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Northeast Conference Notebook

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

The regular season NEC title came down to a Friday night special between Monmouth and St. Francis NY. 2500 fans packed Boylan Gym in hopes to see the Hawks clinch the title. St. Francis NY took an early lead in the game but Monmouth used an 11-0 run halfway through the first half to seize the lead. Eventually they built it up to eight, only to have the Terriers chop it to four at the break. This was the trend in the second half as Monmouth built double digits leads only to watch them shrink. Leading by three in the last two minutes, the Hawks calmly hit five of six free throws to seal the 87-82 and the title.

With the first seed wrapped up, the Hawks played a meaningless game Monday to finish the regular season. The game was far from meaningless for their opponent Mount Saint Mary’s who coming into the weekend trailed Sacred Heart for the eighth seed in the NEC tournament by two-and-a-half games. Thursday, the Mountaineers beat Sacred Heart 85-75 then Saturday they beat Wagner 57-38 to set up Monday’s showdown with Monmouth. The Mount pushed a three point halftime lead to eleven in the second half before the Hawks made a run at the end. Monmouth cut the lead to two in the final two minutes but couldn’t overcome the deficit and the Mount earned a 68-62 win. The final piece came together when Wagner completed Sacred Heart’s collapse by beating them 100-93. All this conspired to put Mount Saint Mary’s in the NEC tournament as the eighth seed and they will face top seed Monmouth for the second time in less than a week in the first round.

St. Francis NY bounced back from their loss to Monmouth by beating Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday 63-57. The Terriers grabbed the second seed and dropped the Knights to the third seed. Robert Morris, St. Francis PA and Wagner all ended up tied for fourth at 10-8. Robert Morris got the fourth seed by virtue of the best head-to-head record amongst the three teams. St. Francis PA got the fifth seed by having the best record over Fairleigh Dickinson after having the same record as Wagner against each other, Monmouth and St, Francis NY (could it be any more complicated?). Central Connecticut State got the seventh seed with their 9-9 record. The quarterfinals are Saturday and the semifinals are Sunday at Wagner with the finals Wednesday at the home of the highest remaining seed. The quarterfinal match-ups are as follows: 12 PM #2 St. Francis vs. #7 Central Connecticut State, 2:30 PM #3 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. #6 Wagner, 5:30 PM #1 Monmouth vs. #8 Mount Saint Mary’s and 8 PM #4 Robert Morris vs. #5 St. Francis PA. Look for the tournament preview later in the week.

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (9-9 NEC, 12-13)

The Blue Devils split their last games of the year to finish at .500 in the conference. Thursday they fell to St. Francis PA 69-49. Ron Robinson scored eighteen points but no other teammates joined him in double figures. The flat trend continued into Saturday night’s game with Robert Morris when they fell behind by fourteen in the first half. But the Blue Devils fought back to take the lead late in the first half and used a sharp shooting second half to secure the win. In the 77-68 win, Ron Robinson led the team with eighteen points and thirteen rebounds while DeMario Anderson added twelve points off the bench. The 9-9 NEC record put them in seventh place and gave them a date with St. Francis NY in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament on Saturday.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (11-7 NEC, 16-11)

The Knights opened their weekend Saturday with a 75-64 win over Long Island. FDU built a solid lead in the first half and coasted to a win. Gordon Klaiber led all scorers with eighteen points and Chad Timberlake chipped in with fourteen points. The win and St. Francis NY’s loss to Monmouth set up a Monday showdown for second place in the league. The Terriers took the lead from the opening tip and never trailed again. They built a lead as big as twelve in the first half but the Knights cut it to six at the break. Early in the second half, the lead was down to one but Andre Harris missed a free throw and the Knights would never get any closer. Tamien Trent led FDU with thirteen points off the bench and Chad Timberlake was the only starter in double figures with eleven. The loss dropped Fairleigh Dickinson to third in the NEC to set up a quarterfinal match-up with Wagner, the host of the NEC tournament.

Long Island Blackbirds (4-14 NEC, 8-19)

The Blackbirds dropped their last two contests of the season to end the year on a three game losing streak. Saturday they fell to Fairleigh Dickinson 75-64. LIU fell behind early in the first half but fought back to take a brief lead before FDU used a 12-1 run to take control late in the first half. The lead was nine at the break and the Knights built it up to as much as seventeen in the second half as they cruised to the win. Brandon Thomas and Esa Maki-Tulokas each had twelve points to lead Long Island in defeat. The story was similar as they battled Quinnipiac to stay out of last place. The Bobcats built a modest first half lead that proved insurmountable as they sailed to a 90-80 win. Several Blackbirds had solid outings as four players scored in double figures, including Brandon Thomas who led all scorers with 24 points. Though Long Island missed the NEC tournament, plenty of pieces return for a successful campaign next year. Only two seniors graduate and they will return three freshmen who earned NEC rookie of week honors.

Monmouth Hawks (12-6 NEC, 18-11)

Monmouth clinched their first ever NEC regular season title with the 87-82 win over St. Francis NY. Blake Hamilton scored 24 points, including a team-record eighteen free throws, and grabbed thirteen rebounds to lead all players. Dwayne Byfield also scored nineteen points while Tom Kaplan and Chris Kenny scored in double figures off the bench. The win also gave the Hawks their first perfect season at home since their move to Division I. With little left to play for in the final game, the Hawks were primed for an upset at the hands of Mount Saint Mary’s and that’s precisely what happened. The Mount had been very tough at home all year and this game proved to be no different as they came away with a 68-62 win. Blake Hamilton scored seventeen points and Dwayne Byfield scored 20 but the rest of the team struggled to generate much offense which led to a late rally falling short. The loss set up a quarterfinal match-up with these very same Mountaineers who snuck into the backdoor of the tournament. Expect a more inspired effort from the Hawks with an NCAA tournament bid on the line.

Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (8-10 NEC, 10-18)

With an improbable three game win streak to end the year, the Mount will play in its first NEC tournament since the 1999-2000 season, back when the seniors on the squad would have been seniors in high school. The first two games of the weekend, Landy Thompson led the team to victory. In the 85-75 win over Sacred Heart, he scored 24 points and then backed that up with eighteen points in the 57-38 win over Wagner. Thompson earned NEC player of the week for his efforts to keep the Mountaineers alive. Mychal Kearse averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on the weekend to earn NEC rookie of week honors and complete the sweep of the weekly awards. Thompson slumped a little against Monmouth, scoring only eleven points on 3-12 shooting. But he did dish out five assists and grab six rebounds to help the team out. Kiel Butler led the team with sixteen points in the 68-62 win. In the quarterfinals as the eighth seed, the Mount faces Monmouth again knowing fully well that they have the ability to defeat them.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (5-13 NEC, 9-20)

The Bobcats finished their disappointing season with a 90-80 win over Long Island to avoid finishing last in the conference. They may have saved their best game for last as Kason Mims had a triple-double with eighteen points, eleven assists and ten rebounds while CJ Vick scored 26 points and Rashaun Banjo scored 24. Before that, Quinnipiac was swept by Robert Morris and St. Francis PA. Against Robert Morris, Banjo had 22 points and twelve rebounds and Kason Mims had eighteen points and ten assists but fell just short in the 68-66 loss Thursday. Saturday, despite a hot shooting performance, the Bobcats couldn’t overcome an equally hot performance from the Red Flash and lost 78-62. Kason Mims led four players in double figures with sixteen points. The Bobcats finished in tenth place this season and will lose three of their top four scorers in Kason Mims, Rashaun Banjo and CJ Vick. Without a strong recruiting class, next year could see another step down.

Robert Morris Colonials (10-8 NEC, 13-14)

Fighting for positioning this last weekend, the Colonials split two games at home and earned the fourth seed in the NEC tournament. Thursday, the Colonials beat Quinnipiac 68-66. Maurice Carter scored 21 points in the win while Chaz McCrommon added eighteen. Saturday they lost to Central Connecticut State 77-68. The Colonials led much of the first half but by only three at the break. The early part of the second half was hotly contested but the Blue Devils went on a run to take the lead and the Colonials couldn’t overcome the deficit. Maurice Carter scored 20 points and Mark Anderson added seventeen off the bench. RMU finished in a three-way tie for fourth but won the head-to-head tie-breaker for the fourth seed. They will face state rival St. Francis PA in the quarterfinals this weekend.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-10 NEC, 12-15)

The Pioneers needed only one win in their last two games to secure a place in the NEC tournament. Thursday, they controlled the first ten minutes of the game against Mount Saint Mary’s and took a five point lead. But the Mount fought back to take a six point lead into halftime. After an initial Pioneer surge to start the second half, the Mount regained control of the game and battled to an 85-75 win. Joey Henley had an impressive eighteen points and thirteen rebounds however that wasn’t enough to offset poor shooting nights from Maurice Bailey and Omar Wellington. Monday against Wagner, they got a career-high 32 points from Maurice Bailey and sixteen points from Joey Henley but that wasn’t enough offense as Wagner shot 56% from the field for the 100-93 win. The two losses, coupled with three Mount Saint Mary’s win put the two teams in a tie for eighth place. By virtue of a head-to-head sweep, the Mount won the tie-breaker, leaving the Pioneers on the outside looking in. The Pioneers have a lot to build for next year having set team records for conference wins and overall wins. A new backcourt will have to be found though as the league’s leading scorer Maurice Bailey and the team’s leading playmaker Omar Wellington will be lost to graduation.

St. Francis (NY) Terriers (12-6 NEC, 15-12)

John Quintana scored 21 points and Sean Dantzler had fifteen points off the bench but that wasn’t enough to overcome a second half lead against Monmouth. The 87-82 loss dropped the Terriers into second place and set up an all-important battle with Fairleigh Dickinson for second place. As it turned out, the loser would wind up facing NEC tournament host Wagner in the quarterfinals. St. Francis NY wasn’t going to let this chance slip away and took the lead from the opening tip. The Terriers built a lead as big as twelve but couldn’t bury the Knights. FDU fought to within three in the final minute and even got some help with missed free throws but ultimately couldn’t get the shots to fall and St. Francis NY prevailed 63-57. Eric Thompson had 24 points and ten rebounds to lead all players but also missed some key free throws down the stretch to keep the game close. The win actually earned the Terriers a share of the regular season conference title but fell to the second seed in the tournament since they had been swept by Monmouth. In the quarterfinals Saturday, St. Francis NY will face Central Connecticut State.

St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (10-8 NEC, 13-14)

The Red Flash swept the weekend to earn a tie for fourth place and ultimately the fifth seed in the NEC tournament. Thursday, they beat up on Central Connecticut State 69-49. St. Francis took a nine point lead into the intermission and then used threes to put the game away in the second half. The 49 points was the best defensive showing of the year. Erick Wills scored 23 points and Jason Osborne added sixteen points. Saturday saw a similar result as the Red Flash took out Quinnipiac 78-62. Darshan Luckey scored 27 points, 22 in the first half to lead all scorers. St. Francis PA has won five out of their last six games and will face fourth seed Robert Morris in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament on Saturday.

Wagner Seahawks (10-8 NEC, 13-15)

The Seahawks split their final two games of the regular season and it would be impossible to find two games with a more sharp contrast. Saturday was their final regular season home game and they came out excessively flat and scored only 38 in a loss to Mount Saint Mary’s. No player scored in double figures as the team shot 28% from the field, 0-13 from three point land. Monday, the team scored more points in the first half en route to a 100-93. Teoine Carroll scored 31 points and three different players had double-doubles including Courtney Pritchard who had fifteen points and twelve assists. The team shot 56% from the field, 7-16 from three point land. Wagner finished in a three-way tie for fourth but lost all tie-breakers and fell to the sixth seed and will face Fairleigh Dickinson in the quarterfinals. With the first two rounds tournament being held on their court, the Seahawks have as good a chance as anyone to advance to the finals. Last year, they rode the same advantage all the way to the NCAA tournament.


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