Prior to 2019, the Binghamton men’s basketball team hadn’t been to an America East semifinal game in a decade, when the team won its sole conference championship. The team hadn’t won a single AE playoff game since 2012, and it was on a four-game playoff losing streak to the Stony Brook Seawolves.
All of that changed on a Saturday night in March, when the seventh-seeded Bearcats stunned the second-seeded Seawolves on the road, 78-72, in the quarterfinals of the AE Tournament. The result sent a shock wave through the entire conference, throwing the AE bracket into chaos and taking many observers of AE basketball by surprise.
The Binghamton players themselves, though, weren’t shocked at all.
“We all believed that we could win that game,” said sophomore guard Sam Sessoms, who started in the game as a freshman. “We knew that if we played together, we would be able to beat anybody that day.”
Coming into the game, Stony Brook was having its best season in three years. The Seawolves had amassed 24 wins in the regular season, and had a 12-4 record in AE play, including sweeping the regular-season series against Binghamton, beating the Bearcats by double digits twice.
None of that mattered in the game itself. Binghamton, which ended that season averaging 65.2 points per game, dropped 78 points on the Seawolves. Three players reached double digits in scoring, and the Bearcats were electric, converting 10 of 24 attempts.
Sessoms, in particular, put up strong numbers as part of a Herculean effort on his part. The forward garnered 12 and 15 points, respectively, in BU’s first two matchups with Stony Brook, but Sessoms upped his game for the playoffs. He played all but two minutes in the contest and posted 26 points, nine boards and four assists, leading the Bearcats in all three categories.
“I knew, even though we played them twice in the regular season and lost both games, that I didn’t play well in either of those games,” Sessoms said. “That was a good thing for us, because I was a vital part of the team last year. When we played Stony Brook the previous two times, I didn’t have a good game, so they never got to see us at our full potential.”
Binghamton’s game was sharp from the very beginning, as a blistering first half put the Bearcats way ahead. Sessoms and forward Caleb Stewart, ‘19, combined for 27 points and 10 field goals, helping BU establish an 18-point halftime lead. SBU made a comeback in the second half, but the hole was too deep for the Seawolves to climb out of.
“Everything was clicking,” Sessoms said. “We were buying into what Coach [Tommy] Dempsey and the rest of the coaching staff had planned for us. We were doing everything fundamentally sound, correct. We weren’t playing selfish, we were making the extra pass … Shots were dropping, the right passes were being made.”
Amid a season full of struggles, Binghamton’s win against Stony Brook stands out as an example of what the team has the potential to achieve when it is clicking on all cylinders and playing cohesively. With Sessoms as the team’s centerpiece, Binghamton will certainly regard its performance at Stony Brook as the ideal standard of play that it will seek to reach this season.
Following the victory at Stony Brook, Binghamton was blown out at top-seeded Vermont in the semifinals, and order was restored to conference. But for one, single night, March Madness touched the AE, and it resulted in the biggest win for Binghamton men’s basketball in a decade.