(UMBC athletic department )
Michelle Kurowski has seemingly done it all during her UMBC career.
The senior from Hicksville, N.Y., has scored 1,680 points during her four seasons, making her America East's leading active scorer and the No. 2 player on UMBC's career points list. In the classroom, Kurowski is an exemplary student, having finished her bachelor's degree in psychology with a 3.82 GPA in just three years.
But something has been missing for the Retrievers co-captain. Kurowski had experienced postseason play as a junior, when UMBC won the conference's regular-season championship and earned a berth to the WNIT. The NCAA tournament, however, has eluded Kurowski. She'll have a chance to change that Saturday night when the fifth-seeded Retrievers (17-14) battle second-seeded Albany (22-9) with an America East championship and NCAA tournament bid on the line.
The Retrievers are in this position thanks in large part to Kurowski's performance Sunday in UMBC's 77-61 semifinal win over top-seeded Boston University. Kurowski scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-18 shooting (including 5-for-7 from beyond the arc), in addition to grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists.
"There were really no words to describe," the win, Kurowski said. "Looking up at the score and being up by so much, I was really emotional. We as seniors obviously don't want our season to end … so coming out and playing almost a perfect game was really emotional."
Kurowski, who's working on her master's degree in early childhood education, is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, given to the top Division I women's basketball player that best balances academics and athletics.
Kurowski isn't the only Retrievers senior that has been an integral part of their surprise run to the conference tournament championship. Topé Obajolu and Erin Brown — both of whom serve as co-captains with Kurowski — played key roles in Sunday's win over the Terriers. Obajolu (a Randallstown native and Archbishop Carroll graduate) contributed 13 points, while Brown (a Bethesda native) added 11.
"They're three great young ladies," said UMBC coach Phil Stern. "They're people I'll really miss come next year. They all have their different personalities and they all bring something different to the team. Michelle is the total definition of the term student-athlete … yet she is tenacious on the court and is the hardest worker I've ever been around. Erin is more the silent type; she gets the job done. Topé has improved over the years more than any player I've ever had."
Said UMBC athletic director Dr. Charles Brown: "I'm extremely proud of [the seniors]. I can't say I'm more proud of one over the others ."
Stern hopes that Brown, Kurowski and Obajolu have one more upset in them. If there's any group of Retrievers that's capable of doing pulling it off, this senior class could be the one.
"This run is all about the seniors," Stern said. "They're such a great class and they've gotten us to this point. We want to send them out with a championship."
What: No. 5 UMBC at No. 2 Albany for the America East tournament championship