Going dancing: Steidl helps Vermont earn NCAA tourney berth

One of Kurt Steidl's pre-season goals was to help the University of Vermont men's basketball team qualify for the NCAA Division I Tournament.

On Saturday, Steidl did just that.

Two three-pointers from Steidl, a former Ridgefield High standout, were part of a second-half comeback as top-seed Vermont defeated third-seed Albany, 56-53, in the America East Conference championship game in Burlington, VT. With the victory, the Catamounts improved their record to 29-5 and earned an automatic qualifying berth in the 64-team NCAA tourney field.

Vermont trailed 47-38 with under eight minutes to play when Steidl, a 6'6" senior forward, hit his first three-pointer to jump-start Vermont's rally. His second trey was even bigger, as it tied the score at 48-48 with 4:37 remaining.

Albany regained a two-point lead, but Vermont responded with a 4-0 run to go in front, 52-50. After Albany tied the game, the Catamounts went on another 4-0 run to open a 56-52 advantage with 10 seconds left. Albany hit one of two free throws with one second remaining to end the scoring.

The two three-pointers were the only baskets for Steidl, who finished with six points on two-of-seven shooting. He added five rebounds for Vermont.

Notes: Vermont will enter the NCAA tournament on a nation-best, 21-game winning streak.

It was the sixth America East championship in program history for Vermont. The Catamounts' last won the conference — and qualified for the NCAA tournament — in the 2011-12 season, when Steidl was a junior at Ridgefield High.

Steidl was a two-time All-FCIAC and All-State selection while at Ridgefield High. As a senior, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut.