NCAA Men: Hooley's miracle has Albany dancing

Who said miracles don't happen? Certainly not Peter Hooley and the Albany Great Danes.

With Albany trailing Stony Brook by 2 points in the final of the America East tournament final, a frantic scramble for the loose ball rebounded to Hooley at the top of the key. With the end of game buzzer about to sound, he let fly with the last shot of the game. The ball sailed through for Albany's only three-point made basket all game. Hooley's miracle shot sending the Great Danes dancing for the third straight year, resulting in wild celebrations that saw the Hooley swamped by his team and the home town fans.

.@PeterHooley12 after hitting the game-winning shot in the #AEPlayoffs title game

— America East (@AmericaEast) March 14, 2015

Albany ran through the America East regular season with an outstanding 15-1 record and the number 1 seed in the tournament. As opposed to their previous two years, they were the hunted rather than the hunter. Their success came about despite losing their star sophomore guard Hooley for an 8-game stretch following the passing of his mother who lost her fight against bowel cancer. Looking back now, one could argue that Hooley's situation served only to galvanise his team.

The great Danes prevailed in a tough, low-scoring affair. They found themselves trailing by as many as 8 points with 6 minutes left, yet managed to fight their way back to enable Hooley's heroics at the end. The South Australian sophomore guard who was named to the All-Conference Second Team finished with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. For his impressive play, Hooley earned the Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player for the second straight year, averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in their three tournament wins.

Hooley was far from alone in guiding the Great Danes to the championship. He received great support from All-Conference First Team member Sam Rowley who provided 14 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 blocked shot. Rowley also joined Hooley in being named to the All-Championship team. His younger brother Mike Rowley added 2 points and 7 rebounds in the big win - with his 2 points coming at the free throw line with 21.7 seconds to go to bring the Great Danes to within 1 point.

"You couldn't write this stuff," said Sam Rowley. "It's just beyond words. This was just a perfect moment."

Three straight America East crowns for Albany has them dancing yet again. It is a great way to send off Sam Rowley who graduates after the season, the Australian contingent having played a major role in their ongoing success.

Three-time America East Tournament Champions: Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley - Courtesy University at Albany Media Relations

Also booking a ticket to the NCAA Tournament in the past week was senior Aussie forward Dan Trist and his Lafayette Leopards. Making their way into the Patriot League Tournament final, the Leopards took on defending champions American. Unanimous All-Conference First Team selection Dan Trist was looking to bow out of college after his 4 years with his first trip to the NCAA Tournament and he would not be disappointed.

Just hanging with our @PatriotLeague @LafayetteHoops Championship trophy & net. #PLChamps #DanceParty #LeopardPride

— LafCol Maroon Club (@LCMaroonClub) March 12, 2015

In a game of changing fortunes, Lafayette managed to edge ahead late in the game to earn a 65-63 win and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2000. In fact with their thrilling win, the Leopards are the lowest seed (4) to win the Patriot League championship in their history.

While Dan Trist was restricted to just 6 points, well down on his 17.3 points per game average, he contributed 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks in the big win and was named to the All-Tournament team for his outstanding and consistent play. Another Australian in Nathaniel Musters is also on the Leopards roster, although he did not see any action in this game.