WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- A half-hour after cutting down the nets with her players and assistant coaches, Vermont coach Sharon Dawley still couldn't believe her Catamounts were headed to the NCAA tournament.
Courtnay Pilypaitis had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and May Kotsopoulos scored 21 points to lead Vermont to a 74-66 victory over Boston University in the America East Championship Sunday, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
The Catamounts (21-11) secured their fifth trip to the NCAAs, and first since 2000.
"I am kind of in shock still," said coach Sharon Dawley, who is in her sixth season. "I'm afraid someone's going to say, 'Coach, wake up from your nap and get ready for the game.' I just can't say how well our girls stuck together. Just the leadership and camaraderie got us through this whole tournament."
Pilypaitis, a junior from Ottawa, scored 18 points in the second half -- including 6-for-6 on free throws in the final 1:44 -- and was selected the tournament MVP after averaging 20 points per game against Binghamton, Hartford and BU.
Kotsopoulos was 10-for-13 on free throws, as Vermont shot 19-for-24 from the line overall and 12-for-12 in the final 3:17.
Jesyka Burks-Wiley had 26 points and 11 rebounds for top-seeded BU (24-7), which defeated Vermont twice in the regular season. The third-seeded Catamounts also lost to Hartford twice in the regular season but beat the Hawks in the America East semifinal Saturday.
"We know it's hard to beat a team three times," Pilypaitis said. "Teams just know you so well after the second game and we just knew if we played 40 minutes that we could have a chance."
Vermont erased an early 12-point deficit, holding BU scoreless for more than 5 minutes and outscoring the Terriers 27-10 over the final 13 minutes of the first half to take 33-28 lead at the break.
Midway through the second half, BU pulled to 44-43, but Pilypaitis hit a jumper from the left of the key with the shot clock winding down. And after BU cut the deficit to 51-47 with 7:42 remaining, Pilypaitis made a baseline jumper and the Catamounts maintained at least a six-point lead the rest of the way.
After trailing by 12, Vermont used n a 10-0 run to take a 21-20 lead -- its first of the game -- on a basket by Kelli Poles with 8 minutes remaining in the first half.
"We were stagnant a few times on offense and didn't get a good look," Terriers coach Kelly Greenberg said.
The Terriers regained the lead when Aly Hinton hit a 3-pointer, but Vermont scored the next six points. Amy Rosenkrantz made a short jumper, Pilypaitis hit a pull-up in the lane and two free throws by Kotsopoulos made it 27-23.
"I think it call comes down to leadership and the leadership was remarkable this entire tournament," Dawley said. "That's what kept us together and that's what goes us the lead."