SUNY Poly women’s basketball team set for NCAA tourney

Also, season ends for Utica University men’s basketball team

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The SUNY Poly women’s basketball team is set for an appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.

SUNY Poly, which claimed its first North Atlantic Conference championship with a win over Husson on Saturday, is set to play Amherst in the first-round of the NCAA tournament. The field was announced Monday afternoon.

SUNY Poly, led by coach Jessica Skelton, earned its fifth conference championship and a bid to the tournament in the last six seasons with the 76-57 win Saturday in Marcy.

SUNY Poly (20-6 overall), which has won 10 consecutive games, draws a tough matchup against Amherst (21-3). The New England Small College Athletic Conference team received an at-large bid and hosting rights after dropping the conference title game to Bates College last weekend.

The matchup for SUNY Poly is set for Friday at Amherst’s campus, which is located in Amherst, Mass. A time for the game had not been released as of Monday. The winning team would advance to the second round Saturday.

All NCAA Division III women’s tournament games -- except the semifinals and finals -- will be played on the campuses of competing institutions. The final rounds will be held Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh.

In clinching an automatic bid to the tournament Saturday, SUNY Poly was led by Lyrik Jackson and Molly Burdick. Jackson, a junior, was named NAC tournament MVP after totaling a game-best 25 points and adding 11 points for her second double-double of the tournament.

Molly Burdick added 21 points and 15 rebounds as well as a team-best four assists to be named to the NAC all-tournament team.

Camden High School grad and SUNY Poly junior Kierra Connor, who had 18 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s win, also earned all-tournament honors.

Season ends for Utica men’s basketball team

The Utica University men’s basketball team was a notable exclusion from the NCAA Division III tournament this year.

The field for the men’s tournament was also announced Monday, two days after Utica dropped a 54-53 decision to Nazareth College in the Empire 8 Conference Championship game in Utica.

The Pioneers, which had a 14-game winning streak snapped with the loss, were hoping for an at-large bid to the tournament. The team finishes with a 23-4 overall record.

Utica, which is led by coach Sean Coffey, had claimed its first Empire 8 Conference title in 2021.

This season included several accolades for the Pioneers including All-Empire 8 first-team honors for Whitesboro graduate Thomas Morreale.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward received his third all-conference honor after earning honorable mention in his Empire 8 Rookie of the Year season in 2019-20 and a first team member last season.

Morreale led the team and was eighth in the Empire 8 averaging 14.5 points while his 56.6 field goal percentage qualified for top-50 in Division III. He was also the team leader averaging 5.9 rebounds and ranked ninth in the E8 with 1.1 blocks.

Teammate and junior Darius Hopkins was named the E8’s Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the second team with Kobe Lufkin. Chris Green earned third-team honors and Matt Champlin was Utica’s sportsman of the year.

Coffey and assistants Tim Borza and Richard Coffey were named the Empire 8 Coaching Staff of the Year after going 15-1 in the conference.

Damien Call, a Rome Free Academy grad who was the Empire 8’s Rookie of the Year in 2021, averaged 6.3 points in 24 games this season.

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