BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont regained its star and the Maine
Black Bears lost theirs as the Catamounts won the America East
championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs Saturday.
Taylor Coppenrath, out since Feb. 15 with a broken wrist,
returned to score 43 points and lead Vermont to a 72-53 victory.While Vermont got back Coppenrath, Maine lost Mark Flavin, its
top scorer, who played only four minutes because of an injured leg."Coppenrath was amazing" were Maine Coach John Giannini's
first words after the game.Weak defense in the first half couldn't stop the 6-foot-9-inch
forward, he said."What we did in the second half was obviously effective; it got
us a chance to make the game competitive," he said.Giannini also said the Black Bears suffered without Flavin, who
was named to the America East Second Team with an average of 14.7
points per game."Offensively he makes a big difference," he said. "To say
(Coppenrath) makes a difference is the understatement of the year.
That's a difficult trade for us -- us losing Mark and them getting
Coppenrath."Coppenrath played down his performance in the championship game."I was really just hoping that we'd come down and lock down on
defense," said Coppenrath, who said he made the decision to play
earlier in the week.Coppenrath, America East's top scorer who was not expected back
when he was first injured, scored 28 points in the first half when
the Catamounts surged ahead 40-23.Vermont (21-8) finished second in the conference and Maine
(20-9) was fourth.Eric Dobson and Joe Campbell led the Black Bears with 11 and 10
points, respectively. Germain Njila added 13 points for Vermont.Maine took a 10-8 lead before the Catamounts outscored the Black
Bears 32-13 before half time and the Black Bears never caught up.