored 56 points in two tournament games, hitting 18 of 30 shots from the floor and 9 of 16 from 3-point range.
Over the first seven minutes on Sunday, the 6-foot-4 sophomore from Australia scored all the points for the Great Danes as they bolted to a 13-2 lead, which the Catamounts never seriously challenged.
When senior forward Gary Johnson closed the first half with a buzzer-beating, breakaway dunk, Albany had a 35-19 lead and Hooley had provided 22 of the points.
In running away with the regular-season title in the America East, Vermont (22-10) had beaten Albany by 30 and 10 points. But in the semifinals nearly everything went wrong.
In the opening minutes the Catamounts made three turnovers before getting off a field-goal attempt and finished the half shooting 30 percent from the floor.
Versatile forward Brian Voelkel, who had the first triple-double in America East tournament history on Saturday, sat out much of the first half with foul trouble and finished with just five points, five rebounds and no assists before fouling out.
Another player from Australia, forward Sam Rowley, scored the Great Danes’ first seven points of the second half as they stretched their lead to 19. But Vermont got a spark as senior guard Candon Rusin hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and senior forward Luke Apfeld added a pair of field goals to complete a 10-0 run.
Senior guard DJ Evans had the answer for Albany, however, stopping the run with a pair of field goals and draining a contested 3-pointer with 7:40 left which put the Great Danes back up 51-37.
Apfeld, who came off the bench to score all 13 of his points in the second half, showed the frustration of Vermont with 3:33 left when he drew a technical foul.
Johnson finished with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for his first career double-double, leading Albany to an overwhelming 45-30 edge on the boards.
Senior forward Clancy Rugg had 13 points and nine rebounds for Vermont.
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